Educational Institutions as Equalizers

By: Gretta Castelino

March 2, 2015

Responding to: Violent Extremism, Integral Development, and Catholic Social Thought

Educational Institutions as Equalizers Harold Laski, the British economist, political philosopher, and a strong believer in human liberty and equality, has commented on education as the cause of an unequal world: "Nothing can be more striking than the way in which our education system trains the children of rich or well-known men to habits of authority while the children of the poor are trained to habit of deference."[1] While we see that the distinction is in terms of economic resources, we may also accept that there are rather few persons of lower social castes who are rich and vice versa. 

Thus invariably it's almost like a double bummer faced by the same majority. And may we, at the beginning itself, also accept that it is this section that forms the 99 percent of the world that owns barely 52 percent of the world's wealth, the rest of which is in the pockets of the rich.[2] So when Seil Oh questions the "new type of imperialism" in the name of humanitarian support encouraging the World Bank to contemplate on “the primary value” to release the world from the clutches of poverty, I would completely concur on the same, suggesting two ways or steps to address inequality:  

(1) Transformation: In today's day and age of universalization of education, bringing about equality must be read as educational institutions becoming more inclusive, not only in admission criteria (in terms of reserved seats under affirmative action plan/positive discrimination), but also by making efforts towards NOT making campuses colorless, casteless, and classless. However ironic this may sound, the only way to go about doing this is by letting each of these distinct individual persons or groups continuously be themselves, exhibit their difference, and perform their specialization, for the world to sit back and watch a harmonious coexistence and putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Causing dilutions and homogenizing the world we live in, I believe, makes us weak as a species as we're then unable to sustain our strengths in an attempt to look like the majority or most dominant—which may not necessarily be the best!  

(2) Transfer: By stating the above, I wish to make the point that the exercise of wealth creation has to be ingrained in the poor, and the poor must not be made dependent on sops from the rich. This must be looked at as the relationship between individuals, communities, and most importantly nation states in this global village, as one of the many ills of globalization with its processes of liberalization and privatization has been that the aid recipients become indebted to the aid givers, causing dangerous repercussions of replication of their culture and values, translated into a loss of indigenousness in civilizations of people. The transfer here that I suggest is not of monetary aid, but rather of tools that can help the poor generate wealth, basically boiling down to "empowerment of the masses" (besides of course just remuneration for goods supplied and services rendered.) The government as well as private investors in the intellectual future of the world, of which Jesuit educational institutions are an epitome, must thus engineer their educational curriculum, atmosphere, and outlook to counter the predominant observation articulated by Laski, which must be made as part of their wider mission to achieve the vision of a relatively equal world.

I have a firm conviction that the more such socially (un)trained children are equipped with knowledge and skills to enter the job market, there will be less and less of discrimination made on the basis of ascribed inequalities and subsequently achieved ones as exemplified in Finland.[3]  

In conclusion I'd like to quote Pope John Paul VI’s message from Populorum Progressio that has beautifully stated the role of education in bringing about self-empowerment and thus equality of human-status: “At birth a human being possesses certain aptitudes and abilities in germinal form, and these qualities are to be cultivated so that they may bear fruit. By developing these traits through formal education of personal effort, the individual works his way toward the goal set for him by the Creator. […] Utilizing only his talent and willpower, each man can grow in humanity, enhance his personal worth, and perfect himself.” [4]    

[1] H. J. Laski, A Grammar of Politics, Yale University Press, 1925, p. 147.
[2] “Richest 1% to own more than rest of world, Oxfam says,” BBC News, January 19, 2015.
[3] A. Partanen, “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success,” The Atlantic, December 29, 2011.
[4] Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples), March 26, 1967.

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