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Does Education Need a Moral Framework?

How we collaborate under common ideologies and that education can help in cementing the cracks of culture war.

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Why we need a unifying ideology

In Joe Biden’s inauguration speech the focus and theme was that of most which preceded his. Unity, commonality, a need for compassion and empathy for one another after one of the most bitterly divided elections of all time.

Most of us felt like we were in an apocalyptic living history when Congress was raided and a lot of people praised Biden’s speech and even Arnold the ‘Governator’ Shwazenegger was a celebrated sermon in a moment of darkness. Let us not forget though that these words of unity are nothing new in the pages of history.

The purpose of the inauguration speech is to always broker peace between the warring factions and bring them together again,after the battle of elections, under the unifying common ideology of America. Due to a fever of patriotism, and a commitment to not create another civil war the government has always known that the first act of a president must be to bring Democrats and Republicans together under the phrase “We are all Americans”.

Without this statement there would be no America as society would have no fuel to collaborate with one another. Flicking through any speeches of the past, even that of Trump’s, there is a clear common narrative of bringing enemies together under The American Dream.

Liberatarianists may argue that the government has no place in dictating principals, morals and ideology to citizens. However, every four years the first role of the president is to cement these values.

Ideologies values and principals makes us human

This is by no means a menacing plot for governments to assert control but that common ideologies and values makes us human.

In his book Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari differentiated animals from humans by giving an example of ten thousand apes in the center of Manhattan compared to ten thousand human beings. With the apes, anarchy would commence if they met others outside of their kin whereas the ten thousand humans would mostly act in peace when met with others outside of their kinship due to sharing common values and ideologies.

When mankind first established civilizations religion was the social cohesive device that galvanized all citizens for centuries. In the age of empires with Rome, Britain and the Iberian powers it was a sense of nationalism that even laid the soil for the American narrative. However, in an age of identity politics and social media where some people will identify as Vegan before their nationality or avoid it altogether with the cliche phrase “I’m a citizen of the world” the strength of a singular unifying ideology is under threat.

Who creates a unifying ideology?

Many of us are distrustful when it comes to government interference and a lot of us carry a Liberatarian approach that governments should not interfere with dictating the norms and values of its citizens. This could be a reaction of Communist states during the Cold War asserting control and abolishing religion and individual autonomy so that everybody would be a “good comrade”.

However, if left unchecked or unfacilitated what principal ideology is left?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Over the past decade our lives have changed and we have allowed a new authority figure to dictate to us what to think, how to act and even who to love. These gods have shifted whole societies with Cambridge Analytica and have changed the way we consume beliefs and ideologies. These are of course the almighty algorithms.

Although they do not write their own ideologies yet, they very much have a clear objective when interacting with humans and that is to consume. We have placed ourselves as the product leading to the point that our data has become the most valuable commodity on the planet.

The market dictates and with the omnipresence of algorithms in our lives we are seen as nothing else to them but consumers, products and mines of valuable data to raid.

Consumption has become the principal ideology to the point,like any addiction, we as a society mirror the ouroboros or the snake eating/consuming its own tail.

We have begun to produce ourselves into the product. This is evident with the popularity of the act of self flagellation on Instagram. With the obsession of followers and views leading to anxiety problems amongst Generation Z and other Gramers. Even BTS the K-Pop sensation spoke to their army at the UN with the simple statement: “Love yourself”. Even though this was to speak to the anxiety which young people experience and an ever emerging amount of introverts it does not bode well in ideological terms when the world under Covid needs compassion and not self obsession.

Education -the light in the dark

When I was young I was fascinated by Star Trek as it was a Utopian version of the future buried under the many Dystopian depictions of the day. Its principal ideology was hard to pinpoint as the writers would always glaze over what unified mankind but indirectly, I would argue that it was a passion to learn, to explore and to better ourselves that fits under the umbrella term of our ideals of Education.

Instagram and social media has led to a peak age of Hyper-Consumerism where we are the product and for the likes and subscribers we are prepared to butcher ourselves. If you need hyped up evidence of this I would suggest looking at the youtuber Nikocado Avocado as an extreme example to represent the gravity and tragedy of our modern moral cannibalistic dilemmas.

