26 May 2010

5 Steps to Create Anti-Education Schools

This is a TED Talk by film maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoyabout how the Taliban are recruiting and training children to be suicide bombers. For a more sophisticated approach consider the insights that Stanford Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo in his book The Lucifer Effect. Here's his TED Talk on that book.

This exposition on the Taliban schools raises the question of what it means to be "educated." Are these children "educated" by the learning processes that they are subjected to in their schools? If the definition of what counts as "educational" is limited to the delivery of knowledge skills and information that is deemed appropriate by an authority, then they become educated by those processes and the only difference between the Taliban and the Texas Board of Education (or any other federal, state or local school board setting academic standards) is the knowledge, skills and information that they authorize to be taught.

I take exception to the academic standards approach. For me, when someone is educated they are able to perceive accurately, think clearly and act effectively to achieve self-selected goals and aspirations. (Here's my definition of education page at Teach-Kids-Attitude-1st.com) Those children have been cut-off from the sources of information about the world that could enable them to perceive the world accurately, from their family, friends, from themselves (by the anxiety of constant threats). The do not have access to their own thoughts and they certainly cannot act effectively in the world to further their own goals since they do not actually have their own goals.

If we want to assess whether children are becoming educated we need to assess more than merely their acquisition of knowledge, skills and information. We have to get to know the students goals and how effectively they act to achieve them. The problem with the academic standards approach is that it never even asks whether the standards they set have any relation to the intended outcome of an educated person. It is simply assumed that the correlation between having knowledge, skills, and information and being educated is causal. If I am correct that the correlation is a coincidence and having that stuff in your repertiore does not cause that person to be educated, then the question is what does cause someone to be educated. I propose that the process of self-generating goals and then successfully overcoming challenges to achieving those goals is the causal factor.

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