Scott Webster - II, 6, 7. III, 15. IV. 25, 30

From Human Education in the 3rd Millennium

(Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)


(Why is public participation in matters of education important? And how can it be ensured? Mission of education for democracy)

6) The role of technocratic cultures and elites (education governance increasingly monopolized by knowledge brokers and consultants drawn from the technical-managerial middle classes)

Becoming value-oriented in order to challenge the technical and policy oriented.

The ruling elites of this world primarily consist of networks of extremely wealthy people who typically own massive international corporations and financial institutions (Chomsky 2016; Pilger 2016; Phillips 2018) and who employ various military organisations such as the US military and NATO to over-throw regimes which resist their policies (Blum 2014; Coles 2016). These elites can be identified through their membership in various organisations such as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Atlantic Council (Phillips 2018; Shoup 2018). Consequently because these ruling elites are capitalists, their modus operandi is authoritarian in nature and is in stark contrast to democracy. In the Trilateral Commission’s publication The Crisis of Democracy (Crozier et al. 1975) it states that the elite’s capacity to rule is dependent upon minimizing democratic participation. One of their recommendations is to ensure that educational institutions are places of indoctrination, managed by intellectuals who are primarily ‘technocratic and policy-oriented’. These ‘technocratic and policy-oriented’ intellectuals tend to manage the educational institutions as they themselves are products of a neoliberal system, which is characteristic of inverted totalitarianism (Wolin 2017).

In contrast, the sorts of intellectuals who promote greater democratic participation amongst populations are the ones who are referred to as ‘value-oriented’ and who are willing to challenge authorities because of their disgust with monopoly capitalism, corruption and materialism. Therefore these value-led intellectuals are a threat to ruling elites because they oppose their au8thoritarianism. Clearly there is a tension between these two sorts of intellectuals. However, it is significantly important to recognise, and appreciate, that only the value-oriented intellectuals are able to promote greater democratic participation for the express purpose of pursuing a more just, equitable and therefore anti-capitalistic way of life.

Blum, W. (2014) Killing Hope: US Military and CIA interventions since World War II. London: Zed Books.

Chomsky, N. (2016) Who Rules the World? London: Hamish Hamilton.

Coles, T. J. ((2016) Britain’s Secret Wars. Russet, Sussex: Clairview.

Crozier, M., Huntington, S. P. & Watanuki, J. (1975) The Crisis of Democracy. Albany: New York University Press.

Phillips, P. (2018) Giants: The Global Power Elite. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Pilger, J. (2016) The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso.

Shoup, L. H. (2018) Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2019. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Wolin, S. (2017) Democracy Incorporated. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

7) Identification and acknowledgement of the inherent tension between democracy and neoliberalism.

Educators must confront neoliberalism by examining how its embodiment works against democracy

Neoliberalism and democracy are inherently in tension (Chomsky 1999; Wolin 2017) mainly because neoliberalism is a form of totalitarianism which places the economy as an unassailable idol to be served – not critiqued – and which rewards the captains of capitalism and the entrepreneurs. In contrast democracy places the public good, justice and freedom above economics, inviting all community members to participate in determining how society can be arranged for the benefit of all. In short, the embodiment of neoliberalism promotes selfishness while democracy promotes selflessness in pursuit of the public good. Thus both encourage a different sort of human person to be formed.

Neoliberalism is not the ideology for the world’s ruling elites who operate, often with great cruelty, to monopolise resources and overthrow governments in order to achieve unaccountable control. Neoliberalism is therefore an ideology promoted by the elites for the masses. This ideology is described by Giroux (2011) as ‘casino capitalism’ because it offers the masses hope, that if they invest their personal but private efforts, resources and interests into ‘playing’ the game, their numbers might come up, so to speak, and they will win a prize of financial reward. Therefore, as Chris Hedges has observes, it serves as a political pacifier. Neoliberalism relies on the masses accepting abstract concepts such as ‘tickle down economics’ and the privatisation of public assets as ‘good’ practices. These are clearly falsehoods as demonstrated by the continuing concentration of wealth in the hands of very small elites.

In contrast, the hope associated with democracy is shared publically (Dewey 1885) “by its direct connection with deeper existential self-understandings, aspirations, meanings, and passions” (Fairfield 2008, p. 59) and is therefore of more value for humanizing education compared with neoliberalism. However, neoliberalism has made significant inroads into the curricula and practices of many institutions of education (Bailey & Freedman 2011; Giroux 2007; 2014; Sahlberg 2011). Thus we witness the nature of institutional education becoming more authoritarian and less democratic. Therefore, if educational institutions and their practices are to become democratic, there will be inevitable conflict with neoliberalism with its ‘common sense’ ideals which are seductive to self-interests. Consequently, educators ought to bring attention to the sorts of people that humans are becoming through neoliberal ideology in order to highlight how this promotes a very atrophied view of what it means to be human.

Bailey, M. & Freeman, D. (2011) The Assault of Universities. London: Pluto Press.

Chomsky, N. (1999) Profit over People. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Giroux, H. (2007) The University in Chains. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Giroux, H. (2014) Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education. Chicago: Haymarket Books.

Giroux, H. (2011) Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism. New York: Peter Lang.

Sahlberg, P. (2011) Finnish Lessons. New York: Teachers College Press.

Wolin, S. (2017) Democracy Inc.. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


(Is there a need to remember or to discover human nature as the basis of human education?)

15) Inner values (Why and how inner values: love, compassion, justice, cooperation, solidarity, wisdom could or should be part of the curriculum in education?)

The education of inner values requires the curriculum to deal with moral concerns.

