Edumacation

Had an interesting lunch with TS. We ended up talking about teachers, and education in general, and he said we didn’t need a federal department of education, and even went so far to say that state-level ones weren’t required either. I disagreed, saying that it was important in order to maintain a minimum level of education, but he replied that it should be up to an individual to decide what they want their children to learn – who is the government to decide what is or isn’t good to know? He also said that education shouldn’t be mandatory.

I think that having a minimum level of education is good for society as a whole, though to be honest, that was entirely based on having played Banished, and trying to get the achievements in the screenshot above. It’s pretty damn hard to have a large population of uneducated people! But in actual fact, I think it is better for society as a whole because by establishing a minimum, you have a base level of knowledge that people can grow from, with the idea being that the base will grow over time. Compare what the average person knows now with what the average person knew 200 years ago – see https://ourworldindata.org/global-rise-of-education#literacy

And a screenshot in case it’s gone:

There are so many amazing new things that are being discovered or invented, and I think it’s because society as a whole has come so far in terms of being educated. TS responded that it’s not required that everyone is intelligent, for instance, cleaners, but I disagree on that point, too. If you think about cooking, which is probably one of those skills that gets passed from a master to their apprentices, you might think that advanced education is not required, but you have things like molecular gastronomy where people are doing incredibly things by combining food and science. In fact, food science is an entire field on its own. Sure, the average cook doesn’t need to know how to read the periodic table, but just knowing certain principles from physics or chemistry can make them better at their job because they have a better understanding of why they need to use a certain pot to cook cream, lest it separate into an ugly mess.

On the topic of mandatory education, I argued that without it, you would end up with a self-perpetuating cycle of uneducated people not seeing the value of education, resulting in their children being less likely to go to school, resulting in their children to be less likely, and so on. While the educated people will continue to have educated offspring, etc. TS did agree that some base level of education is required, e.g. primary school, but not everyone belongs in school, and not everyone needs to learn mathematics beyond a primary school level. School should teach you the basic things you need to survive, and that’s all. He said some people should have the freedom to go on and become painters or whatever if they have no interest in continuing schooling. I guess on that point, we both agree, but disagree on where the line is on mandatory education, as I think primary school isn’t enough.

I don’t really know how to rebut his point about whether the government should control the curriculum – you have to hope that they have the best interests of their people in mind, but it’s hard to say. I was thinking about the “No child left behind” policy in the United States, which sounds good in principle, but results in the problem where the teachers are encouraged to teach to the level of the dumbest student. The amount of attention from the teacher depends on how bad the student is, and gifted students may be left to languish, which is bad.

Then you have the East Asian countries, where entrance exams to universities result in children who spend most of their lives studying due to pressure from their parents. In this sense, it’s not the government who is forcing people to study, but a combination of societal pressure (you don’t want to be the only one of your friends who didn’t make it into university) and parental pressure (they don’t want their children to fail to get into university, never get a job and never leave home). But this immense pressure makes it difficult for people who don’t want to go on to do higher education, and also increases the suicide rate.

But if not the government, then who should control the curriculum? You could allow corporations to control it, and end up with the 11-herbs-and-space-experience. Maybe I’m just being cynical.

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