The modern school: its crisis and its future.
Kim, Sung Soo
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Education and schooling have been under severe and constant attack on all sides since the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957. It is today a platitude or a reality of educational thought to say that the school as a social institution is in a state of deep crisis. In the relevant literature there is a great amount of data available which support the contention that the schools are in trouble. The increasing number of private and free schools is also indicative of the extent to which the modern school is beset with problems. A survey of the literature on the crisis of the school revealed several topical problems which underlined the necessity for undertaking this study. First of all, what the critics accuse the school of varies widely. It was, therefore, necessary in this study to outline some fundamental problems of the school. Secondly, the modern school remains in trouble in spite of the fact that the calls to reform the school situation have been met by many positive suggestions. Therefore, this study needed to explore the reasons why criticism of the school has failed to solve the problems of the school. Thirdly, there appeared on the scene in the past decade or so some extremely radical critics of the school whereas the school and its particular role fulfilment in society have so far only been accepted uncritically in Christian-reformational circles. The socalled "deschooling" philosophy therefore had to be viewed from a Scriptural perspective. Lastly, an investigation into the reasons why schools today pass through such a bombardment of criticism had to be made from a Scriptural perspective. This study attempted to achieve a threefold over-all aim: firstly, it tried to profile and analyse the main or fundamental problems or the crisis of the school; secondly, it tried to evaluate these problems or crisis of the school fundamental-educationally; and thirdly, it tried to find a Christian solution to the crisis of the school from a Scriptural perspective, in the process attempting to make a contribution to a radically Christian science of education and theory of the school. The research method employed in this research is characteristic of fundamental educational inquiry. The method applied to this study is, therefore, based mainly on documentary analysis. The problem-historical method and the method of philosophical reflection were also used in this study. Furthermore, various views of the school, school criticisms, reforming ideas as well as alternative ideas to the present schooling are criticized and evaluated in this study by way of immanent, transcendental, and exheretical critical methods. Above all else, this study is guide by the principle of sola Scriptura. In order to see and understand properly the present-day fundamental crisis of the school, attention was, firstly, given to a brief historical review of the development of the school, and also to some of the problems which the school has faced from primitive times up to the end of the 19th century. It became evident that the school, in the first instance, came into existence as an institution which takes care of teaching, namely the transmitting of knowledge and skills regarded as necessary to the pupils. A review of the history of the school revealed that the school has, throughout the centuries, been criticized in various ways. Up to the end of the 19th century, however, it seems that all the critique of the school was in some way related to the school’s basic function, that is, related to the question of whether it performs its primary function of teaching children effectively or not. Consequently, most of the efforts to reform the school were, in a broad sense, concentrated upon the problem of organizing learning content logically or according to the natural development of the educand, or to extending more opportunities of schooling to more pupils, or to striking a balance between individual demands and societal demands. The most important thing in connection with the crisis line of the school which the review of the history of the school has revealed, is that the school has always performed its basic function of teaching children in a way determined by a certain (mainly apostatic) religious ground motif, but has so far (generally speaking) never truly stood on the sound and true (anastatic) Scriptural religious ground motif. The examination of the problems or crisis of the school in the North American regional context has also proved that the critics and the reformers of education and the school in North America have so far never truly stood on the sound and true (anastatic) Scriptural religious ground motif. The Deweyan progressive school was determined, motivated, and controlled by the modern humanistic religious ground motif of nature and freedom. After the Sputnik debacle, education and schooling for the pursuit of individual excellence began to take central importance again and a largescale curriculum reforming movement was launched. The return to "hard" education after Sputnik, however, contributed significantly to the radicalism of the counter-cultural movement, which then again led to the advent of the "return-to-basics" movement of the early 1980's. All this clearly shows that the pendulum of school reform oscillates to and fro between the two extreme poles of the modern humanistic religious ground motif, that is, the science or nature pole, on the one hand, and the ideal of human freedom or the personality ideal, on the other hand. In modern/contemporary times, education and schooling in the Western world are dominated by the personality ideal. The left liberal critics (like Postman, Weingartner, Kohl, Silberman, Dennison, and Neill) and the left radical critics (like Reimer, Goodman, Holt, Freire, and Illich) are all concerned about the individual's free l autonomous, and self-sufficient growth and development. They all charge the public schools with damaging, thwarting, stifling children's capacity to learn and grow as free autonomous human beings. The present school, according to their criticism, is not fit for free autonomous human beings. The left liberals, on the one hand, have a strong belief in progress and accept the assumption that the problems of the present school can be changed" creatively. Therefore, they want to reform the school environment to become more humane by putting more emphasis on individuality