An investigation into the purpose of schooling : a personal clarification

  • Madeleine Lanyon

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This investigation was prompted by a personal concern about what I perceived to be unacceptable practices and outcomes in senior secondary schooling in the Australian Capital Territory. For me, an unacceptable practice and/or outcome is one which could be said to contribute to social control by dominant elites. Liberation, in the sense of the acquisition of personal autonomy based on reason, and equality, in the sense of parity of esteem or the right of people to develop differently but within the parameters of concern for others, are the goals I seek in relation to education and schooling. They are goals which are ascribed to by many teachers, and which partially underpin the major reports which prompted and continue to influence supposedly reformist or progressive moves in secondary schooling in the Australian Capital Territory in the 1970's. However, an examination of the framework of these reports suggest that they concealed - non too deeply - contradictions and invalid assumptions which wider examination shows to be common also to what we can call the dominant or liberal educational framework. This framework of ideas, beliefs, assumptions, values and practices, has come under strong attack in recent years by those educationists, sociologists, historians and philosophers whom we can call Marxian. That is, those people who seek to understand and transform their world within a consciousness largely informed by those theories and insights which were first given major prominence by Karl Marx. It is a consciousness which I share. In my investigation of schooling, and of my part in it, as a teacher, I have come to the point where I think that the beliefs, assumptions, and practices associated with the dominant educational ideology do contribute to the formation of a distorted consciousness; that is, people in schools do not perceive that they are oppressed, and that public schooling does not work in what I consider to be the interests of most people. I believe, therefore, that radical change is needed. If we assume that the capitalist mode of production and, consequently, its concomitant set of social relations, are likely to persist in Australia, we can also assume that radical change will be very difficult, and a long term goal. However, I believe that teachers can play a significant role in the development of a more liberating and egalitarian form of schooling for all children. First, teachers have to develop a more critical view of the schooling process and in this way enable themselves to move beyond the limits set up by the traditional and dominant, liberal ideological framework. They have to develop a pedagogy based on the concept of consciousness-raising or critical thinking. This study represents the efforts of one teacher to do just that.
    Date of Award1983
    Original languageEnglish

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