Monday, 30 August 2010

What ought the education system to be?

The problem with asking this question is that it is rarely seen as a matter of objective judgement, but instead one of subjective opinion. It is an ambitious question: it is closely related to 'What ought the role of government to be?' or 'how ought we to live?'. But is it really that subjective? In most social situations, there are actions which are generally acknowledged as 'the right thing to do', and where the wrong thing is done, there is usually some sort of political retribution (Iraq, over-zealous government cutbacks, etc).

I think we need to get real about 'oughts', and this means reconsidering the separation that Hume argued for between 'what is' and 'what ought to be'. Often doing the wrong thing is a matter of having misunderstood the nature of the context within which that thing is done. Iraq is a classic example, and the government cut-back looks very worrying for the same reason. What do we know about the 'what is' of the education system? Enough to make sound judgements about what to do?

Rather than knee-jerk reaction, calmer methodical identification of the nature of what we are dealing with is a surer way to creating an education system which is closer to what it ought to be.

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