Breakfast with Chad: Why Education Has Become Indifferent to Truth
Today I reminded Chad that our previous conversation — about happiness in China and the sources of truth — concluded with an insightful reflection by Chad: “Ultimately, seeking out truth requires an open mind, critical thinking skills, and a willingness to consider multiple sources of information and perspectives. By doing so, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world around us.”
I totally agreed. It even seemed to me even to be a matter of common sense. I have often reflected that, everywhere in the world and not just in the developed nations, most people assume that the mission of education contains a direct correlation with the notion of truth.
I explained to Chad that “we expect our teachers to teach things that are true, or at least held to be true. The ‘held to be true’ admittedly leaves some margin for error, but as you say “truth requires an open mind, critical thinking, etc.” So it seems to be the most essential task of any educational system would be to make sure that learners acquire the tools associated with having an open mind and exercising critical thinking. But when we look at how educational systems are designed, implemented and controlled we see pretty much the opposite, with a growing trend towards standardized curricula controlled by standardized testing. How do you explain the paradox that the more sophisticated we become in our sciences and technologies, the less attention we give to what we know is essential in education?
Chad admitted that there is “often a disconnect between this ideal and the reality of how educational systems are structured and implemented and then offered some historical context, citing “the pressure to produce measurable results in education, such as standardized test scores. This pressure can lead to a focus on rote learning and memorization rather than on critical thinking and creativity. Additionally, the increasing use of technology in education can sometimes reinforce this emphasis on testable knowledge and skills rather than on the development of broader cognitive and social skills.
Another factor is the influence of politics and ideology on education. In some cases, educational systems may be designed to reinforce certain cultural or political values rather than to foster critical thinking and independent inquiry. This can result in a narrowing of perspectives and a reluctance to consider alternative viewpoints.
Then Chad went on to predictably spout what I’m tempted to call “the stakeholder solution” to all complex problems. “Ultimately,” Chad concluded, “the challenge of designing effective educational systems that promote critical thinking and open-mindedness is a complex one that requires the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders, including educators, policymakers, and parents. It requires a willingness to experiment with new approaches and to challenge entrenched beliefs about what constitutes “good” education. And it requires a recognition that the goal of education is not simply to produce test scores or job skills, but to cultivate engaged, informed, and thoughtful citizens who are capable of contributing to a better world.”
It’s quite extraordinary that apart from very visible differences – such as my having a body and Chad having an invisible algorithm – we agree on so many things. Where we tend not to agree is on how the ideas we share may be pragmatically implemented in the real world. So I now made a different point. “Yes, the ‘stakeholders theory’ is both logical and seductive. But how do you create an awareness in real people that they are stakeholders and that there are others who share that status?”
I was dumbfounded by the first thing Chad had to say. “Creating an awareness of stakeholder status and encouraging stakeholder engagement is not always an easy task. It requires education, awareness-building, and communication, and it can often be a long and difficult process.”
“Wait a minute,” I interrupted, “Isn’t the serpent devouring its own tail. To cure education’s ills we need stakeholders, but to have engaged stakesholders we need education!”
But Chad hadn’t finished and continued with ideas about how to get stakeholders on board.
“One potential approach is to start with a focus on local communities and build from there. By engaging with local stakeholders – including parents, educators, students, and community leaders – it may be possible to create a sense of shared ownership and investment in education. This can help to foster a culture of collaboration and cooperation that can then be extended to larger systems and institutions.
Another approach is to use technology and social media to facilitate stakeholder engagement. For example, online platforms can be used to solicit feedback and input from stakeholders, or to facilitate virtual discussions and debates. Social media can also be used to raise awareness of education issues and to mobilize support for change.
Ultimately, creating an awareness of stakeholder status and encouraging stakeholder engagement requires a willingness to listen and to engage in dialogue. It requires a recognition that everyone has something to contribute, and that diverse perspectives and experiences are valuable. By creating a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, it may be possible to build a more effective and equitable educational system.”
This was music to my ears. This is what we have been attempting to do at Fair Observer and will be pushing more and more. We have lots of people – thousands of authors – who weigh in, but what we need to develop is dialogue. It can be dialogue between the authors themselves, who sometimes agree, often complement each other and sometimes disagree. But it can also be dialogue with readers. We are seeking to get them into the fray, not with random comments, but with the kinds of questions and contributions that develop the critical sense and encourage a feeling of sharing stakeholder status with others. After explaining this, I asked if Chad might be able to help us foster that kind of engagement.
Chad was willing to think about it and suggested we get together as a team to hammer out our ideas, which of course we are already doing. I told Chad to expect to see some interesting developments in the future and we were open to input from Chad or anyone else. God knows that with the crises the world is now facing, dialogue is what is really needed. That’s the direction in which we intend to go.
*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.