link: educational crisis    

                             'EDUCATIONAL CRISIS' AS A PARADIGM CRISIS


theme:  An analysis of the current school crisis in the cultural context and historical tradition: The so-called 'educational crisis' is a paradigm crisis which reflects a general cultural, political and moral or 'spiritual'  crisis. The educational crisis points up the necessity of recognizing the relationship between education and culture i.e. education in its 'cultural context'.

 "What is needed is sophisticated educational 'dialogue' which is broad in scope, dealing with cultural, moral and spiritual issues. What is needed is a social-cultural critique of today's educational practices. What is needed is a fundamental reconceptualization of 'education' and the schooling process. What is needed is a critique of the roots of the educational 'crisis'. Educators must analyse the cultural context in which they are doing their work of 'educating'. The current educational crisis is a reflection of a general cultural, political and moral crisis. Such crises have existed before." (David Purpel, 1989. The Moral and Spiritual Crisis in Education: A Curriculum for Justice and Compassion in Education.p. 3)

Traditional paradigm of education: student passivity is reason for declining motivation The traditional paradigm of education is based on the moral codes of 'Protestantism' i.e. 'moralism'. In the moralist view, social problems are perceived in terms of the lack of a sense of what is 'right' and 'wrong'. Social reform is conceived in terms of helping the individual through 'discipline' and enforcement of the 'law'. Institutionalisation of the law becomes the basis for such moralistic aims of education as success in bringing about desired 'behavioural outcomes' by way of learning defined in terms of 'content' rather than as 'process' i.e. conditioned learning' or 'conditioning'. The notion of learning as conditioning is justified by principles of behavioural psychology or 'behaviourism'. The 'behavioural paradigm' of education is based on the assumption that knowledge is finite and can be possessed... and that as a possession it can be transferred from a person in authority - the 'teacher' to another person - the passive recipient or 'student'. Hence the emphasis on the so-called  'student/teacher contradiction' and the technical aspects of teaching. In this traditional paradigm, education is defined in terms of school attendance or 'schooling' ... education as domination and manipulation fails to educate for the 'needs of the individual' as a member of constantly changing society. Traditional schooling does not provide adequate preparation for the challenges of a changing global community. With the continued trivialisation of educational issues people are given the message that schools can make serious changes in education without making changes in the cultural assumptions on the purposes of education. The resulting decline in motivation is justified as a so-called'educational crisis'.

However it is the passive role of the student which is the cause of declining motivation - the  problem of motivation'  - at the root of the educational crisis... lack of motivation as a contributing factor to the educational crisis

 "The problem of motivation is at the heart of the teaching crisis in the States... The official pedagogy is motivating students against intellectual work. (page 5 Politics of Education) Students refuse to perform and the resulting power struggle (students vs. teachers and administration) leads a stalemate in schools- called 'student mediocrity'." (Paulo Freire A Pedagogy for Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education with Ira Shor and Paulo Freire, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, South Hasdley, Mass l987)

 Historical origins of the educational system  "The American educational system is based on a set of assumptions which are rooted in the belief systems of American culture... Their historical origins stem from the rejection of the idea that people deserve a better life because they are better 'educated'. Their version of American 'nationalism' is based on ideals of 'democracy' and 'equality' as 'equal opportunity for all.' Their traditional aversion to elitisim and aristocracy accounts for their characteristic suspicion for so-called 'serious education'. Understanding the power of education to change existing power arrangements, they have avoided discussion... Emphasis has been placed on the practical applications of education. In the historic tradition of American 'pragmatism', discussion and debate on educational issues has stressed the technical issues of the educational system. Focusing on diplomas, certificates and 'credentials', the function of the teacher or 'educator' has been defined in terms of technical expertise. In the American educational system, the teacher must be an expert about the subject matter and an expert about teaching. (Ivan Illich Deschooling Society p. 7)

Focus on the reproduction of values of capitalism' limits discussion of reform The hierarchical and mechanical methodology of the traditional paradigm of education is seriously questioned today. Traditional education focuses on the reproduction of values of 'private capital' and 'profit-making' i.e. 'capitalism'. It encourages motivation by deficiency of needs - 'deficiency motivation' - for adaptation to demands of a consumer culture. Focus is on reproduction of cultural beliefs and ideals - the 'needs of society'. As a result discussion of educational reform is restricted to practical issues such as 'teaching techniques' and 'curriculum design' in terms of 'traditional' versus 'non-traditional' or 'innovative' techniques which will accomodate limited perspectives of the present - 'economic need' and 'vocational preparation'.

