School: Technology of the Self?

tech self

Reposted from Forbes:

The Making Caring Common Project at Harvard University’s Graduate School Of Education, has already explained that students see how adults’ actions can betray the intended rhetoric. Studies show that while adults say they value empathy, compassion, and critical thinking, children learn to value achievement measured by grade points. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Students read systems’ implicit messaging while ignoring the explicit talking points. When schools are run according to the conventions of for-profit organizations, we move with impressive efficiency toward a world full of graduates who mistakenly believe enterprising entrepreneurship is a defining value system rather than an important skill set.

Alternatively, we might understand that school is ultimately a ‘technology of the self’ (to borrow a phrase from Michel Foucault). Then, we would first focus on the systematic process through which we nurture individuals’ sense of agency, decorum, and responsibility. School itself becomes the tool which refines individuals into reflective citizens and prioritizes opportunities for emerging human dignity. Education becomes the structure within which narratives of personal and collective identity are contextualized using the intellectual structures and academic skills that we’ve inherited from preceding generations.

Thus far, however, we’ve unfortunately been brainwashed into thinking that educational technologies are neutral. We imagine that tablets and computers are merely tools that transmit unbiased academic content to students. On the contrary, they do much more than that. Embedded in every technological solution is a moral/ethical stance, an image of the good life, and a narrative of the idealized self. The worldwide success of Apple’s marketing is evidence enough that digital gadgets are not only tools with which we manipulate our environment, but also props in a performed identity narrative.

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