Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Civilisation and education

Michael Oakeshott wrote:

...a civilization (and particularly ours) may be regarded as a conversation being carried on between a variety of human activities, each speaking with a voice or in a language of its own; the activities (for example) represented in moral and practical endeavour, religious faith, philosophic reflection, artistic contemplation and historical or scientific inquiry and explanation. p 304

The danger, today, appears to be that there is precious little conversation going on. In the sixties, there was. People argued, sometimes violently, but there was a conversation. Now, there is either dumb acceptance or violent rejection. We live in a time of extremes. Oakeshott continued:

If, then, we recognize education as an initiation into a civilization, we may regard it as a beginning to learn our way about a material, emotional, moral and intellectual inheritance, and as learning to recognize the varieties of human utterance and to participate in the conversation they compose. p 304

So there we have it: education as the means to cure our fractured society. And what does this government give us? League tables.

Michael Oakeshott. Rationalism in politics and other essays. London: Methuen, 1962

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