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Education: The Indentured Servant

Education is fundamentally about developing the mind to improve the human condition. It’s not about serving the the job market even though employment is important and even necessary. This is about changing the job market. This is an issue of values. Does the movement of money dictate the values of our society or does the development of the mind?

From debt to the course of study, higher education is more and more the indentured servant to the value of the dollar rather than to the value of a developed mind. Today education is more about creating a labor force than an educated society.

Anya Kemenetz comments on the document A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age arguing,

The fact is, this isn’t a bill of rights for learners at all. It’s a set of principles to support the interests of a group of educators, who share concern for learners, blended with concern for their own group. They tip their hand in the eighth principle, “The right to have great teachers.”

The primary purpose of her essay is to ask where the student voice is in this Bill of Rights. I agree that student voices should be included in all academic endeavors. Whether those opinions are accepted outright is another issue. She goes on to include a comment she received from a student regarding this Bill of Rights.

you deserve education BASED ON WHAT YOU WANT TO DO IN LIFE.. (sic)

Charles Eliot introduced the elective curriculum at Harvard at the end of the 19th century. This was a blow to the liberal arts and effectively removed it from the curriculum. Core curricula were re-introduced in the 20th century because students were not graduating with skills such as thinking critically, thinking philosophically, strong writing, and strong communication. “Writing across the curriculum” has become a more recent movement to improve a downward trend in the quality of student writing quality.

I was a student once and still am. I have a great respect for the faculty who pushed me to places I had no desire to go. It was an exercise in delayed gratification. Sometimes we need to eat our vegetables before we get to dessert.

Some of this is not fun. Learning is hard work. It requires us to change which is hard to do and often unpleasant.

Here’s something radical: If learning isn’t unpleasant at some points, then learning isn’t taking place. This isn’t about “fun” all the time. And it should be about more than creating a labor force – even when the economy sucks. I still believe that an educated mind can change the world and a solid education can develop one mind at a time to do so.

If education becomes the servant of the economy we are in more trouble than we think. I fear that it already has.

About Andrew Tatusko

Secularization, critical pedagogy, sometimes agnostic, politics, and a ton of running. Penn State is definitely not responsible for what I say.


One thought on “Education: The Indentured Servant

  1. Magnificent post. I teach at a small Christian college (I’d love to read your dissertation when you’re done!) and I have this same conversation almost weekly with my freshman students. If you haven’t read it yet, I think you should check out James K.A. Smith’s book Imagining the Kingdom. It’s precisely about this vision of education as something above the mechanisms of commerce. I’m really enjoying it, but then again, I am an old Arnoldian…

    Really enjoyed reading this. I’ll be following your blog for more!

    Posted by Danny Anderson | January 26, 2013, 9:27 PM

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