According to R. S. Peters (1966) the two main criteria of education consists of firstly, people coming to have an understanding of ‘why’ regarding worthwhile things, and secondly, to come to value and ‘care’ about such things. Such caring ought to be invitational in order to honour the agency of individuals as persons in their own right. They should not be ‘obliged’ to comply with certain values but should willingly and freely choose them because they find them to be personally meaningful, and engage with their overall understandings and purposes for living a good life. Through education, as Biesta (2017) argues, people should be enabled to care and to desire about the things which they ought to care about. Inevitably this involves being initiated into communities who share common values or what Giroux (2012) refers to as ‘public values’.

However, the term ‘value’ should not be reified into a noun but should be understood as the manner of how one relates to a particular issue or ideal as per Kierkegaard’s (1992) notion of truth. Hence virtues and ‘values’ such as truth-telling, cooperation and compassion are not valuable in themselves, but can be valued by individuals and communities who appreciate their potential for pursuing particular purposes such as justice, democracy and peace. Consequently Dewey (2008/1939) prefers us to understand value as a verb as per valuing, rather than having it reified as a noun. The two attributes identified by Peters, consisting of knowing why and coming to care, are made possible when the curriculum engages with worthwhile things which necessarily must include issues of moral concern. When curricular experiences deal with moral concerns, the inner values of students need to be ‘led out’ via education, in order to enable individuals to fully participate in the life of their communities.

Biesta, G. (2017) The Rediscovery of Teaching. New York: Routledge.

Dewey, D. (2008/1939) Theory of Valuation, in J. Boydston (ed) John Dewey the Later Works Vol.13. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Giroux, H. (2012) Education and the Crisis of Public Values. New York: Peter Lang.

Kierkegaard, S. (1992) Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments. H. V. & E. H. Hong (Tr.) Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Peters, R. S. (1966) Ethics and Education. London: George Allen & Unwin.


(What might a human-centered education look like?)

25) How humanity can survive under the circumstances, where the humanities are disregarded and departments and programmes in the humanities are being closed? The place of the humanities vis-a-vis science and technology (so-called STEM disciplines). SW

Educational purposes can only be found within the humanities.

It needs to be recognised that STEM is not integrated but is a collection of different subjects (i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Whether they can actually be integrated in an ‘interdisciplinary’ approach, rather than transdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach, is up for debate. However, it needs to be recognised that all of these STEM disciplines are only technical and are all without any end-purposes. That is, they offer procedures which are rigorous – but contained within closed systems, and they are unable to offer ideals to aspire towards. As Marcel (1949) has argued, social concerns are reduced to the problematic for which technical solutions are sought. Instead, he argued that people should be open to the ‘problems’ in a more ‘mysterious’ sort of manner. In other words, he perhaps was intimating that open systems such as ecosystems are unable to be contained by any technical procedure and therefore humankind must remain humbly open to constant uncertainty. Therefore they are equally applicable to serving the public good or for enacting evil (such as technically advanced and highly engineered modes for committing torture and mass murder). This needs to be actively identified by educators – especially philosophers and sociologists of education.

The humanities, on the other hand, specifically deal with purposes of human life, such as how we ought to live together, what impacts does certain social activities have upon aspects such as mental health, ecosystems, fairness, justice, etc.. These consist of moral concerns and require community members to have the capacity of critical thinking and the making of value judgements if they are to participate. Authoritative regimes, such as is currently the case in Brazil, actively attempt to remove humanity subjects such as philosophy and sociology from curricula because they foster critical thinking amongst the population. Critical thinking and being opposed to apathy are considered as ‘dangerous’ to authorities (Blake et al. 2000; Giroux 2015) because these lead to democratic participation (Crozier et al, 1975) which is perhaps something that educators ought to be fostering.

Blake, N., Smeyers, P. Smith, R. & Standish, P. (2000) Education in an Age of Nihilism. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Crozier, M., Huntington, S. P. & Watanuki, J. (1975) The Crisis of Democracy. Albany: New York University Press.

Giroux, H. (2015) Dangerous Thinking. London: Routledge.

Marcel, G. (1949) Being and Having. Westminster: Dacre Press.

30) Modern moral education (What are the limits of moral education?)

Moral education is inescapably intrinsic to education

Education involves both the intellectual and the moral virtues together (Perry 1999). Moral education should not be considered as an ‘extra’ or an ‘add on’. This is demonstrated via the aims or purposes of any educational program which necessarily reflect aspirations and issues of moral concern. For example Peters (1966) has argued for two criteria for education – understanding ‘why’ and coming to ‘care’ about such things together in the one experience of education. Ideologies of neoliberal and social efficiency marginalise such concerns by focusing solely on knowledge, skills and dispositions suited for the narrow interests of economics. Such an approach produces a highly-technical approach to teaching for which ‘ethics’ is required as an ‘add on’ to give it some legitimacy.

For a democratic context – in contrast to an authoritarian one – morality, like intelligence, must be an expression of free agency rather than submission to laws and obligations. Consequently an education for democracy ought to reject deontological ethics and the ethics of Levinas as examples, because both of these require people to comply to the ‘demands’ of either rules or ‘the other’ through ethical ‘obligation’. As Caputo (1993) identifies, the authority of another who calls us to be ethically ‘obligated’ is not absolute nor divine and hence is not to be blindly trusted. Consequently the notion of obligation ought to be avoided because it involves the surrender of the agentic ‘I’. In addition to primarily involving character education or the education of personal dispositions, moral education is also intellectually rigorous because the making of moral judgements requires that people are able to think through the most likely long-term consequences of their activities, and how people and the environment may be affected. Hence moral education is inescapably intrinsic to education.

Caputo, J. (1993) Against Ethics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Perry, W. G. (1999) Forms of ethical and intellectual development in the college years: A scheme. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Peters, R. S. (1966) Ethics and Education. London: George Allen & Unwin.