74. The Purpose of Education – a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy?

Is edu­ca­tion most com­monly treated purely as an instru­men­tal tool (e.g. to get a job), or as a path to self-devel­op­ment, or both? How can a bal­ance between objec­tives be achieved in pub­lic edu­ca­tion?

 Thor May
Bris­bane, 2014


Pref­ace: This is a dis­cus­sion paper, not a researched aca­d­e­mic doc­u­ment. The read­ing list at the end is mostly a col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary links from the Inter­net and pretty acci­den­tal, not edited for qual­ity. Where a topic is of broad gen­eral inter­est comes up with friends, I have adopted the prac­tice of post­ing dis­cus­sion starters like the present one on Academia.edu in the hope that oth­ers might also find them worth think­ing about. In spite of the caveats, this par­tic­u­lar topic has been impor­tant to my work­ing life, so the obser­va­tions to fol­low are not merely casual.


  1. The pur­pose of edu­ca­tion – a ubiq­ui­tous theme with an infin­ity of mean­ings


Any Inter­net search will reveal a myr­iad of arti­cles and blogs on this topic. This is not sur­pris­ing since for­mal edu­ca­tion of some kind affects every fam­ily and every indi­vid­ual in almost every coun­try. Infor­mal edu­ca­tion has prob­a­bly affected just about every­one since humans evolved. What the online mate­rial does show is that while the process is uni­ver­sal, the objec­tives are diverse and often in con­flict. Indeed much of the dis­cus­sion seems to be at cross pur­poses. I have been a teacher, mostly to young adults, for 35 years in seven coun­tries with quite dif­fer­ent cul­tures, so I am deeply famil­iar with the cur­rents of inten­tion and coun­ter-inten­tion which touch every­one in the enter­prise of edu­ca­tion. My own doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion was an analy­sis of 20 case stud­ies in insti­tu­tions where the pub­licly expressed pur­poses of edu­ca­tion were often sab­o­taged. Although I have seen some of the fail­ures, the insti­tu­tional rea­sons for such fail­ures are so embed­ded and so inter­na­tion­ally wide­spread that I can see lit­tle direct hope for major changes. What I do see is that for tech­no­log­i­cal and cul­tural rea­sons, the rela­tion­ships between pub­lic mass edu­ca­tion and per­sonal self-edu­ca­tion are chang­ing dras­ti­cally. The out­comes of that meld­ing are still unclear, but the process offers hope.

  1. The pur­pose of edu­ca­tion – Thor’s own for­mu­la­tion


For my own use, I have a fairly suc­cinct idea of the most hope­ful pur­pose of edu­ca­tion, and how to real­ize it:

  1. a) The skill and habit of inge­nious ques­tion­ing. The answers we get in life depend upon the ques­tions we ask.
  2. b) The tech­ni­cal and social skills needed to search out the answers, or ten­ta­tive answers, to smart ques­tions.
  3. c) The devel­oped abil­ity to syn­the­size the answers from cas­cad­ing ques­tions into fresh insights.
  4. d) The under­stand­ing that a sys­tem with­out error has no intel­li­gence, and that effi­cient learn­ing as well as inno­va­tion requires errors.
  5. e) The skill to coolly eval­u­ate risk with known unknowns, and the knack of find­ing good rules of thumb to deal with unknown unknowns.
  6. f) The ini­tia­tive and per­sis­tence to actu­al­ize fresh insights for prac­ti­cal effects on the world we live in.


  1. The pur­pose of edu­ca­tion – a trans­mis­sion of cul­tures between gen­er­a­tions?


Appar­ently miss­ing from the my own par­a­digm of edu­ca­tion is the age old pur­pose of orga­nized edu­ca­tion, even going back to tra­di­tional tribal soci­eties, the func­tion of pass­ing on the cul­ture to the next gen­er­a­tion. How­ever this trans­fer of cul­ture – cul­ture here in the most inclu­sive sense – is some­thing that will emerge in the process of ques­tion­ing sys­tem­at­i­cally. In fact, with our cul­tural tools chang­ing at galac­tic warp speed, intense ques­tion­ing (as opposed to a pas­sive recep­tion old author­ity) is the only way to stay ahead of the game. Mass edu­ca­tion world­wide has quite clearly failed for most peo­ple to meet my clus­ter of pro­posed objec­tives. This is not sur­pris­ing. Although attrac­tive dis­cus­sion points, a-f have rarely been the applied objec­tives of mass edu­ca­tion amongst politi­cians, admin­is­tra­tors, teach­ers or stu­dents. On the plus side, it also remains true that mass edu­ca­tion, for all of its many lim­i­ta­tions, has in aggre­gate equipped peo­ple all over the world in ways that are infinitely supe­rior to those who have received no sys­tem­atic edu­ca­tion at all.


  1. The pur­pose of edu­ca­tion – its trans­la­tion into actual moti­va­tion for most of the play­ers


Now what is the actual pur­pose of for­mal edu­ca­tion as under­stood by major­ity of play­ers over the age of puberty? Well, the actual pur­pose for these peo­ple is eco­nomic. They seek to become employ­able, indus­tri­ally pro­duc­tive, and hence socially decent con­sumers. The trans­la­tion of these eco­nomic objec­tives to per­sonal value sys­tems is that peo­ple often see edu­ca­tion as a way to secure their per­sonal sta­tus. Sta­tus is not a small thing, and in some soci­eties may be an explicit pre­con­di­tion for, say, obtain­ing a suit­able mar­riage part­ner.

