Friday 25 July 2014

What is formal education actually FOR?


What is formal education (schools, colleges etc.) actually for? I mean really, properly-speaking?

It seems to have very little to do with literacy and numeracy rates - but even if it did, that can be accomplished by a few years of formal education.

It seems to have very little to do with the transmission of cultural-important knowledge - but even if it does, that can be accomplished by a few years of formal education plus personal study.

It seems to have very little or nothing to do with the inculcation of skills - since these require multiple repetition (drill) and reiteration (practice) which is rare-in, or altogether absent-from, modern formal education.

It seems to have little or nothing to do with developing 'critical abilities' or 'the ability to think' or 'reasoning' or logic or higher levels of cultural sophistication - since all these have either always been absent-from or else are-being/ have-been incrementally deleted from formal education. And when IQ is properly tested, it can be seen that almost all measurable differences in these domains are due to hereditary intelligence, and not to schooling.

It seems to have little or nothing to do with inculcation of good working habits such as hard work and conscientiousness - since most formal education (the great bulk of it) requires neither hard work nor conscientiousness - and such of these as are required are incrementally being eliminated. And when personality is evaluated, it can be seen that almost all measurable differences in hard work. conscientiousness etc. are due to hereditary personality and not to schooling.

It seems to have nothing to do with morality - since success in formal education is already and increasingly possible by cheating (i.e. by presenting another person's work as your own) - so in terms of incentives, modern formal education is a training in dishonesty.

So my conclusion is that, as a whole and on the whole, formal education as it actually is here and now has zero legitimate educational function - beyond the first few years.

It is NOT about culture, knowledge, skills, reasoning, good habits or good morals... and insofar is it operates (imprecisely and corruptly) to evaluate and rank individual abilities, it does so less exactly, more unreliably, and vastly less-efficiently than proper psychometric testing. a whole and on the whole (with a low percentage of exceptions at the individual or institutional level) formal education has zero legitimate functionality.

That's not very good, is it?



Nicholas Fulford said...

A good university provides the place where a student can be inspired to think in ways that he or she would most likely not be were it not for the university. It provides a place for great minds to meet to uncover things that are not currently known, to collaborate, to mentor and to advance the state of our collective knowledge.

The fact that many academic institutions contain ambitious and thwarted professors who play nasty games of the "Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf" variety, and where many students are looking not to learn and be inspired but to obtain a piece of paper to get them up and out on a career path is both a legitimate criticism and not relevant to those who come to learn, to discover and to pass along the fruits of their hard work.

Formal higher education is, however, not for the average Joe or Jane, or at least it should not be. It should be where the top 5% come, and it should be rigorous enough to cull the lazy, the inept, and the dishonest as efficiently as possible, since it does no good to waste everyone's time and money on those not suited to being there.

General education and technical training are different and everyone should have access to these. The purpose of the former is ground a student with the education that will enable them to participate in society with an understanding of its roots, its culture, and the general skills that each adult should have, including numeracy and literacy to a level that enables them to participate as productive citizens. The purpose of the latter is to provide vocational education - to enable a student to make a decent living and increase the wealth of the community as a whole.

Informal education in the form of apprenticeship is also of value, but has fallen off quite substantially. I personally think that is quite unfortunate, as it is a very good way to obtain mastery in a well paying trade.

Anonymous said...

Formal education in the English-speaking world seems to be very much a socialization experience- a young person is immersed in an environment where he makes friends with people he never would have met otherwise, and becomes a better person, under the guidance of wise teachers.

The school memoir- from "Tom Brown's School Days" to Harry Potter- have this as a constant theme. Going away from home is a necessity.

Then there is the communist model of imparting correct philosophical and economic knowledge and eliminating error of thought. Neither of these have all that much to do with learning stuff, but they are what we have in the modern world.

The second is terrifying and sinister, which is why it never caught on outside some higher institutions in the communist world and ours. It does however equip cruel people with the mental framework for imposing cruelty, so it's important for the maintenance of power.

The first is far more emotionally appealing, and imparts ideology almost as successfully, which is why English-speaking countries run the world.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF and dl - I was meaning about what *actually* happens to most people in most institutions of formal education nowadays (not 50-100 years ago).

ajb said...

This is a fairly good synopsis of the situation.

... except that you forgot one of the most important roles of schooling nowadays - babysitting. Many parents want to do other things than spend most of their days with their children.

Ingemar said...

I agree with what ajb said.

I will also add that formal education is an artefact of the previous eras' valuation of the same. Unfortunately, people had the relationship mixed up. People didn't go to uni in order to get rich, people were rich so they could afford uni.

Unfortunately, in the modern era, uni is more expensive now that it is more widely available than in the previous era where so few got an education.

JP said...

So my conclusion is that, as a whole and on the whole, formal education as it actually is here and now has zero legitimate educational function

And for this kids will eagerly hand over $50,000 to $60,000 a year in the USA - yaaay!

It has been said elsewhere that the way kids get into elite schools in the USA is via ideology, diversity, and corruption (i.e., connections). It stands to reason then that the purpose of attending the school is to advance those things: to indoctrinate further in the hegemonic ideology, to groom the "diverse" for further advancement, and to form connections that will be used in future corrupt exchanges.

Dr No said...

Showing social conformism and submission to the hidden masters and their ideology.

Wm Jas said...

I've had relatively little formal education: four years of elementary school, and then later four years of college. The main benefit I got from college was that it forced me to memorize some things I would have been too lazy to memorize otherwise. It also provided me with a fair amount of free time and easy access to a large library. I don't know that I got any benefit at all out of my elementary school experience.

The Continental Op said...

It's a big jobs program, too.

A.J. said...

Well, one purpose it serves is that of indoctrination.