‘Education’ under Consumer-Capitalism, and The Simpler Way Alternative

Ted Trainer has just published a new Simplicity Institute Report, addressing the question, “What is Education?” He’s provided a short summary below and the full essay is available here.

Education under Consumer-Capitalism, and The Simpler Way Alternative

Ted Trainer

In consumer society “education” is essentially about reproducing consumer society – providing workers who are skilled, disciplined, diligent, obedient, competitive, status-oriented and determined to achieve rewards for work and high “living standards.” Schools are riddled with authoritarian relations, exams and grades, compulsion, rank, and credentials. Competent and reliable workers and technocrats are produced, along with “citizens” who do what the are told, focus on their own individual welfare, compete and see competition as normal and desirable, believe bigger rewards should go to winners, and who are not very interested in cooperating, helping, the welfare of the weakest, justice, or the public good.

In such conditions not much Education takes place, and it would be surprising if it did.  But schools are not there to Educate, they are there to train, and they do this well. If we saw education as being about increasing the individual’s capacity and desire to understand the world, to make more sense of experience, to become a wiser and nicer and better person, a critical thinker, more compassionate and  socially responsible and an eager and insatiable learner, then we would scrap schooling as we know it today.

There is in other words a head-on contradiction between the conditions and experiences needed to reproduce consumer-capitalist society and those necessary for Education.  If our top priority is to produce the workers and citizens with the dispositions needed to staff consumer society then we should accept  schools more or less as they are.  If on the other hand our concern is to Educate then we can’t do that unless we develop a very different kind of society.

The Simpler Way enables and requires Education.  It cannot function satisfactorily without people who are thoughtful, socially responsible, critical, cooperative, collectivist, and concerned for the welfare of others, and above all interested in learning, thinking and becoming wiser.  The Simpler Way gives us the time to learn and think and discuss, because it requires little time working in offices and factories.  It surrounds us with people, institutions, processes and landscapes, that involve us in thinking, mutual assistance, community welfare, critical thinking, research and learning.

The full essay is available here.

One Response to “‘Education’ under Consumer-Capitalism, and The Simpler Way Alternative”

  1. Megan says:

    Bravo Ted for your wise words concerning Education and its true meaning as opposed to what it stands for in today’s society and to you Samuel for posting it for us to read. As a retired teacher I applaud your criteria for an education that has real value. Although I taught the 5-8 year old age group what is commonly referred to as “the3Rs” I always encouraged children to see their learning as a stepping stone to understanding their world and making more sense of their experience in it rather than just getting a good mark in a test or exam. I also often paraphrased Henry James’ maxim: “There are three most important things to remember. The first be kind. The second is…to be kind and the third is…to be kind.” If you are aware of your influence on other sentient beings and the planet itself you cannot help but turn away from our present consumer society.

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