Personalism and Education

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Jerzy Krol (Chelm, Poland): Modern man is lonely and homeless because he has abandoned traditional values. In this post-modern condition has no understanding of his identity and the meaning of his life. Man has neglected cultural values. So he seeks meaning by endless consumption which has become a cult. Man is addicted to shopping, and this impulse sometimes results in riots destroying shopping centres.

The dream to return to a past uncontaminated by technology and glogalization is unachievable. But we haven’t made much progress in respecting human dignity; instead education treats students as objects. In socialist counties, education becomes anti-education because it denies parents and children choice.

Persons achieve the highest value at conception. They can never be means to an end.

The principle os subsidiarity: Education is a means of self-development. So educators should not allow children to choose pseudo-values. Ethics is at the service of man. And education is in the service of the individual. So no state group can control education. Subsidiarity protects community values from state and market forces.

Realistic Philosophy: Humans are real persons, dating to Aquinas. Education should enhance personal life. Human perfection is the goal, and ultimately his happiness. But education should nt be used to further some state-determined utopian goal.

Inger Enkvist (Lund): Students are resentful of the modern education system because they see to to be an instrument of social engineering. Comprehensive schools were radicalized in 1968, when grades were given less importance. AS a reult, more students went into education with lower education standards.

Traditional education dates to the Enlightenment and is remarkably similar between countries. But academic standards were abandoned in favour of social promotion. In traditional education, educators were role models. Education was seen as a calling.
Then structuralist education arrived in the 60s and 70s due to more students, increased wealth and ideological changes. Education was less theoretical and more practical. History was abandoned for the social sciences. The student was freed from the teacher;education bcame more expensive; but outcomes worsened. Teachers were told to emphasize method over content and to help weaker students. New teachers were less intellectually gifted. And outsiders were telling teachers what to do! Teachers were mere cogs in a bureaucratic machine. Students could not ask for better teachers. “Ordinary teaching” disappeared.

The student becomes the subject. And then post-modernism and relativism!

OECD sees students, not as persons, but as future workers who need to acquire competencies.

Thomas Buford (Furman U): Agrees that education is going to Hell in a handbasket.

Comments: All three speakers bemoaned in various ways, the plight of modern education, the first in a more focussed way than the second. But, strikingly, they provided no evidence; instead just assuming that this was a self-evident fact, and proceeded to offer very different theories about the cases. But in my questioning, it was very difficult to get them to concede in any way that modernism, since WW II, has been coincident with the widespread condemnation of numerous evils including imperialism colonialism, racism, sexism, child abuse, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.

Arguably, all these evils violate the dignity of the person. And all of these evils have been tightly linked to various forms of traditionalism and traditional education. But none of them wanted to concede that there have in some ways been improvements.

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