Is a "good enough" school enough?

I’m alright jack keep your hands off my stack
— Pink Floyd

This blog takes the “good enough” parent idea one step further and questions whether we are teaching our children what they need to know to be a part of, and create, tomorrows world. My son has just completed his school education (my daughter has a couple of years left) and I’m uneasy that the focus of schools in general has become increasingly narrow and focused on producing technically educated “workers” at the expense of a more generalist, social education.

This in turn raises a very important question – what is, or should be, the focus of school education? Should it be, as it seems to have become, focused on teaching our children the skills they need to be part of the workforce? Or should it broader and focused on society as a whole which would include areas such as, for example, politics, parenting, relationships, financial acumen, philosophy, world affairs and, indeed, the very nature of society.

Incidentally, even though I have been known to take the odd swipe at the teaching profession for the number of holidays built into the year, I do not think teachers are in any way part of the problem. The incumbent government(s) set policies which lays down tracks and they determine which way the train goes. We are here because our elected leaders put us here.

I will state up front that I do not think that the current situation is benign. The neoliberalistic world does not want, does not value, and prefers we do not create critical thinkers who understand society and its shortcomings. The current world order simply wants more, what French philosopher Foucault termed, “docile bodies”. People whose main focus is on how to do well in society (i.e. amass stockpiles of money) and not question the very nature of society. How, in New Zealand in what is termed a “rock star economy” can we have 250,000 children living in poverty? And why is there denial/acceptance and not outrage?

In Darwinian terms, a “good enough” school produces children able to survive and thrive in today’s environment only. After all nature does not know what’s coming and so the dinosaurs didn’t breed their young to survive in a world with a vastly altered climate. For a human example just cast your mind back to the World Wars and the generations brought up to happily sacrifice themselves for “King and Country”.

Darwinian survival is about adaption to incremental change over time and our education system is trying to keep up in terms of what the modern workplace needs but is that enough? Do we really want to make sure the next generation is able to keep the wheels of industry turning or do we want them to think, and dream, about a better world, a better planet?


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