Rejecting education

The ancient world did not draw a distinction between the educational life and work of self-critical social and political thought. But the city [polis], the modern city, has long since rejected the educational life as a basis for fair and just social relations. It can be seen that in particular over the last 10 years or so, education―especially self-critical philosophical education―has come to be questioned and undermined by many, both as to its status and its usefulness.

There are many reasons for this.

For some who find themselves rejected by education and lacking educational success, the world of education can appear to be largely a carrier of elite privilege―be this as a tool for the preservation of wealth and property, or financial power and resources―ensuring that the rich increase their riches, and the poor are left to accept this as if it is decreed by some kind of law of nature. In increasing numbers those who feel that the city has left them behind, that is, those who feel their views are unrepresented by a governmental class of self-proclaimed virtuous, intellectual, and liberal elites, also see education as the primary means by which the dispossessed are kept in their place. The elite are seen to govern with educated values which are far removed from the real needs of the hoi polloi. And if the elite are challenged by the latter, any resistance is met with the assumption that the leaders are those with superior intellects and is beaten back by facts that come from the educated, and who expect that these facts must be respected. Recently, the calling out of this educated world as one that trades in ‘fake news’ has considerably empowered those whom the educational consensus has long classed as barbarian. And alongside this, especially in the USA, the charge of elitism is itself being used as political capital by another elite to further their own political, essentially plutocratic and at times authoritarian ambitions.

But the world of education has come under severe criticism from another area. The whole Western tradition is currently under the microscope and being examined for the ways in which it is based on truths, principles, categories ‘facts,’ and values that reflect prejudices and stereotypes. Worse still, many have argued that this tradition has justified sexism and the persecution of and violence against women, as well as racism and the murderous slave trade, and the Shoah of European Jewry. At its most dramatic, this amounts to the critique of the traditions of Western education as being soaked in the blood of the victims of imperialism, slavery, and misogyny.

In such circumstances, and with such history behind it, it is not hard to understand why education is being rejected by many people as the path to emancipation, freedom, and justice, and its offices of power seen as a swamp that requires to be drained, peacefully or otherwise.

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