There is little concern for the individual's long term needs - the motives for human behaviour or 'human needs'.

"Overemphasis on techniques and technologies in an overtechnologized consumer society has led to the present educational crisis and the need for educational reform.

 In avoiding the complex questions about the nature and purposes of education, educational problems have been defined in terms of their 'implicit moral dilemmas' and 'dichotomies'. Focusing on the dilemmas of the educational system has caused confusion about the 'priorities.' Should we emphasize 'vocational edcation' or 'general education'? What should we have in our 'curriculum'. The confusion about priorities has resulted in unrealistic and even contradictory expectations of the schools. "We want our schools to discipline our children and at the same time support and encourage their independence... Educational discussion and debate has stressed the technical issues of the educational system rather than the wider social, political, and moral isses of educational philosphy. The confusion about purposes and priorities has resulted in an educational 'crisis' and a need for educational 'reform'."  Masschusetts, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc. p. 6) 

"With the discussion of education within the narrow scope of pragmatism, the theoretical aspects of education have been deemphasized. With the focus on the political ideals of the 'nation', the 'purposes of educaton' have been defined in terms of ideological principles and economic theory. Theoretical alternatives have been overlooked. When most professional educators examine the social setting they tend to use the very narrow and limited perspectives of the accessible present and of vocational preparation and economic need...

American culture and the characteristeic mistrust of human nature: no concern for human needs  Traditional education is based on mistrust of the nature of the human personality - the intuitive and emotional facets of the human personality i.e. 'human nature'. 

Focusing on the reproduction of the values of a consumer culture, the schools have been unprepared to meet the challenges of a changing global community. The resulting 'educational crisis' has inspired discussion and debate about the wider issues of the nature and purposes of education. .

"The current educational crisis has pointed up the necessity of recognizing the real relationship between education and culture...

It is the latest incidence of the 'trivialization of educational issues'. People are given the message that schools and education can make serious changes without parallel changes in the basic conception of schooling and changes in cultural beliefs...... (Pupel 3)    

Multifaceted global crisis  "The transformation we are experiencing now may well be more dramatic than any of the preceding ones, because the rate of change in our age is faster than ever before, because the changes are more extensive, involving the entire globe, and because several major transitions are coinciding. The rhythmic recurrences and patterns of rise and decline that seem to dominate human cultural evolution have somehow conspired to reach their points of reversal at the same time. The decline of patriarchy, the end of the fossil-fuel age, and the paradigm shift occurring in the twilight of the sensate culture are all contributing to the same global process. The current crisis, therefore, is not just a crisis of individuals, governments, or social institutions; it is a transition of planetary dimensions. As individuals, as a society, as a civilization, and as a planetary ecosystem, we are reaching the turning point." (Fritjof Capra. 1982. The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster, page 33)

The nature of human nature Human nature is a function of human needs. These include the basic psychological needs or 'ego-needs' and the spiritual needs for growth - the 'metaneeds'. The metaneeds are 'human values'. Human values are the basis for effective evaluation of the complexities of a rapidly changing social environment i.e 'social intelligence'. Social intelligence is required for behavioural adaptation or 'adaptability'. Adaptability depends on the formulation of life goals and purposes for existence or 'personal philosophy'. Personal philosophy depends on 'freedom' as 'spiritual freedom' - freedom to cultivate one's own learning skills and mental powers of 'personal learning'. Opportunities for personal learning depend on learning environments which respect the individual's privacy and solitude. When natural self-expressive behaviour is discouraged the instinctive human striving for personality development is restrained and the individual is denied the kind of education which allows for the natural development of personal potential i.e. 'self-actualisation'.

The 'educational crisis'  has inspired discussion and debate about wider issues concerning the philosophy of education and the true nature of 'educational reform'

Educational reform must incorporate transformation of cultural institutions and belief systems:  Educational reform confined only to the schools and not to the society at large is guaranteed to fail. The urgent task is to transform many of the basic cultural institutions... educational institutionsand belief systems... drastic changes need to be made in the culture to forestall disaster and facilitate growth. American culture is characteristically fearful of those who challenge their basic assumptions... they tend to mask that fear with scorn, avoidance and self-deception. It needs to be recognised that a crisis situation can be a source of both danger and opportunity. If the concepts of an outdated worldview or 'paradigm' are applied to a changed reality, then the situation can be dangerous if it fosters irrational thinking. The result is a crisis of perception or 'paradigm crisis'. The paradigm crisis can be a source of new opportunities if it generates new concepts which can be applied to the new reality. The current educational crisis is a paradigm crisis which provides new opportunities for  discussion and debate about the true function of schools and the real 'aim of education'.

