“Education on ‘the cloud'” is a brilliant TED Talk, critically rethinking education, that starts with an exploration of why schools teach they way they do (http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/tech/2013/03/25/sugata-mitra-education-on-the-cloud.ted). The answer is stunning and obvious when you think about it: imperialism.
According to Sugata Mitra, in order to oil the “bureaucratic administrative machine” that an empire necessitates, you need the kind of educational system that Paolo Freire refers to as a “banking” system, in which teachers disseminate pre-identified knowledge to students, in order to prepare them for the machinations of the empire. It’s a maintenance system, in which the teachers and prefab understandings hold the power. It’s a way of seeing the world that presumes the answers have already been discovered and perfected, and all “those people” (i.e. students) need is to learn our answers. Then, they will see the light and prosper.
I encourage you to check out Mitra’s talk for all the insights he offers, and will just frame my critical takeaway: his analysis of our educational system is a vibrant example of what social justice action entails. Yes, it is vital that we recognize and respond to blatant inequity in the world. And we need to critically rethink how we do what we do everyday, including those situations, systems and practices that we think have nothing in particular to do with justice, as well as those that we think are already serving our goals for equity and inclusion.
Case in point: public education is supposed to inherently be about and serve social justice, right? And yet, all systems are biased. That’s a fact. So we need to continuously question, challenge, identify strengths and recalibrate (or entirely redesign) how we educate, from what we define as “core” to how we engage students in informal learning moments to why we have classrooms in isolated buildings that we designate as “schools” (rather than educational workshop spaces throughout our communities, for instance), and so on.
And when we as a culture shift our social justice lens to one that considers everything–from the most mundane habit to the most outrageous offense–as an opportunity and responsibility for greater equity and inclusion, then we can really impact the surface social issues (drop out rates in schools, graduates who are unprepared for the workforce) where it matters: at the roots, in the soil.