It is clear that in 2021 people have lost outright confidence in governments in its role to regulate the market and most believe that officials are corrupted by it instead. However, the market still needs an injection of ethics and that could come from Education.

What principles does education have?

As long as Education is the least innovative institution in society the market, as the most innovative, will continue to dictate the morals and principals we live by. The morals of business are flawed as many budding entrepreneurs sweep immoral practises under the rug by stating “It’s just business”.

However, education already has a budding set of morals and this can be simplified under the 4cs of 21st century skills: Communication; Collaboration; Critical Thinking and Creativity.

Photo by Homemade Media on Unsplash

Imagine if we used this as a criteria of ethical practices in business. Take for example, Apple’s decision to not include a charger in their latest phones. They have used a veiled narrative by claiming it was for ecological reasons however the only reason this decision was made was to create a “charger market” like they did with the headphone market by removing the headjack. Apple’s luxurious products are also targeted for those who have a high disposable income so it would be assumed that they would buy the latest charger which would mean additional packaging plus further Amazon packaging due to home deliveries becoming more popular under Covid. This essentially doubles the amount of waste however we allow companies like Apple to spin fraudulent narratives.

Now let’s assess this action via the 4cs and think about what mark out of five for each category you would give Apple.

Was it collaborative? Well, no. They have given their customers a false narrative, and added a further cost to them. Other companies have followed as they do not wish to miss out on the soon to be thriving charger market and it could in effect be more damaging to the environment as we all know that Apple chargers and their leads are not the most durable.

How about creativity? Well, innovation, productivity, thinking outside of the box. They literally took something outside of the box. It is a far cry from 2007 when they ripped open the global market with the concept of the modern smartphone. Instead, their focus has been creating markets for old hardware such as bluetooth headphones and now chargers.

Leading onto critical thinking Apple’s ecologically friendly narrative contradicts itself as said before it is likely to create more waste. It knows itself as a market leader and already other companies such as Samsung have followed. If it really wanted to be economically friendly it should have included in the box a highly durable charger that would last for years. Instead, Apple chargers are famously behind the game in terms of having universal adaptability and endurance, locking the consumer into their trinket market of leads and dongles.

Finally, there is communication. As one of the most influential companies in the world this narrative has specifically been structured to be fraudulent and manipulate the customer. Many Apple fans claim that their products are a lifestyle and now they have the message embedded into their subconscious that they are being environmentally friendly by purchasing an iPhone 12, with the reality being that their footprint will likely increase. It’s likely to be assumed that if these fraudulent actions were that of an individual they would be ostracised and condemned by society. Instead, Apple will benefit from increased stock value and praise from their shareholders.

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Education needs to be the most innovative institution

The fact is Education already has a simple basic moral framework with 21st century skills. With these four C’s they naturally implement ethics and morality as Creativity, Collaboration , Communication and Critical Thinking are fundamental characteristics of being human. The issue is that they need to have greater importance placed on them and be implemented into the business world whose principal ideology is consumerism and stock appeasement.

There is already a need in the professional world as well due to businesses prioritising soft skills with many being able to be categorised into the four C’s. For example; emotional intelligence could be placed under critical thinking or communication.

As I showed in the Apple example if it was placed under the 4cs basic testing it would likely fail and flunk. As a market and trend leader this does not bode well for the future.

Time is running out as the elephants in the room are algorithms. Basic AI which from day 1 was taught to manipulate and control the human agent by seeing them as nothing more than a product where our valuable data is mined and essentailly untrackable for the owner to reclaim. There is no freedom in the 21st century when businesses and government have more privacy than the individual. It is simply undemocratic.

The rest bite of Covid has given Education an opportunity to re-evaluate itself and to lead the rains of setting a common ideology for society to follow. However, time is ticking.



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Max Bembo

Max Bembo

I am a teacher and part time musician and writer. I believe that education is the catalyst for change but first it needs to adapt to the 21st century.