On the Exposure-Based Education Method
Some of my doubts about letting people just grow into anything they want
By MARTIN REZNY
While I do agree that this is perhaps the best approach to education, or really the only one that doesn’t raise major ethical concerns, there’s still the pragmatic side of the issue — what reliable effects can it have? If one doesn’t control the goal of it, if no particular requirements are demanded at the end, what justifies the expenditure from any particular sources needed to run it?
It’s a bit like creating a true AI — a wondrous entity that’s entirely useless to its creator because it is defined by not adhering to a program. It can do anything it wants, and that’s the entire point. What if it chooses something wildly destructive to the society? You know, as much as it pains me to admit it, some people don’t have the potential to be tapped, and some are just rotten.
Exposure, or as it is in the organic metaphor for this sort of thing, creating optimal conditions for growth, is objectively better than creating conditions that stunt growth. However, who’s to say who grows up into what, exactly? The fact that the attempts so far to weed out the, well, weeds, were largely offensive nonsense (eugenics, shauvinism, totalitarianism…) don’t prove that people at large are guaranteed to be constructive, enlightened, or decent.
This might be me mostly playing the Devil’s advocate, but my concern goes beyond the simple need to keep society under some form of control. Even if one says to hell with anyone who presumes to decide what people must or cannot learn, what happens with the blossomed inividuals once they reach adulthood? Do any of our modern societies have room for many of these?
I’m saying it as someone who has been exposed to great many arts and has mastered a number of them. However awesome it might be, in theory, me being a bilingual poet, philosopher, debater, actor, and musician not only does not provide me with any career opportunities, it actively makes me less able to function in my society which is agressively anti-intellectual and materialistic.
It’s because I understand how greed is killing the planet that I cannot do anything to just help some asshole make a bunch of money. It’s because I understand the difference between good and bad writing, or smart and dumb music, that I cannot bring myself to create anything that I know would be successful. It’s the freedom in which I grew up that makes me despise bureaucracy. There’s no mechanism, apart from luck, for this to be affordable.
Or, to be more precise, when I’m reduced to doing something that disagrees with my understanding or limits my potential, I can do it, but it is painful. It’s painful where in a state of ignorance it could even be blissful, especially if I indeed only could do that one thing. I’m always perplexed by the common conception that growing as a person is somehow joyful and pleasant experience. If it is for someone, I believe they must be doing it wrong.
In a way, it can be considered cruel to give people wings and then tell them they shouldn’t ever use them, or else. I guess the idea here is that if sufficient number of people are allowed to grow, they will reshape the society to allow for more creativity, freedom, sharing, and all the good things. Maybe so, but there’s also a distinct possibility that it would just lead to more class conflict.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing, stability is a virtue only insofar as it’s not oppressive and actually is sustainable. But I really have ran out of any and all optimism, however worth it it might be in regards to the future options of young people and the level to which they will manage to fulfill their potential. I think only George Carlin dared to show some skepticism as to the ability of every child to actually do something special with their life, and he had a point.
This exposure based model of education may work excellently as long as only a relative few get to undergo it, but it may not be workable as a universal system meant for the whole of society, unless a societal upheaval is what we want to bring about. I couldn’t really care less in that regard, I’m not benefiting at all from the status quo, but there likely is a reason why the education systems have so far resisted any kind of fundamental revolution.
Education systems are inevitably bound by social inertia and they always need to maintain a tether to the reality of available jobs and social needs of the present. What’s worse is that the current global world order is actually rather hostile towards well-rounded free-thinking artists. While it does not actively murder them (typically), it does tend to starve them into compliance. Like the Russian saying goes, back in the USSR, the dog was on a leash and had a muzzle, but it was well fed. Now, it’s free to run around and bark all it wants, but starving.
So, even though I agree with you that this is the right way to go about education, it should involve caution, and it may actually be necessary to get the society at large on board first. If, for example, something like universal basic income becomes implemented, then I would see the chances of exposure-based education becoming universal as much more realistic, as well as the chances of some kind of socio-economic future disaster much smaller.
My question to you would be, what contingency plan do you propose for the lost cases, in the eventuality of mass refusal to learn needed skills, or against the abuse of the knowledge gained for selfish purposes of the would-be underminers of such egalitarian utopia? After all, not even true victories are ever permanent — a successful system needs to be able to resist disintegration.
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