Lost in a Blizzard of Hidden Persuaders?

Education for Human Flourishing, Cover

Find yourself in blizzard conditions as you reflect upon the larger structure of education, but can’t quite figure out why or the proper direction for next steps?  In Chapter 4:  The Information Economy of Education, Paul D. Spears and Steven R. Loomis move from tracing

several important knowledge traditions vital to Christian thought and indispensable to a complete education … [to] an exercise in the ontology of education as a social institution. — Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective.* InterVarsity Press, 2009. p.125) .

Put on your snow (I mean thinking) cap, review the topics given below, and let me know some of your responses to these concerns.  In particular, what is unique about what the mind/Way of Christ, which influences the follower of Christ as he/she is salt and light, has to say regarding these concerns in the fragile institution of education?  What are the hidden persuaders which are in tension between the manner in which the world versus the people of God understand, view, practice education?

  • least-cost direction [in education] has tended to mean an increased emphasis on technical practices that contribute to a descent in educational practices, on training instead of education, an emphasis on mere rationality in place of the first principles of theoretical and practical reason. … quantitative outputs such as testing and climbing the ladder of attainment have become more important to institutional agenda than qualitative outputs.  Much of this trend results from the price factors of information … (p.125-126).
  • In colleges and universities the incongruency between attainment and knowledge manifests in lower-cost credentialing (e.g., diploma mills), often in order to capitalize on the vast demand for attainment and to grow the size of the university.  The higher-cost pursuit of learning gives way to lower-priced, often standardized replica courses and degree programs.  Franchising becomes a lucrative business model for many universities (p.127).
  • credentialism:  a job that used to require a high school diploma now requires a bachelor of arts; what used to require a B.A. now requires an M.A., and so on.  There is a built-in assumption that more attainment will achieve a higher functioning society.  Ordinary citizens and others in the lower economic classes cannot keep pace with the inflationary pressures of credentialism (p.128).
  • [Regarding the threat of opacity to the learning community]:  Estrangement from human purpose and flourishing may occur through either repressive coercion … or by voluntary assent to certain institutional incentives, such as when human beings follow an illegitimate path-dependent pattern of belief or action … [e.g.,] when faculty and leadership choose new institutional incentives such as those brought about through processes of standardization, as the costs against their resistance in personal prestige and professional reputation, or one’s research agenda or practice become too high (p.130-131).

More coming from Chapter 4 as the conversation unfolds.

*Find the topic of interest?  Check out the Preface & Precis of Book and Chapters.

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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One Comment

  • bbutler@katz.pitt.edu'
    Brian B. commented on February 19, 2010 Reply

    The problem is that much of American Christianity is prone to the same tendencies

    * least-cost direction [in churches] has tended to mean an increased emphasis on technical practices…
    quantitative outputs such as number of conversions, attendees, and donations become more important to institutional agenda than qualitative outputs. Much of this trend results from the price factors of information.

    * In Christian organizations the incongruency between attainment and knowledge manifests in lower-cost Christian credentialing (e.g., mass alter calls, “call this number if you said this prayer”, “I go to a church”), often in order to capitalize on the vast demand for [spiritual/social] attainment and to grow the size of the church. The higher-cost (and far more uncertain) pursuit of God gives way to lower-priced, often standardized replica Sunday school courses, seminars, and institutionalized rituals (e.g. HR/Staffing assessment exercise labeled as “spiritual gifits, Spring break “missions” trip to a poor area for suburban kids, etc.). Franchising becomes a lucrative business model for many churches and religious organizations.

    etc…..

    We must be very careful about “calling out” academia for doing the same things that the church does….
    (Practically, it results in reduced credibility; and Christ is pretty clear that he isn’t isn’t impressed by those who chastise others while ignoring their own “logs”…)

    [At some point

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