Why we aren’t Responsible

by Jinryu

Regarding the previous post:

Boasting the highest number of post-secondary students  in North America, local industry and commerce are tailored to both support– and take advantage of– the student demographic. Contemporary education, inasmuch as I have experienced it in Montreal, concurs with the observations of the author.  It deals almost exclusively with “what” and “how” we are educated, as opposed to “why“.  This, I believe, has to do with the educational institutions inexorable relationship with the capitalist economy.

Up until the late 80s in Montreal, we were required to study Christian doctrine as a starting point for some sense of social duty and morality. With time, education began to shift focus to what the author identifies as the material circumstances of the adult world.  It wasn‘t just that higher education was more career focused; mandatory Judeo-Christian religious education in public schools was deemed unconstitutional, replaced with “moral education” classes.  These were, in my opinion, was the last bastions of Lindeman‘s “organic teaching.” Even in these classes, the “why” mentality had all but disappeared from adult education by the early millennium, replaced with a cursory, non-commital devil’s advocate approach to the exploration of popular ethical issues such as capital punishment and abortion. The separation of technical, knowledge-based education from experienced, wisdom or faith based beliefs is something that shifted the social responsibilities of teachers.

Montreal’s educational policies entrench at value-free positions for a reason: increased representation in multiculturalism, especially thanks to a growing immigrant populations.  With divergent religious and cultural beliefs, a common morality or social agenda isn’t easily agreed upon.  With increasing civil rights awareness, it becomes increasingly risky to engage in value-ridden policy making.  It seems to me only natural that if adult education is inadequate at explaining why we should be educating adults, in addition to the economic factors the author cites of Brookfield, it is because educators are hesitant to commit to an idea of what we should be teaching.  We leave it to the students to dictate what they want to learn.

In a capitalist employment market, students want to fulfill a checklist of prerequisites towards their careers.  This creates creates the demand that the post-secondary institutions are trying to efficiently supply answers for.  Education is an industry.  I don’t believe, for this reason, that we are likely to see any increased organic thought in contemporary adult education, at least not if it is economically or politically inconvenient for the institution.  Even if educators are genuinely concerned about the lack of social awareness in the programming of post-secondary education, they will find that without a great deal of ministry backed commitment, the technicist model will continue to marginalize the organic indefinitely.  Morality and social responsibility is, simply, an inconveniently complicated position, both culturally and economically, to hold.  Nobody wants to be held responsible.