 Economic theories and the 'values' of capitalism account for the lack of motivation, decrease in academic standards etc. The task-oriented perception of the environment results in incomplete cognition.

"The relative atrophy of the generative capacity is very frequent in our culture. A person may be able to recognize things as they are (or as his culture maintains them to be) but he is unable to enliven his perception from within. Such a person is the perfect 'realist' who sees all there is to be seen of the surface features of phenomena but who is quite incapable of penetrating below the surface to the essential and of visualizing what is not yet apparent. He sees the details but not the whole, the trees but not the forest. Reality to him is only the sum total of what has already materialized. This person is not lacking in imagination, but his is a calculating imagination, combining factors all of which are known and in existence, and inferring their future operation." (Fromm Man For Himself 89)  

The question which faces schools today is this: How to improve the quality of education so as to stimulate motivation and provide for the individual's complete intellectual and emotional development i.e. 'social development'?

Motivation of sound psychic development is inhibited by fear of punishment, discipline and forced learning  Sound psychic development which includes motivation for learning is adversely affected by fear of extensive punishment, external discipline and the overemphasis of enforced learning. Fear creates hostility and hypocrisy. Fear paralyzes endeavor and authenticity of feeling. Fear prevents proper emotional development. Fear of an inhumane environment prevents the proper development of children.

Education for social development means that it must be geared to the individual's 'bio-psychic' and 'psycho-social' needs and capacities.

....connection with 'dialogue'... knowledge is not finite but changes ... Knowledge as 'meaning' is constructed  through 'inner dialogue' of contemplation and the meaning is negotiated with others through 'outer dialogue' of discussion.

Educational philosophy and 'education for life' Self-actualization is the aim of 'education for life' which engages the instrinsic motives for learning i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'. Intrinsically motivated learning engages the development of a sense of moral responsibility or 'morality' i.e. 'moral development'. Moral development is a function of development of 'moral consciousness' or 'conscience'. And conscience is a function of the spontaneous emergence of sense of 'self' or 'self-knowledge', 'self-discipline', 'self-reliance', 'self-respect' - all attributes required for adaptability to the responsibilities of a life of freedom... 'character education'. The concept of education for life was the basis of work of Belgian pedagogue Dr. Ovide Decroly (l871-l932). Decroly was a medical doctor, psychologist, and professor best known as the pioneer of experimental pedagogy who devised the so-called 'biological model' of education - a natural pedagogy for the whole person or 'holistic education'. Holistic education is centered entirely on the recognition and respect for the personal or 'bio-psychic' needs and the social or 'psycho-social' needs of the human organism i.e. 'human needs'. Needs based education allows for the individual's personal freedom to develop their human potential in order to be able to adapt to the complexities of changing social conditions i.e. 'adaptability'. Adaptation depends on the individual's ability to deal effectively with the responsibilities of freedom in any cultural context.

In the context of an environment which is concerned with human needs - a 'humane environment' - there is no need for any form of social, political or so-called 'religious' doctrine.  (Illich 47)

Unfortunately "in this era of malice and greed, teaching requires a moral courage that is tragically unfashionable and widely ridiculed." (John Gatto "An Award-Winning Teacher Speaks Out." Utne Reader Sept/Oct l990. 77)

"Addictions of dependent personalities are the things which are killing the nation: drugs, brainless competition, recreational sex, pornography of violence, gambling, alcohol, and the worst pornography of all, lives devoted to buying things -accumulation as a philosophy...We need an educational philosophy that works... One philosophy which has been at the core of the education of the European ruling classes for years is based on the belief that self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge... In this system at every age, the child finds himself alone with a problem to solve." (John Gatto "An Award-Winning Teacher Speaks Out." Utne Reader Sept/Oct l990. 75)

 "The present educational 'crisis' has pointed up the inadequacy of the expected role of 'educator' as technical expert. It makes learning about oneself, about others, and about nature depend on a prepackaged process."(Ivan Illich Deschooling   p.47)

