Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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What is education for?

I recently watched this TedX talk by Seth Godin about the purpose of school/education:

One of the best points I agree with from the talk is that majority of our educational system is geared towards generating graduates who are obedient. We teach students from a young age to follow rules and answer roll calls. We teach them standard prescribed solutions. We teach them how to take exams and how to find the right answers. Even school culture among students teaches kids to conform or be ostracized. Our school systems are optimized for generating employees for industry – and in the old days industry meant factory workers, who knew just enough to get on an assembly line and put things together. Even today, we are told that the purpose of education is that we need it in order to get a good job.

Locally, this talk became even more relevant when the Director General of the Philippine National Police questioned why state scholars “go against the government”. This is a common line found in the comments section of news articles as well whenever students from universities would participate in protest actions against the government. As if by virtue of the government providing for the education of its citizens (as is their responsibility), the students now owe the government an unquestioning obedience and should turn a blind eye to any of the government’s abuses. (This line of thinking seems to be primarily prominent during the current administration though – I didn’t really notice people commenting this way during previous admins despite the fact that students have *always* tended to be more activist).

For me, this is working as intended. The purpose of the state sponsoring education shouldn’t be in order to create obedient, unquestioning citizens. It should be to create citizens that are more discerning and analytical and able to make intelligent and informed decisions about the country’s future. And we shouldn’t be educating people simply so they can find good jobs (although that’s part of the reason as well), we should also be educating them because an educated citizenry leads to a better society. (And when I say educated here, I assume there is an ethics component involved as well.)

Student activism isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

(Of course, I’m not advocating that all students should be required to be activists, just that we shouldn’t consider universities producing some percentage of students as activists as a problem.)

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