Reciprocity failure – Is it really the problem?

I was going to comment on Steve Wheeler’s post, Reciprocity failure, but the comment came out so long I thought best to publish it on my own blog.

As I said in my brief comment on Twitter, it’s not often that I disagree with Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth on Twitter). I do this time, at least in the way he presents the issue, which might or might not portray well his thoughts on it. This seems to be at odds with the views on education that Steve generally puts forward and the kind of educational thinking tradition he includes himself in.

Here’s some of the points in the post that surprised me the most:

1) Are schools aware of the needs of the business sector?
2) There should clearly be a relationship between what is taught in schools and what is taught in L and D
3) There is a mismatch between what schools teach and what businesses want
4) We need to break down the silos and establish some seamless progression from school, through training, to the workplace

This view of school as the first step in a streamlined preparation of workers to meet businesses’ desires and needs is very far away from what I think an education should be. I agree that school should be more open, but to society and to the local and global culture of its time, not to business interests. In a fast changing world, where professions change heavily or disappear and new ones are created in few years, it makes even less sense to focus an individual’s education on today’s labour market.

Education is about helping people develop their full potential and become active and able citizens, capable of thinking on their own, making informed decisions and having a rewarding life, not about making them good workers according to what businesses think they need or want.

I see businesses concerned about consumers and very committed to making a profit, but when have they shown concern and commitment about public interest or the well-being of citizens? Don’t they often engage in unethical or even illegal behaviour to secure their profit or their survival?

In my view, businesses and corporations have way too much power and influence in our societies already, and I feel it is a terrible idea to think that schools and education should be more aligned with their agendas.

I believe there are more relevant areas in which changes in education would be significant, and Steve has talked and written extensively about them – make education more personal, empower learners, support creativity and personal development, develop transversal skills, focus more on processes and not only on products, develop digital literacy and the management of one’s online identity, develop critical thinking, etc.

I don’t believe current unemployment rates in many European countries are due to this “reciprocity failure”, but mostly to bad business practices and a lot of bad political decisions. In the face of that, I think we need informed, engaged and empowered citizens more than we need workers educated according to businesses’ interests.

Here’s what I think school should do to businesses’ desires and needs (:-P).

Photo by James Cridland on Flickr

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