What is the purpose of education?
When you think about the purposes of education, do you identify with one or a mixture of these theories?
Where does your heart lie? And your head?
If you find it difficult to pin down which purpose resonates most for you, consider that the root to purpose is found in our values. Each of these purposes are rooted in specific values, some of them for profit or efficiency, others for freedom and equality or love, care, and hope.
Spend some time reflecting on the two or three values you treasure most highly in life and you will probably find them surfacing at one of the purposes of education described above.
How can we integrate critical consciousness into curriculum and pedagogy?
Creating critical consciousness in students through the way we practice curriculum and pedagogy can be an opportunity to help learners grapple with issues of justice.
This can motivate learners and prepare them for having a voice in society as adults. Of course, this needs to be carried out with sensitivity and thought by selecting themes which are appropriate for each age group to engage with.
How does this look in practical terms?
Many of the themes in the English national curriculum have scope for engaging with issues of social justice. If you sit and brainstorm around a theme looking for issues of injustice you will probably be surprised by what is exposed. For example:
||Social Justice Issue
|Maths: fractions and percentages
||One percent of the world’s population owns more than half of the world’s wealth. Is this fair?
|Science: animals including humans or animal habitats
||The destruction or pollution of animal habitats
||Why does this happen?
How can we prevent it?
|History: invaders and settlers
||What was the impact of Europeans arriving in North and South America?
Does this still happen today?
|Geography: physical and human
|How do people impact the world’s climate?
What can we do about it?
Exposing both sides of the equality/inequality story in this way is known as critical pedagogy. Inspirational educationalists such as Paulo Freire (Brazil), bell hooks (US), and Alex Moore (UK) have been advocates for this approach since the 1960’s.
While to some it seems too contrived, to Reconstructionists, it’s a view that empowers students to think critically about social issues, to see different points of view or a range of perspectives on a situation, and then to respond thoughtfully. As critical educators it leads us to the question of politics.