No freedom for education in schools and universities?

A different vision of the possibilities of education is still held by people of various political persuasions for whom education, despite its complicities in oppression and privilege, remains the most important tool by which to effect social reform. But such reformers come up against the tight control that vested interests have long enjoyed over the shape and functioning of education in the city at all levels. Many who work in education know that they are asked to teach only in ways that can be controlled by being measured. They know only too well how the needs of measurement determine what teachers can teach, and how they can teach it. Even university education is not immune from such control. The pursuit of higher learning has been made servant to the demands of the market and therefore to the interests of powerful vested interests. In turn, many (all?) universities have welcomed the idea that they too can become profitable businesses, embracing the turning of higher education into a market commodity that is bought and sold like any other merely abstract object.

If this is true, then the idea of education as a formative human relationship, a relationship of self to self as of self to other, is no longer safe with or protected by higher education. Perhaps in higher education such a vision has been retired. If so, then with it goes the idea of a city practicing an examined life; and with that also disappears the vision of education as the work required for the fair and just city.

In the dialogue that follows, Socrates returns to this same city, and listens and responds to the educational crisis that is unfolding within it.

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