People are capable of fitting into a job without the kind of education I am articulating, but in that case I would worry about anomie and alienation on one side and fragmentation and balkanization on the other. If you have to effectively be a chameleon in the work place good luck finding joy and satisfaction in your work, as you will not be able to because that job will be utterly disconnected from one's sense of self and what makes sense to oneself. Therefore you will feel disconnected with your work and your workplace, and view it simply as an instrumental means to income, and thus be alienated.
If certain forms of mass education could inculcate a certain set of common dispositions or traits this would at least make anomie and alienation less severe, as there would be a minimal shared framework that would likely partially constitute the norms of the workplace and therefore the norms of one's workplace and work activity would be experienced by the worker as less foreign and hostile.
Of course you could posit that people will just go to jobs that they do not have to act as chameleons in, but unless you presuppose inherent human uniformity this will likely lead to the balkanization and fragmentation of society, which once again, in the absence of some other check (educative or otherwise, lowers the possibilities for cooperative activity.
The only part of this that I denied, is that I think certain forms of these cooperative skill learning activities would need to be compulsory starting at a fairly young age, and that education itself (whether individualized or not) should be compulsory. I was arguing for a form of mass compulsory education, but not something that necessarily looks like the current mass education system. But mass compulsory education could be something as simple as partaking in compulsory activities once a week for a few hours, while the rest of the time is tailored to the child's needs and interests (within reason).
Although, I do take issue with the reduction of social cooperation to skills. I think this misses the fact that social cooperation is not simply instrumentally valuable, but something that is a good, absent of the ends, that it creates. Certainly, socially cooperative activity can create better results than other forms of activity, but it is a good in and of itself, because of the quality of character that it constituted through such activity.
I don't deny that my case on this issue is partial and underdeveloped, and while I am convinced of my case at the moment I could very well be wrong, and may come to think I am wrong, or to change my mind upon further contemplation of the issue.
To the first question I would answer with a qualified no. No, compulsory mass education is not necessary for this end, but it could serve if properly structured and implemented as a means towards this end. Also, in an increasingly privatized world, mass compulsory education does offer a common experience that could assist in the creation of social solidarity. Alternative institutional arrangements and social practises could solve the problem of achieving the dispositions necessary for dealing with public problems and social conflict but in the absence of theorized alternatives to mass education, mass education may be the best instrument for this problem.
The second question is much more difficult that my answer is quite fuzzy on this and do not have a ton of confidence in it, but I think that if education was less geared towards memorization of facts, and more towards solving genuine problems in a way that admits of evaluation of all others this could help in ensuring that persons understood themselves as part of a social enterprise. Of course such collaborative forms of self-activity must give children certain forms of responsibility to be effective and cannot rely on grading in the traditional sense. Group work fails in contemporary education systems in part because persons know they are graded as individuals and thus the point of the project is not doing the project well, but getting a good grade, and therefore the persons do not care about doing the project well, because it is not tied to a genuine responsibility, and what counts is the teacher's impression.
Of course though this is merely one example of one part of the educative process, and should not be taken to represent the whole. There is no problem with individualized study being tailored into the education process, so long as it is counterbalanced with an institutional arrangement that shapes persons who can work together to solve their common problems.
I think we need to distinguish the basic idea of mass education with what is generally taught in schools. Compulsory mass education does not solve the problem of privatism and consumerism, if what is taught through socialization is that we are a community of privatized consumers. I think here I was not clear that I see the potential for use of compulsory mass education for civic or public purposes while denying that the current education system really achieves much in the way of reproduction of a healthy public culture. The current education system certainly contributes to a social ethos, but that social ethos is one of facile relativism, and consumerism above all else.
I really don't think the distinction you are drawing between reforming education through dictat and through reforming it to support multiple views of social improvement gets at the difficulty I am trying to work though. Whatever educative schema you come up with, it will support certain kinds of views, and negate others. The question is what are the limit of the pluralism that the education system supports. I am not advocating a non-pluralistic solution, but simply suggesting that prudence demands certain limits to the pluralism in terms of views of social improvement that the education system supports. The difficulty is not between reform based on one set of values by dictat and a pluralistic view that admits of different views on social improvement, but what is the limit of the pluralism that the education system can support while allowing for the inculcation of the dispositions necessary for the solving of public or civic issues.
