Chomsky warns of ideological motivations of some scientific paradigms, just as with the aforementioned racial emphasis of early anthropology. Here, Russell espouses a Platonic episteme by enunciating the expectations of behavior between different classes. While Plato philosophized that persons are born with the characteristics fitting of their caste, Russell envisages a society in which "ordinary" men and women are expected to be collectivized and, therefore, devoid of individual expression.
Jean Jacques Rousseau paid his respects to the philosophy of Plato, although he thought it impractical, citing the decayed state of society. This sort of romanticism has been downplayed by the modern scientific establishment, who denounce the noble savage theory of human nature. Humans are not born purely good, modern science maintains. Instead, evolutionary traits are promoted at the biological level, thereby giving rise to how people are. It is not society that corrupts, but rather an interrelationship between human tendencies and society's condition that creates a modern individual fit for modern society. The virgin person is not all good, and society is not all evil. (8)
Rousseau's philosophy of human development was also different from Plato's, for Plato believed that people are born with skills appropriate to certain castes, whereas Rousseau held that there was a developmental process relatively similar to all humans, while maintaining room in his philosophy for the reality of an innate human nature. In his book Emile, Rousseau wrote that children are perfectly designed organisms, with predispositions to learn from their environments. Corrupt society, Rousseau posited, was a malign influence on the children. Therefore, rarely did they grow into virtuous adults. Rousseau's educational philosophy consisted of removing the child from corrupt society and conditioning him through tasks and traps in the new environment. This response-based learning theory was reinforced at the end of the nineteenth century with conditioning experiments, the most famous carried out by Ivan Pavlov in Russia.
Rousseau advocated truth in teaching. He instructed that adults always be honest about the legitimacy of their teaching positions, their authority deriving from physical coercion: "I'm bigger than you." He thought of the age of twelve as the age of reasons, where after children would engage life as free individuals.
John Locke, on the other hand, posited a blank slate of mind, or an empty mind, on which experience works to shape or mold ways of being. In Locke's views, sensations and reflections are the two sources of all our ideas. Many modern psychologists contradict Locke, arguing that evolutionary conditions have shaped men's predispositions and, consequently, dispositions. (9) Much of this recent science also goes against Rousseau's intuition that men are born noble, but corrupted by society. Psychologist Steven Pinker cites "the fear of inequality" as a reason for people's attitude against his argument for human nature. Much education today, in fact, does treat the student as equal to all other students, though in Pinker's argument humans are born with unique affectations. Pinker associates equality with sameness, arguing that theories for innate human nature promote the necessity of harboring individual qualities in children from their earliest of days. (10)
Teaching is a practical endeavor. It is crucial to take into consideration all the knowledge bequeathed unto us from our predecessors, for past experiences comes together to form the whole of human knowledge. To treat students as individuals, from the earliest of ages, is to respect their dignity. Steven Pinker states that some seemingly inconsequential condition can lead to diversity in an individual from others, such as a unique positioning in the womb. Therefore, if one student has a proclivity to music, this proclivity should be nurtured in the context of an education imbuing that student with the ability to relate, and communicate, with its peers. A student with proclivities for math should be allowed to exceed in math beyond students with interests in literature. By allowing the flowering of individuality -- that is, the pursuit of individual liberty -- with an eye towards civic freedom, students can become productive members of a society that, though in decay, still has a shot to reform and to nurture those aspects which make it function for every person.
The ideal curriculum takes these considerations as a basis, while still dictating certain disciplines. For example, it is important that all students can read. In many countries, schools mandate a second language, therefore making the students who receive such an education more valuable assets to an increasingly interconnected world. They can serve their countries aboard in peace-time endeavors. Sophisticated programs for scientific education can benefit students by teaching them how to investigate phenomenon, and math is a universal language uniting faculties of the human mind, no matter the nation or linguistic background. Schools should regard curriculum, however, not as an international system, but as one specific to the environment in which the student lives. A student, who grew up in a freezing environment, will have a different conception of nature than one who grew up in a moderate climate. Location should be taken into consideration when drafting an educational curriculum. Such a practice would help to promote local sovereignty.
Furthermore, the authority of the teacher should never be regarded as absolute. The student should be given the confidence to question a teacher's authority so as to encourage a process in which the student learns by repetition. Student's should be encouraged to partake in discussion, while also flexing their own creativity through their own ideas. The teacher's job is not to teach a student what to think, but, rather, how to think. Furthermore, the traditional tool of linear logic is, indeed, not the only way in which to solve problems, as evidenced by the knowledge present in the symbols of art.
1. Lagorio, Christine. U.S. Education Slips in Rankings, CBSNews, 13. September 2005.
2. ____. High School Dropout Crisis Continues in U.S., CNN, 5 May 2009.
3. Abate, Tom. Education Cuts May Lead to U.S. Brain Drain, SF Gate, 27 February 2010.
4. Steven Miller and Jack Gerson. Exterminating Public Schools in America. Global Research, 3-10-2008.
Available at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=8288
5. Neufeld, Sara and Laura Loh. Teachers Union, Schools sue over No Child Left Behind, Baltimore Sun, 21 April 2005.
6. Chomsky, Noam. The Case Against BF Skinner, 30 December 1971.
Available at: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19711230.htm
7. Russell, Bertrand (1931). The Scientific Outlook. New York: Routleledge
8. Rousseau, John (1763). Emile. New York: Nuvian Press.