In defence of the school: A public issue

E-ducation, Culture & Society Publishers (2013)
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As a painfully outdated institution the school is accused of: being alienating, closing itself off to society and to the needs of young people; reproducing social inequality and consolidating existing power relations; demotivating youth; showing a lack of effectiveness and having great difficulty with employability. And last but not least, the school is considered redundant: the school, where learning is bound to time and place, is no longer needed in the digital era of virtual learning environments. The ultimate charge: the school is a product of outdated ways of distributing knowledge and expertise, determined by primitive technologies of the past. Adieu school. This book advocates the acquittal of the school. It argues that many of the allegations against the school are motivated by an age-old fear and even hatred toward one of its radical but essential characteristics: that the school provides ‘free time' and transforms knowledge and skills into 'common goods', and therefore has the potential to give everyone, regardless of background, natural talent or aptitude, the time and space to leave their known environment, rise above themselves and renew (and thus change in unpredictable ways) the world. This defence of the school starts from an investigation of what makes a school a school and pinpoints why the school has value in and of itself. It reveals the various attempts to rob the school of its scholastic character, that is, to tame the school. The ultimate aim is to elaborate a touchstone that helps to defend as well as to re-invent school. Jan Masschelein and Maarten Simons are members of the Laboratory for Education and Society, KU Leuven. They share an interest in research on the public dimensions of education and are currently elaborating a philosophy of schooling.


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