What’s the Use?

Long day; short post. Quite likely my shortest post ever.

Does everything and everyone have to have a “purpose” in life? ‘Twould seem so, according to the Bible. However, “purpose” is an anthropocentric point of view: everything is made for the use of people, including other people.

Sometimes the benefits (not “uses”, but benefits) of having different people around are not obvious. Those odd people don’t fit the neat cogs of traditional social machinery, and society has had to invent new mechanisms to “deal with” the misfits and to isolate them from the social workings.

Thus for example, we get “special education” programs to make up for the fact that the current educational system doesn’t work all that well. Being a heretic, I don’t believe that an educational system that enables students to learn should have to be “special”. (I also don’t believe in the segregation.)
What is really needed is the understanding that it is not the people, but the social machinery which is lacking something that creates this mis-fitting, and therefore, the misfit.

In the way that travel enables us to understand what our home geography and culture is like (by way of comparison and contrast to that which is so familiar as to be unseen), the misfit enables society to learn more. This happens indirectly by illustrating how the social machinery is lacking. Furthermore, the social machinery is often lacking for a lot of people, not just those for whom it’s such a poor fit as to be outright unusable.

This informing also happens directly by the communications we get from all the misfits. Of course, it’s not true communication unless there are those willing to listen, and to take the messages seriously.

People do not have to be equivalent to be equal in their inherent value.

2 Comments

  1. David N. Andrews BA-status, PgCertSpEd (pending) said,

    13 July 2006 at 2:29

    Amka: “I think that some of the problem with our current educational system is that we began segregating over a century ago with age.”

    Yes. Absolutely… This was the single factor that precipitated the introduction of IQ testing… the French government found that, after age-banding the school population, some children were lagging behind in achievement, and they asked Binet to develop a test to find out the children who would benefit from special attention and education. The result was the Binet test.

    In using age as the determinant for stratifying the school population, the government had ignored a major issue in developmental psychology: namely, that not all children develop (physically/spiritually/emotionally/socially/communicatively/intellectually/behaviourally/etc) at the same rate – some are faster and some are slower. Not only this, but not all children develop at the same rate in every possible sphere of development… (sorry, Piaget’s stage theory is largely not very tenable these days) … and so there are likely to be major complications arising from the use of age as the main determinant in anything.

    Amka: “A child who has different needs than the others I think could actually be better accomodated in an environment built around a long term community of children learning together with a teacher guiding rather than the dictatorial teacher..”

    I agree entirely. However, school teaching is now oriented to exams, and – even if I am not entirely in agreement with his theories – I am in agreement with Piaget in his opinion on examinations… although I do actually agree that learning achievement does need to be assessed, but I think that there are better ways to do this than to push a paper in from of someone and expect them to regurgitate their entire school year’s information up on it.

  2. Amka said,

    9 July 2006 at 14:59

    I think that some of the problem with our current educational system is that we began segregating over a century ago with age. It used to be that all kids of the same age went to school (or were taught at home) in the same class room. What happened was that older or more advanced children helped to teach younger children and every child moved at their own pace.

    It was thought that separating by grade would make things more efficient. Perhaps, in a short term sense. But we’ve lost a lot: older children gaining compassion and responsibility by needing to help younger ones. Kids would have a more stable school environment with the child have the same teacher for a more prolonged period. I guess not good if the teacher is bad, but then maybe we’d have less tolerance for poor teachers. A child who has different needs than the others I think could actually be better accomodated in an environment built around a long term community of children learning together with a teacher guiding rather than the dictatorial teacher – student relationship of today that must be maintained when large amounts of children are rotated away from each other and teachers familiar with them.


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