10.8 Summary and Further Discussion

Education and training can be thought of as distinct subsets of the whole learning process, and may take place either as part of a formal schooling, or outside it. Training can be largely associated with technique, and education largely with ideas. They exist together as parts of integrated packages, but different cultures and professions tend to emphasize one, often to the exclusion of the other. One of the challenges of the next civilization will be to integrate the two, particularly in the universities.

The content of school curricula will be broadened and somewhat de-specialized to meet the needs of the next civilization, as it will depend more on ideas (education) and somewhat less on specific technique (training). People will have to acquire the meta-techniques of information retrieval and retrainability in order to hold jobs in the future.

Issues of importance in the process of learning also include:

o Why is learning undertaken?

o Who should control education?

o What is the status of teachers?

o Who should pay for education and training?

o Is there a right to learn?

o Is learning sexually biased?

o Is there a technique of learning?

Technology has an effect on learning by dictating a new curriculum to meet the new life-needs, by requiring learning to be organized once society reaches a certain complexity, and by forcing it to examine itself for effective teaching and learning techniques. The actual machines employed in the process have had a mixed reception and doubtful results, but each new wave of machines is greeted and purchased more enthusiastically than the last. The various technological revolutions now in progress have several potentials to change the formal schooling system, as some may increase the demand for teachers, and some may reduce it. If education for life skills in a cultural context on the one hand and for the ability to assess ideas on the other is to be regarded as uniquely human, it should not become the province of machines, even if most training does.

Finally, the role of the university in the future is in some doubt. It may continue to be wedded to current technology and even more fully integrated into the state and economy to serve those interests, or it may revive its old activities as the developer and guardian of ideas, allowing philosophy, for example, to make a comeback.

In any event, adults will have more time for learning, and more need of it. Both education and training will tend to become lifelong and continuous pursuits rather than being confined to specific years and schooling experiences. These trends, as well as the new population demographics, are certain to force major changes in the philosophy and methodology of the teaching/learning process, especially where this is formally undertaken in schools. The Metalibrary may also come to play an important role in training and in idea exchange, but there seems to be great importance to retaining human teachers for many of the learning experiences as role models of what it means to be human--at least for the education of children.

Funding constraints and demand may simultaneously cause private sector involvement in education to grow, and the relative share of government control to decline accordingly; this trend could either level out or increase current socioeconomic gaps in education, depending on the response of government.

Research and Discussion Questions

1. Argue convincingly that all present-day forms of schooling are obsolete and that the entire process can and should be mechanized as soon as possible. Or, argue that machines are of little value in schooling, and that all of it should remain in the hands of human teachers.

2. As an alternative to the extremes suggested in question #1, attempt to propose a reasonable balance between the two. What things can be automated and what things must remain in the hands of human teachers?.

3. The author suggests that the private sector will become more involved in learning in the future. Either support this argument in detail, or attempt to refute it and to show that the state is the only institution qualified to control education and training.

4. Research and discuss some or all of the major theories of learning. In addition to those mentioned in the first section of this chapter, some modern ones include the Gagne-Briggs, Algo-Heuristic, Structural Learning, Inquiry Teaching, Component Display, Elaboration, Motivational, and the method of Complements and Contrasts. Compare some or all of these with each other and/or with the Socratic method, or with the discovery approach.

5. Research and discuss the origin and development of compulsory schooling in Western nations. What important differences are there between the European and North American approaches?

6. What differences are there between European and North American universities? Consider curricula, techniques, training versus education, and the status of teachers.

7. "North American schools are doing a good job in preparing students to become functional adults and useful workers." Attack or defend this thesis.

8. The author argues that the school system must become more people- and idea-oriented. Either argue that this is not so, or detail specific changes that would have to be made to the present schooling system to achieve this.

9. Who should control schooling, and why?

10. Who should fund schooling, and why?

11. "Ethical principles and cultural values must be part of education." Argue for or against this thesis.

12. The author argues strongly that the day of industrial-age style narrow specialist has passed and that of the knowledge worker or generalist has arrived. Develop this idea further supporting it with research into current trends and other authors who make the same claim.

13. Refute the thesis in the previous question, citing convincing authorities and research to make your case.

14. Should teachers (a) unionize or (b) professionalize in order to best advance their economic and political interests?

15. Is learning fair? Should it be? If so, how can it be made fair?

16. What should the K-12 school of the future be like? Sketch out your ideal, and then propose a way to pay for it. Alternately, answer this question for the university.

17. Which of the following should be part of the mandatory K-12 curriculum and in what form? Why or why not? (a) personal finance, (b) business principles, (c) health and hygiene, (d) sex education, (e) ethics and morality, (f) politics, (g) religion. Alternately, answer this question for the university.

18. In which direction ought the university go--toward training, toward education, or toward some mix of the two? How should the goal you prefer be achieved? How do tenure, the academic ranking system and student/professor contact fit your model? How does research?

19. Make a list of what you regard as the ten most important books of all time and defend in detail your choice of each as an important part of every education. At what level should these books be a part of the schooling experience? Are there books or classes of books that ought not be part of the schooling experience? Why or why not?

20. Bloom argues that the North American university has discarded its traditional role as the guardian, expositor, and evaluator of ideas. Do you agree? Why or why not? Be sure to read him first.

21. The author argues, as does Bloom, that there are absolute principles, including moral ones, that must be a part of every education, and that all cultures are not equal, but some are better than others. They also argue that education can never be entirely value free. Support these arguments by references to the specific principles that underlie democracy and demonstrate why such things must be taught as absolutes.

