I Wanna Be Literated #162

I Wanna Be Literated #162

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Wednesday, 30 August 2017
COLUMN

Education and the Social Order
by Bertrand Russell
[Routledge Classics]

It’s tough categorizing Bertrand Russell books because they tend to read like in-depth analyses but at the same time these are just Russell’s opinions and experiences that he’s recounting. The thing is of course that Russell has a very persuasive and charming demeanor to him that makes him very convincing. It’s undoubtedly why his writings brought him such success. Education and the Social Order is a perfect example of what we’re talking about.

Bertrand Russell never stopped considering what a perfect school for children would look like. Maybe he felt like he had some experience since he had both tried and failed to create his own school. In this book, Russell basically argues that we have two choices when it comes to education: educate people as citizens or as individuals. Note that citizens function to benefit society and the state, while individuals are left free to pursue their personal desires and be selfish if they want to. We probably just need a happy medium. It’s funny to think how Christianity began as a rebellion against the state but took on a character of obeying the state. Of course here enters Russell’s favorite comparison, which is US/European systems vs the Soviet system. In the Soviet system, the individual is sacrificed so that the system, taking on the role of the church, can survive and hopefully benefit the individual. And when one looks at everything from purely a matter of class-struggle, things like science suffer greatly.

But if an individual culture fosters freedom in its citizens and encourages them to ask questions, you end up with a difficult situation for the State. This along with issues of heredity, discipline, home vs public schooling (including the dysfunction brought on by isolating boys and girls), sex, patriotism, herd mentality, religion, and much more are all touched upon however briefly by Russell, and all with his trademark lucidity and wit. Education and Social Order might be a short book, but it packs quite a punch.

 

Get it here.

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