The week has ended with further evidence of the contemporary neo-liberal hostility to agencies and professions, which encourage critical and independent thinking. In Northern Ireland the government proposes to dissolve the Youth Council, fearful of its relative autonomy. Here the very existence of the JNC as the historical reference point for an aspiring youth work profession is threatened. Resistance and opposition to these moves is mounting. In this context it is timely to remember that, even if it is more honoured in the breach than in the observance, we are defending a radical educational praxis committed to political change, often nowadays referred to as critical pedagogy. Thus your stretching and relaxing weekend read is an interview with Noam Chomsky. Although the exchange is focused on American schooling its relevance to our situation is striking.
A way to privatize the system is, first of all, make it non-functional: underfunded, so it is not functional, and then people don’t like it so it is handed over to what are called charter schools, which, actually, are publicly funded and don’t do any better than public schools, even though they have a lot of advantages. That way you get rid of the general commitment of the public to solidarity and mutual support: the thinking that I ought to care whether the kid across the street can go to school, or whether the disabled widow across town should have food.
There used to be this world-famous physicist who taught freshman classes in physics, and was famous for when he was asked in class: ‘‘What are we going to cover this semester? ’’. He would say: it doesn’t matter what we’ll cover, it matters what you discover. That’s education. Once you’ve cultivated that talent, you’re ready for whatever next challenge will come along.
Speaking of Bertrand Russell, he talked about what he called a humanistic education. Actually, I’ve wrote about it and gave memorial lectures and talks about his conceptions of humanistic education, which are very similar to John Dewey’s in the U.S. and go right back to the Enlightenment. Those are core Enlightenment ideas: the essence of human nature is to create, inquire independently, in solidarity with others, and those are capacities that are ought to be cultivated by the schools, in any way.
Read in full at Interview with Noam Chomsky on Education