22. Argue on the contrary that no cultural or moral absolutes exist, but that society can still exist even with no such commonality. Specifically argue that education can and must be entirely value free, except for the dispassionate examination of all values as equals. Argue that democracy can still survive even when its principles are not held as absolutes.

23. The author argues that "who teaches" is more important than teaching technique and that is in turn more important than curriculum. Support this in general, but show that there may be specific exceptions.

24. The author argues for a wholistic approach to education as superior to the strictly behavioural, cognitive, discovery, or humanistic. Refute this argument in favour of one of these approaches or some other.

Some Ethical and Other Issues For Teachers

25. You have promised your twenty-four biology students a field trip to the local aquarium as part of the current unit; indeed you believe it to be essential to what you are trying to teach. What do you do if (a) the school board cancels funding for field trips? or (b) some parents refuse to allow their children to participate in "such frivolity"? (c) your union orders you to stop all such activities to protest slow negotiations with the board over a new contract? (c) your orders you to stop all such activities to protest new social policies of the provincial government?

26. A student of the opposite sex comes to your counselling office and unfolds a tale of academic and personal woe that has left him (or her) in a state of near despair. Feeling loveless, deserted, alone, and a complete failure, the student is nearly hysterical and inconsolable. As part of your counselling and role-modelling of humanity, do you hug him (her)? What criteria do you use to decide? Does it matter whether the teacher or the student is male? Why?

27. You are a high school physics teacher and a young lady (age 17) comes to you who wishes to sign up for your course because she wants a career as an aeronautics engineer. Her parents are adamantly opposed and demand she take the child-care course instead, stating "She's just going to get married". All efforts to convince them otherwise have failed. The student wishes your help to deceive her parents and take your course without telling them. What should you do, and why?

28. Reverse the scenario in the above question. The student in question is being pressured by her parents to take physics. She is quite able to do so, but wants to take the child care class, because she rejects her parents' ambition that she become an engineer like them and wants to get married and have children, regarding that as a higher goal in life than a career. Do you help her to get the course she wants despite her parents? Is your conclusion the same as in the previous question? Why or why not?

29. You are a school administrator with enough funds to set up three regular classrooms for standard courses and reduce class size by 10% throughout your school. Alternatively you could set up two special classes--one for slower students who need extra help to catch up to the others, and one for better students to have an opportunity to excel. This option will only reduce general class size by 5%. Which do you do, and why?

30. You are the same administrator with a choice between hiring one new teacher, and purchasing much needed gym equipment and some computers. Which do you pick and why?

31. A student in her high school graduating year confides in you that she is pregnant and plans to leave town to move away and live with her boyfriend, abandoning her education. You are unable to convince her otherwise. Do you inform her parents, breaking the confidence? Does it make any difference if you are (a) her friend and classmate, (b) one of her subject teachers, (c) her school counsellor, (d) the school principal, (e) her social worker, (f) the pastor of her church?

32. Repeat the analysis in the previous question, but this time what has been confided in you is (a) a recent incident of sexual abuse, (b) a many years old incident of sexual abuse, (c) a criminal act by her parents, (d) a perceived derogatory remark by another teacher, (d) perceived unfairness in marking or other treatment by another teacher, (e) a racial bias on her parents' part, (f) religious discrimination by another teacher.

33. You become aware because of frequent student comments and complaints that one of your fellow teachers is very strongly pressuring students to adopt a particular philosophical view. Those who disagree are shouted down in class, have their marks reduced, or are simply ignored or ostracized in class. What should you do about this? Does it make any difference whether the philosophy is (a) Christianity, (b) an aboriginal religion, (c) an oriental religion, (d) new age, (e) political liberalism, (f) atheism, (g) feminism, (h) Marxism.

34. An election campaign is in progress, and the teachers' union has taken issue with the present government and is strongly supporting the opposition party. Is it legitimate for the teachers to (a) send some of the members' dues to the campaign headquarters of their favoured party, (b) wear political buttons and slogans to class, (c) proselytize their students for their cause, (d) send literature home to the parents with their students?

35. You are a department head who requires one new Math/Physics teacher and have a choice between one who could teach both and has all the correct qualifications on paper, and a second who is certified only for Physics but is more energetic, personable and could sponsor several extracurricular activities. Which do you pick and why?

36. You are a school administrator, and it is traditional for administrators in your jurisdiction not to teach classes themselves. One of your teachers puts it to you strongly that as a leader in education you have a responsibility to role-model the activity you are leading and so should teach at least one class. What should be done? Your discussion should include an examination of possible conflict of interest, union opposition and time pressures on your "real" job.

37. Research an existing code of ethics for teachers or propose one of your own. Examine it point by point and give reasons for or against the inclusion of each item. Be careful to analyse items for the reasons they are present--occasionally they are there for political or power purposes rather than ethical ones.

38. The argument is often made that some or all of the schools in a given public school district ought to specialize in some fashion. Thus a variety of special schools have been established--for the fine arts, emphasizing technology, committed to the fundamental skills, or language immersion. Either argue for such models, or argue that the neighbourhood school ought to provide exactly the same programs for all students in the area.

39. Should ideas that the majority culture deems offensive be examined at all in the university, or should they be brought up only in the context of condemnation? Does it matter if the ideas are philosophical, political, economic, racial, or religious?

40. Survey a the class in "Mathematics for Elementary School Teachers" at your university. What is the male/female distribution? Ask if the students are afraid of mathematics or dislike it, and why. If time permits, compare with the Calculus III course. What conclusions do you draw about sex differences?


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The Fourth Civilization Table of Contents
Copyright © 1988-2002 by Rick Sutcliffe
Published by Arjay Books division of Arjay Enterprises