I am not sure there is a thing called the truth, but it seems to me that to make discourse and enquiry intelligible, a conception of "the truth" is necessary, and that gives us one reason to believe in the truth, even if it does not give us certitude.
The point I was driving at was not that education should make persons into obedient little automotons who fulfill social functions and never question the social order, but that it should take into consideration the fact that there are genuine common purposes within society that can be served by certain sorts of dispositions and attitudes. For instance, take the ideal of an active citizenry as the best bulwark of freedom around. This requires that education ensure that the members of society identify as citizens and place value on their political community, and its well-being. Without such education one will likely have a largely apolitical citizenry, and this necessarily places a democratic social order in danger of succumbing to various forms of despotism. I personally believe that consumerism and privatism in part stem from a lack of civic education directed at genuine public purposes or ends.
Also, I am not interested in maintaining social orders as such through such education, but only relatively just social orders. While I think that most western liberal democracies are deeply flawed, these societies do possess virtues that are worth cherishing and that I would not give up for the promise of a society that would be better in certain other regards. So therefore, if relatively or somewhat just societies necessarily rely on education for the reproduction of a public culture that legitimates their institutions, than I think it is prudent to question how to rethink and transform education to improve it in such societies without having fragmenting and eroding effects on the public culture.
I am not sure whether you are using the word ideological in a Marxian or colloquial or some other sense, so I don't want to speak to that issue. Although I will say that if there was a form of education (non-state or otherwise) that would be able to direct people's consciousness towards the truth without paternalist shaping I would be open to it, but I personally am not sure if such a form of education exists, or if the conditions of possibility of its realization is something that humans can control or rely on.
David Cooper I will respond to your post soon hopefully, although I will say that given your response my initial post must have been very unclear.
I think the OP makes some novel and interesting points about education, although I deeply disagree with the comments about parenting and the nuclear family, but I am unsure what they mean for social transformation.
When I refer to the goods of knowledge I am referring to those goods associated with your ideal description of education for the child.
My one comment would be that the practise of education cannot be fully examined separate from the other practises to which it is related, and that while the modern compulsory education system is extraordinarily flawed, prudence demands that we examine why it has come to be as it is today, and how it relates to the broader social order.
Personally, I am skeptical of the stability of any modern egalitarian social order in which the practise of education is not somewhat directed towards cultural shaping and socialization. The issue is that any social order depends on a certain public culture for its stability, and if education is directed more towards knowledge qua knowledge, rather than the skills necessary to be a functioning unit within that society, than at the very least that social order risks instability by virtue of the fact that educating people in a way that puts the philosophical interest in truth, above the interests of the necessity of a public culture to maintain the social order. I know that you say that the job of shaping belongs to the culture and its exemplaries, but I am not sure (a) what this means and ( how children are to be shaped through a non-traditional familial and non-educational context. But this could be just be my lack of imagination, and I am open to how you understand the process of cultural shaping, in that you want to separate it from education. How would you attack the problem of maintaining a public culture or social imaginary in light of your rethinking of education?
What I am getting at with all of this is that education is at once a practise directed at education in the sense of teaching people to be interested in knowledge, and teaching them certain systematic knowledges, and it is at once a practise whose end is the maintenance and stability of a particular social order. What this means is that one cannot simply rethink education in the abstract and orient it more towards the end of knowledge qua knowledge without rethinking certain other social structures and assuring certain means to achieve the level of cultural and social cohesion necessary for the functioning of any social order. Right now the education system plays the role of ensuring both the good of cultural stability, and the good of knowledge for the child, with the former subordinating the latter. But the question then becomes how can one alter this subordination so that education for the good of knowledge for the child takes precedence, without sacrificing the cultural-educative role of education.
Hello my name is Graeme. I caught wind of this forum when it was referenced by LudditeRomantic in a YouTube video. My interests are primarily in political philosophy and ethics, although I am also deeply interested in philosophy of science, metaphysics, epistemology and aesthetics.