Sunday, March 13, 2005

Teleological Political Philosophy

The social security debate (well if that is the right term) has got me thinking again about what the world/society ought to look like. The bushites use the term 'ownership society' to depict what they see as an endgame (I think). It is a society where people succeed with effort, and take responsibility for their own lives, failures and families. Okay this is a very charitable interpretation. But even this ideal is incomplete. It is very vague, and not very explicit about the sorts of things people would do say one hundred years from now if we inched closer and closer to this goal.
So I am offering the germ of an idea of a Telos of my own.
The Education Society.
The end game of my society is one in which the major industry of the world is education. Rather than aim at efficiency in education, we should aim at extravagance. In the future, the least number of people possible should be working on subsistence industries (food, manufacturing, fuel, etc..). Those jobs should been seen as necessary evils towards the main goal of teaching. The primary focus of our teaching will be young people, but education will be ongoing, since by educating the educated we will increase the amount of connections, cross-overs, and inter-disciplinary discoveries (all of which better our youth education). In terms of labor, every person 'unemployed' by advances in technology, methodology or obsolencence will be reemployed in the education field. They of course, may need some education to be able to enter that field, so the need for educators will be ever increasing.
Here are some advantages of my system:
1. Since more knowledge tends to increase the number of questions, there is no eventual obsolescence of education. Even fields deemed obsolete (say post-modern literary criticism for instance LOL) would have a natural decline period allowing for scholars within the field to either retrain, or simply fall off with attrition.
2. There doesn't seem to be the problems with saturation in a field that we currently have. If aiming for a better education system were the social imperative, halving class size, adding tutors, tailoring education to the individual, etc.. all seem like obvious ways of improving it, even if the improvements are only mild. This runs contrary to the idea of efficiency in education (where we want the cost of education to be as low as possible).
3. The period of time a person can serve usefully as an educator is longer than most other occupations. So increases in longevity and the like add rather than subtract from social value.
4. A social goal would be full employment as either teacher or student. If not one the other, or both. All people have something to learn and something to teach. Finding out what people have to teach or where they could help most in the education field would be one of the jobs of educational professionals.
5. Side-benefits. There is probably no field of study which does not have side benefits from its study (a part from 'mere' educating). Obviously the sciences and arts have direct benefits to society in real material terms. But the other fields do as well. These benefits might come about more efficiently that the current 'capital' based systems because educators and researchers need not justify their discoveries in terms of some salable product. Medical research could focus on cures rather than treatments for example.

Potential Problems;
1. Lack of Production incentives. This is the old capitalist saw. If I can't profit from it, why should I bother? If everyone is teaching, who is raising crops and making shoes?
In the short term, if more people were employed as teachers, they could (a) train better employees for those jobs, increase our efficiency and invention; (b) more employed people, even on the public tab, means more people able to afford products, creating increased demand, fits our service based economy better as well; (c) allow fewer people to fall through the cracks by having more attention to each student. In the long term, we'd be creating an ideology of knowledge for understanding's sake, so the people will feel impelled to learn, discover and convey this information. Also, the development of higher technology and learning will no doubt accelerate the advancement of technology anticipating the eventual eclipse of the supply and demand economy (where for example energy is virtually limitless, and supply can be met by rearranging the underlying matter/structure of all things (granted that is a ways off)).
2. Ideological issues. Who will be doing the teaching, and what will they be teaching? This problem is shared by both the 'intelligent design' people, and people concerned with the White Male Upper Class Canon being the dominant ideology (feminists, decontructionists, etc..)
My hope, and perhaps this is a vain one informed by membership in the aforementioned group, is that an educational ideology is self correcting, much like the free market is alleged to be. (Only better). Since there are some fundamental requirements of the education society, critical thinking, an open mind, etc.. Any attempt to monopolize the content would be short lived at best. If one supposes that critical thinking and open-mindedness are themselves tools of the patriarchy, I am not sure how to reply. If open-mindedness requires at least that people consider the merits of something before rejecting it, and critical thinking requires, at least, some criticism on purely rational grounds, then I think a monopoly of that type would not be so bad. In experience, movements like post-modernism, Marxism, Feminism,and such, have met with reasonable success and welcome in the contemporary educational system, I don't see why that would change.

Baby feeding break. More later.


At 8:01 PM, Anonymous john.galt said...

I don't understand this at all - I think I need an example.
Say I really enjoy tearing around in an ambulance fishing shut-ins out of their rat-nest warrens and hauling them in to the hospital, so they can be committed to underfunded State-run institutions where they will be neglected for their own good.

How would that work in your system?

At 1:57 AM, Blogger Scholz said...

hmmmm. This wouldn't be a certain EMT I am very fond of would it?
The system I propose differs from a welfare state. The ultimate goal of my system is not the steady increase in the average standard of living. (Although, I imagine the standards of living would improve with greater education, that is a byproduct not the goal).
That some people are not interested in learning is a failure of the education system to recognize different learning strategies and needs.
Hypothesis: all intelligent beings have a desire to understand, wonder and question.
Most people are most interested in what they are naturally good at. So they tend to find learning about that stuff interesting and fun, and learning about the stuff they lack aptitude in frustrating and difficult. Part of the problem is that in the Market system, the goal of the education system is to prepare workers for the jobs that exist or will exist. But with limited resources and little incentive to develop "non-productive" talents (art, pure science, literature, etc..) they tend to focus on certain things at the expense of others.
One of the goals of the education society would be to fund and explore all the sorts of learning that appeal to our natural talents, not to decree that these and only these things must be learned, or that this method and only this method must be used.

To answer your question. I think a good portion of our "shut-ins" are people that the world as it stands now, it not patient enough for. History is rife with geniuses of questionable sanity, but who know how many countless people could have made meaning contributions if they had more personal and tailored education?
My hope would be that you would be unable to enjoy that aspect of yoru life as much in my ideal society. However, I am sure there are lots of subjects that you might be interested to learn more about, or teach, if given the opportunity.


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