An interesting article here. I definitely think that students are not all fully appreciative of the opportunities they get, and many could do more, but is there too much of a glut of universal education?
o one expects anything comparable to happen now. Most schoolchildren in the UK and the US show – if we admit the facts frankly and interpret the exam results objectively – little appreciation of their opportunities. Typically, they emerge from school with lamentably low standards of literacy and numeracy, and no taste for prolonging intellectually strenuous forms of leisure. If they go on to further educational experiences, they are more likely to choose vocational training than lectures unrewarded, except for the sheer thrill of learning, on the Salian and Hohenstaufen emperors. How did this collapse of educational ambition happen? Why did ordinary people’s appetite for learning ebb? Why did excellent autodidacts disappear?
I’m sure readers will tell me that these changes are the effects of easier, cheaper access to competitive forms of pabulum, drivel, belly-laughs and mundane amusements; or that the fault lies with bad schools; or with a system that denies teachers resources and freedom; or with prevailing consumerism and materialism, which condemn children to share their parents’ and rulers’ dreary values and narrow aspirations. I suspect, however, that the real problem is deeper and more secret – so shocking that we barely dare think it, let alone mention it out loud: maybe the entire project of creating universal, compulsory, free education was misguided. And maybe the destruction of real, heartfelt demand for learning has been one of its consequences.
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