and on the individual freedom of the child. They do not reject the very idea of a school system. The left radicals, on the other hand, no longer think of the school in terms of reforming, changing or improving it, but think of the total destruction of the school. The school as it currently exists, according to its left radical critics, generates ill-will, hypocrisy, mono= poly, and manipulation to such a degree that the school is beyond all hope. School reform, whether radical or moderate, is, according to them, a futile enterprise. Therefore, they have suggested that the very idea of a school system must be rejected in favour of finding a more effective, humane, personal, self-directed choice of means for learning. The concept of deschooling society has been, therefore, suggested by the left radical critics as a solution to the educational crisis in general, and the school crisis in particular. Although the problems (or crisis) of the school which have been raised by humanistic critics do not reveal a homogeneous character, the central or fundamental problems of the school centre mainly around matters of ontology, anthropology, epistemology, societal relationships, and matters of an ethical and religious nature. The Bible does not offer any directive and systematic treatment of these problems of the school. However, it supplies sufficient guidelines and perspectives on fundamental aspects of the school and schooling. With regard to the ontological "problem" of the school, it is clear from the Scriptural perspective that the school as an institution is no mere product of historical coincidence. It is a form of positivization of the ontic law for the school, which was given by God, at creation, for His glory. The left radical critics of the school regard the school merely as a historical phenomenon and they overlook the ontic law for the school. For this reason, they do not acknowledge the fact that the school has its own unique law side. The anthropological presuppositions of modern humanistic critics of the school are also unacceptable. Man, as a created being, is not a totally "free" and autonomous/sovereign being. The critics, however, succeed in calling our attention to the fact that the modern school leaves little room to the pupils to be creative and original. In connection with the epistemological "problem" of the school, modern humanistic criticism cannot be justified in its insistence that the primary function of the school is the educative function and that the school is the wrong place for the transmission and learning of knowledge and skills. The school certainly has and should have an educational task, but it is a fallacy to state that it is the school's first and foremost responsibility to educate children. If the primary and exclusive teaching task of the school is not fully acknowledged, confusion and haziness about the unique structure and task of the school may arise. Furthermore, the school has so far succeeded fairly in carrying out its basic function of teaching pupils. However, modern humanistic critics are justified, to a certain extent, in their criticism that the teaching function of the school has been contrived to serve the established norms and ideals of the existing social order in society. From a Scriptural standpoint, the crisis of the modern school can be ascribed to the fact that the teaching work of the school has not always been truly educational teaching. The relationship of the school with other societal structures is also one of the fundamental "problems" about which many school-critics have been concerned. The school has the specific and unique task of teaching, and no other task in communal life can be allocated to it. Founded in the historical modality, the school has its own structural identity which functions in its unique way in all the cosmic aspects. The unique teaching task (logical-analytical function) of the school, however, can not be effectively achieved unless there exist a proper and correct relationship of understanding and co-operation between the different types of communities as concrete realities. The crisis of the school in modern times is also caused to a large extent by the misconception of the close relationship between freedom and authority. The ultimate morality of a society, according to the left liberal and left radical critics, depends upon the education of its members; a moral society must have moral education, that is, education which protects and enhances the natural goodness of man. The freedom of the child is, therefore, strongly emphasized by the left liberal and left radical critics. They distort the real and true meaning of freedom and authority. Freedom and authority in the school should be viewed and practised by both the teacher and the pupil within the biblical perspective. All the above-mentioned fundamental "problems" of the school are basically related to the religious ground motif "problem" since nothing (not even science) can escape from being religiously determined. The school and schooling are always determined by certain some or other religious ground motif. Modern school critics (humanists) keep wavering backward and forward between the two polar opposites of the modern humanistic religious ground motif of freedom/the personality ideal and nature/the science ideal. From a non-Scriptural, humanistic point of view the problem of the ground motif of the school is insoluble; the humanist has no choice but to vacillate irresolutely between the two poles of the antinomy. Only the Scriptural ground motif of creation, fall into sin and redemption through Jesus Christ in communion with the Holy Spirit can make it possible for one to reach a real and true synthesis. If the modern school is to truly meet crises in future it must radically break with all the inwardly contradictory trends of humanistic thought and practice, and should in all its aspects and facets be radically determined by the sound Scriptural ground motif. Only then, the school as a social institution will be able to function properly and effectively in future. The school as a social institution, as a form of positivization of the divine ontic law for the school, should continually be reformed according to God's will (law) for the school. Modern humanistic critics surely call our attention to the rigidities, weaknesses and various shortcomings of the existing school system. Much talk about the crisis and even of the death of the school should be the signal to reform the school.
- ETD@PUK