Transforming Education - The Mantle of Leadership – Part 3
In my last post, I talked about the importance of education in ultimately changing the political culture that besets us today. Specifically, I examined the role that a knowledge of history can play in providing much needed context for interpreting events.
Although this knowledge may not necessarily provide easy answers to the many problems we face, it does give us the tools to ask the right questions and evaluate the answers. And it is precisely for this reason I am not hopeful that governments will mandate more history in their curricula. With a more informed citizenry, governments might be challenged on the facile rhetoric that allows countries to accept the abrogation of civil rights, violations of constitutions and charters, interception of personal communication, imprisonment, without charge or due process, all in the name of “the war on terrorism.” People might demand answers as to why their country can’t afford universal health care while billions are spent monthly to wage war in a country that never posed a threat. Informed citizens might want to know why aboriginals live in third world conditions while corporate and personal income taxes are cut, and budget surpluses are accruing. This list of potential queries is endless. Just imagine if leaders knew that their misbegotten policies were going to held up to vigorous public scrutiny and could no longer be justified by platitudes!
So it is doubtful that governments will make the changes to education needed to produce a thinking and critical people. Yet I do believe change is possible, and that history can be made a core subject occupying the same position of importance in the curriculum as do English and mathematics. The responsibility for bringing this about rests with the teachers themselves. Most history teachers I have known over the years have been very passionate about their subject, and they now need to begin to channel that passion into political action, forcing the issue into the public arena.
As well, the public, especially that segment that currently has children in the system, has an even bigger role to play. They first must realize that the critical thinking skills which a study of history can develop are as crucial as any computer or other job-enhancing skill that public education can impart. Next, they must make their demands known to their school districts and their provincial and state governments. Obviously it is not a process that will see results overnight, but it is vital that it begin immediately.
It was Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. A knowledge of history can contribute significantly to that pursuit, and it can also give us the skills by which we can intelligently evaluate the society in which we live.