Saturday, July 10, 2010

Does no Education mean no Culture?

We worry that if there is no overarching curriculum to education, indeed, if there is no education at all then what will happen to culture? How will we be able to identify culture from culture? How will we be able to distinguish ourselves as a people, different from another set of people? What will happen to each county's unifying qualities, flavours and idiosyncrasies?

Again, it's the anxiety of the unknown. We are afraid of deviation because we do not want to be surprised. But if we listen to Ivan Illich, "It is precisely for surprise that true education prepares us."
He continues;
Education implies a growth of an independent sense of life and a relatedness which go hand in hand, with increased access to, and use of,memories stored in the human community. This presupposes a place within the society in which each of us is awakened by surprise; a place of encounter in which others surprise me with their liberty and make me aware of my own.
Let us learn always to receive further surprises. I decided long ago to hope for surprises until the final act of my life-that is to say, in death itself. (Celebration of Awareness: A call for institutional Revolution, 1969).

It is helpful to consider what Leo Tolstoy had to say about culture versus education. From his essay, 'On education,' to be found in Deschooling Our lives,1994 (a collection of essays edited by Matt Hern):

"Culture in general is to be understood as the consequences of all those influences which life exerts on man."

I don't know about you but when I read this, I get the sense of vibrancy, dynamism, movement, ever changing, ever responsiveness to societal interaction and interrelatedness.
The feeling I get when I think 'institutionalized education and learning,' is one of the straight and narrow, linear, a to b movement, rather stagnant or at least slow going. Definitely no room for that flourishing, organic exploration. Predictable -definitely no surprises!

Tolstoy continues;
Instruction and teaching are the means of culture, when they are free, and means of education, when the teaching is forced upon the pupil, and when the instruction is exclusive (when only those subjects are taught which the educator regards as necessary).

Education is a compulsory, forcible action of one person upon another for the purpose of forming a man such as will appear to us to be good; but culture is the free relation of people, having for its basis the need of one man to acquire knowledge, and of the other to impart that which he has acquired. The difference between education and culture lies only in the compulsion, which education deems itself in the right to exert. Education is culture under restraint. Culture is free.

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