'All the big debates about pedagogy – how children learn to read, whether English literature is superior to media studies, whether history teachers should focus on the Napoleonic wars or the Holocaust – all these are really secondary issues’, says Furedi. [...] Today, we have an inability to give meaning to education because we struggle to give meaning to adulthood.It's been awhile since I've read one of his books but I am about due for another visit, I think. He is becoming a fine successor to Neil Postman, now that the latter is no longer with us.
The struggle to give meaning to adulthood is expressed in a number of familiar ways. From parents struggling to know how to tell a two-year-old to behave to teachers feeling threatened by ‘violent’ four-year-olds and politicians threatening parents of truanting teenagers with jail, discipline is one area of life that used to be taken for granted but has now become an endless source of conflict and anxiety.
A related trend is that which Furedi terms ‘socialisation in reverse’. Socialisation, he notes, ‘is the process through which children are prepared for the world ahead of them’. [...] Today, however, this intergenerational responsibility is being usurped by a new breed of professionals, so-called experts ‘who transmit values by directly targeting children’. Parents will be only too aware of the way that children now come home armed with advice for their parents about how to eat healthily and recycle their rubbish correctly.
One result of the devaluation of adult authority is that ‘the proper relationship between education and society has been turned upside down’, and ‘education is used as the site where the unresolved issues of public life can be pursued’. As adults are infantilised and children are treated as mini-grown-ups whose voice must be expressed and heard on every matter from the content of the curriculum to the attributes of their teachers, education becomes viewed as a place where political debates can and should take place.
In these times of non-violent coercion that we presumably picked up from our participation in the Cold War -- where political and social pressure is used in an organized and concerted way in lieu of physical force -- public education is in some ways becoming a racket in that it occasionally exhibits a violation of the public trust and an illicit misuse of education where the child is used as the violent social weapon of strongly implied but ostensibly optional enforcement.
I was sitting in the waiting room of a music store a couple of weeks ago and overheard a young girl quietly chastising her Dad for not buying her music book from the store where she also did her lessons. "But if you buy it here then [the store] will get the money," she said. "So you have to buy it here, OK?". You could hear the wife in her voice. It was calm and collected with a strong insinuation that you'd not be spoken to for a long time if you didn't act appropriately. The Dad stood there in near silence, seemingly unsure of how to handle the situation. He made a few uncertain comments about the books at the store being expensive and in bad physical condition.
It makes me wonder if children are also being told in school that they have to support local businesses. Is the Chamber of Commerce giving talks in elementary school now? I don't really know. But, she was not of an age where she would have reached this conclusion herself.
The child, however, likely does not comprehend such detail. I have written at greater length and with more detail about this problem of child indoctrination by the public school system in the past.