The Role of Education in Electing Trump

Schools are designed for division not developing student intellect

If Trump does nothing else, it should make us reconsider the philosophically basis of education in our schools. I now understand like never before the mind of John Dewey and his thoughts on democracy and education.

First, let’s acknowledge that the knowledge of facts does not lead to skilled or complex habits of thought. For that we need to acquire and to practice skilled habits of thought and generally to develop one’s intellect. This requires two things. One is to develop good frameworks for thinking like those found in the methods of critical thinking or higher order thinking. The second is at least an introduction to disciplinary discourses that serve as the organizing frameworks and historical backgrounds that will allow students to participate in discussions with our best thinkers. Knowing facts does not lead to good thinking. Even a general knowledge of critical thinking does not help students understand the common historical background to access discussion about our best and most complex thinkers. This is the age of google where knowledge is at our fingertip. We must leave behind our fact heavy curriculum and pedagogy.

Poor Pedagogy Sets Us Up for Divisions

Our pedagogy has always emphasized the importance of knowing facts over the ability to exercise good habits of thought and the knowledge of important disciplinary discourses. Recent testing movements have only excellerated this tendancy toward memorization and shallow learning. This results in a poor level of discourse throughout our national discussions. In example; our political culture eschews highbrow discussions of policy for a demotic egalitarian standard that slips easily into the demagogue’s bag of tricks. At first glance you might think that the average citizen does not have the will to think well, but that would be a mistake. When pedagogy emphasizes the importance of knowing facts over habits of thought and discourse, our discourses naturally suffer, but it becomes even worse! Simple discourses make it easily to divide us into competting camps. Dividing is simple, uniting is a complex process. Consider the words of John Dewey that sound like they were written yesterday, not in 1920:

A philosophic reconstruction which should relieve men of having to choose between an impoverished and truncated experience on one hand and an artificial and impotent reason on the other would relieve human effort from the heaviest intellectual burden it has to carry. It would destroy the division of men of good will into two hostile camps. It would permit the co-operation of those who respect the past and the institutionally established with those who are interested in establishing a freer and happier future. (p.40)

You don’t have to be a techno utopian to see the possible future as bright, but we must avoid division and simplistic discourse if that future is to be realized. We need education to give us a vision toward this future. A good STEM education is founded on complex discourse and great intellect. It’s not the sciences or the humanities; it’s both. Let’s not accept dualism and division. Let’s aspire to greater!