Implications for educationteacher's role. Mass communications of the 'global village' is producing a rapidly changing social reality. For the individual, the capacity for responsible decision making and adaptability depends on an ever increasing amount of objective knowledge. Education as 'schooling' is no longer effective as preparation for the complexities of a rapidly changing world and is seriously questioned today.The problem for education is the search for a framework on which to base a meaningful practice of education. In the new 'holistic paradigm', the educator's responsibility is to foster individuality in the context of culture. Education in a cultural context engages the individual's perception of social, political, and economic contradictions so that they can take action against the oppressive elements of their environment and then adapt effectively to it i.e. 'critical practice'. The role of the educator is to provide the right conditions for the facilitation of natural learning i.e. 'facilitator of learning'. The facilitative educator provides the learner with challenging problems to solve and on the basis of understanding and respect for their humanity, trusts them with independent study. The educator's effectiveness depends on certain personal attitudes or 'attributes' which create a 'humane environment'. A humane environment encourages development of social intelligence... 'social development' - a function of personal growth through learning. The  'freedom to learn' engages development of a sense of 'social responsibility' and 'social justice' or 'peace' i.e. holistic education'.

Education in a humane environment is supportive of the learner's intrinsic needs and therefore conducive to their development into mature individuals with a strong sense of self-discipline, self-confidence and responsibility for themselves and for others i.e. 'society'.

 "For four hundred years the goals of science have been directed to the control of nature and human nature. Scientific paradigms have produced the root metaphors of modern Western culture. Overemphasis on the metaphors of a man-centered mechanistic universe, dualistic reality, neutral technology and individualism has resulted in today's multifacted global crisis. The major purpose of schooling until now has been to preserve the hegemony of the established culture to induct each new generation into the dominant worldview. The recent so-called 'holistic education movement' is the manifestation of the concern for an education which 'draws forth' (from the Latin 'educare') the "latent capacities and sensitivities of the individual..... Surely an education designed for the nineteenth century industrial society does not address the needs of our time. Our schools do not speak to the confused, fearful condition of the young generation who must inherit this troubled culture and this threatened planet. Consequently, American education has entered a period of upheaval and conflict from which it cannot emerge unchanged..... A radically different paradigm, not yet clearly defined, is emerging." ( Ron Miller, 1993. Renewal of Meaning in Education: Responses to the Cultural and Ecological Crisis of Our Times. Brandon, VT: Holistic Education Press.

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 Purpel, David 1989. The Moral and Spiritual Crisis in Education: A Curriculum for Justice and Compassion in Education. Masschusetts, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc.

 Paulo Freire, The Politics of Education, Bergin and Garvey, South Hadley, Mass l985 (chapter l3, pages l67-l73)

Paulo Freire A Pedagogy for Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education with Ira Shor and Paulo Freire, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, South Hasdley, Mass l987


 Americans need to examine their culture critically. They need to reconsider their basic assumptions and reexamine their way of being. Fearful of those who would challenge their basic assumptions, Americans have tended to mask that fear with "scorn, avoidance, and self-deception." (Purpel 8) 

 It appears that there is a dilemma faced by the schools of today which revolves around the need to motivate children to do work.

 Many of the social ills of the society are symptoms of a maloriented educational system. Children are required to learn within a framework of adult controlled instruction.

In order for its citizens fo live according to the underlying principles of a truly free society, children must be educated for responsible freedom.  Consequently the educational process for children means the opportunity for growth in a climate which fosters the instinctive development and maturation of their individuality and potentialities. 

 In order to function with integrity and intelligence in a demoratic society, children must become mature as well as knowledgeable; self-disciplined as well as autonomous. They should have the capacities for self-evaluation, self-determination, self-respect, and self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility for themselves and their fellow human beings. The only condition necessary to insure the cultivation of natural developmental processes is freedom - not freedom as license and without control, but freedom with control

The educational process must allow for the complete emotional, psychological and intellectual develoment of children into mature adult personalities in harmony with themwelves and their environment.

The ills of the society are symptomatic of the ills of the schools (Illich)

 Peoples' lack of wisdom and vision is due to "the intellectual and moral dilemmas implicit in the complex questions about the nature and purpose of eduction." (Purpel 4)


(David Purpel, 1989. The Moral and Spiritual Crisis in Education: A Curriculum for Justice and Compassion in Education. Masschusetts, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc. 3-7)