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Julien Renvoisé

We don’t need no education?

Upon the passing of Nelson Mandela, might we reflect on his resonating lesson: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Indeed, amidst intense political debate over economic and social policies, a consensus seems to remain on the utility and power of education, and its paramount importance in the raising of our children. Yet, what is little debated today is the form or shape of our education. Why do we need grades? What is their moral justification? Why are mathematics and rational thought at the top of the education pyramid? Is there no other way to bring up our children to live in the world, or have we concentrated our efforts on making them fit to this world? Let us start with the grading system. When the teacher gives out a mark to a student based on the work he has produced, he reduces the work to a unique number. The grade ensures that the whole work can fit logically into the educational system, that it has its place, however high or low. Then, all of the student’s works are adequately construed into a mathematical average that represents the academic value of the student. This average is then compared to the average of the rest of the students, of the class, of the previous years to ensure that the whole work can be resolved into a single number, a ratio. As German philosophers Dorkheimer and Adorno contend in their Dialectic of Enlightenment, in our educational system, it seems: “anything which cannot be resolved into numbers, and ultimately into one, is illusion.” The reason given for such a practice is that it is supposedly morally just, giving equal chance to every student regardless of the grader. More rational grading is fairer grading. Negating this, Adorno… Read More