The eco­nomic pitch is what we hear from politi­cians who are arrang­ing the fund­ing, the admin­is­tra­tors who are set­ting cur­ricu­lums, and for that mat­ter from the major­ity of stu­dents. In fact stu­dents every­where com­plain in their later careers that “what I learned at school was use­less. I never use any of that stuff”. That is, for them, cer­ti­fied grad­u­a­tion from a respected insti­tu­tion is far more impor­tant than the sub­stance of any knowl­edge or skill build­ing they encoun­tered. Not sur­pris­ingly, rent seek­ing from the diploma game is a vast world­wide under­tak­ing, rife with fraud and empty mar­ket­ing. I have doc­u­mented a cer­tain amount of this in my doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion, and some of my papers ref­er­enced below.


  1. The pur­pose of edu­ca­tion – some query the objec­tives of eco­nomic ratio­nal­ism


From all of the stake­hold­ers in the edu­ca­tional process, it is a small num­ber of pro­fes­sional teach­ers (out of bat­tal­ions of uncrit­i­cal teach­ers and lec­tur­ers) who are apt to be a bit quizzi­cal about the “employ­a­bil­ity” mantra. They under­stand as well as any­one that employ­ment is a use­ful, a nec­es­sary objec­tive. They worry though that learn­ing to shoe horses (to use a metaphor) is a nar­row skill, not nec­es­sar­ily trans­ferrable when horses are replaced by horse­less car­riages, cars. They see that even stu­dents with very ordi­nary poten­tials will prob­a­bly be expected in their life­times to sur­vive many job tran­si­tions, prob­a­bly into new indus­tries, and that the ones who pros­per are likely to have flex­i­ble minds and a wider knowl­edge base, adapt­able enough to make smart judge­ments in envi­ron­ments which can’t be pre­dicted. Both the uni­verse of ideas and the uni­verse of things are rush­ing into vor­tices that are beyond aver­age con­cep­tion, let alone an eval­u­a­tion of con­se­quences for “career plan­ning” (Gille­spie 2014). So few even grasp the tra­jec­tory of where we have come from. My ninety-two year old mother didn’t see a light switch until she was twelve. Alert teach­ers also ask whether we live to work, or work to live, and whether hav­ing decided to live a lit­tle, we real­ize that liv­ing ben­e­fits from knowl­edge which goes some­what beyond the skill of shoe­ing horses.


  1. Some con­tra­dic­tions in the state ratio­nale of edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions


The depth of con­tra­dic­tion between the stated role of edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions as places of learn­ing, and their most com­mon func­tion as diploma and mar­ket­ing mills, is so great and so per­va­sive that real reform is not a sim­ple option. The easy response is a retreat to cyn­i­cism or con­spir­a­cies of self-delu­sion amongst those with a vested inter­est in the game. I do not have instant solu­tions. How­ever, what my doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion attempted to do (with many flaws) was to intro­duce the notion of com­pet­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ties.


  1. A com­pet­ing hier­ar­chy of pro­duc­tiv­i­ties in the edu­ca­tional con­text


Pro­duc­tiv­ity is a con­cept often hijacked with fancy for­mu­lae by econ­o­mists to fit their favourite mod­els. How­ever, to go back to the every­day mean­ing of pro­duc­tiv­ity, it is about get­ting the best results in the most effi­cient way. A pro­duc­tive stu­dent is one who effi­ciently learns and retains what she seeks to learn. A pro­duc­tive teacher is one who max­i­mizes the learn­ing of his stu­dents.

How­ever, every­one has a per­sonal agenda. The per­sonal agenda of an edu­ca­tional direc­tor may tell him that his own most pro­duc­tive activ­ity is to max­i­mize his bonus and prospects of pro­mo­tion. That may very well entail impos­ing extremely unpro­duc­tive require­ments on teach­ers and stu­dents. In fact, I doc­u­mented this process in 20 case stud­ies across seven coun­tries. The daily real­ity is that in insti­tu­tions man­age­ment may have rel­a­tive per­ma­nence, while teach­ers are often regarded as day labour­ers by man­agers, with those man­agers hav­ing lit­tle com­mit­ment to opti­miz­ing stu­dent learn­ing. The power pyra­mid is clear. Stu­dents come and go. There­fore stu­dents have the least power. The upshot is that the “pro­duc­tiv­ity” of per­sonal agen­das amongst admin­is­tra­tors and their polit­i­cal mas­ters tends to hugely out­rank the learn­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity of stu­dents and their men­tors, the teach­ers. The hier­ar­chy of com­pet­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ties exactly inverts the stated role of edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions. We can begin by mak­ing this inver­sion explicit, widely known and under­stood. Then we need to find ways to prop­erly imple­ment a hier­ar­chy of learn­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ties.

A recon­structed hier­ar­chy of pro­duc­tiv­i­ties would gen­uinely empower teach­ers to exer­cise deci­sive pro­fes­sional judge­ment both in max­i­miz­ing the learn­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity of their stu­dents and estab­lish­ing their influ­ence over the admin­is­tra­tive and ‘man­age­rial’ sup­port staff who in most cur­rent insti­tu­tions out­rank them when it comes down to hard choices. By the term “teacher”, here we refer to the whole zoo of per­son­nel titles applied to those who directly influ­ence the learn­ing of stu­dents – tutors, teach­ers, coaches, train­ers, lec­tur­ers, pro­fes­sors, and so on.

It is true that large num­bers of the cur­rent cohort of teach­ers would have trou­ble han­dling an ele­vated level of pro­fes­sional respon­si­bil­ity. They have long been social­ized into more sub­or­di­nate roles. Even with the best of inten­tions, train­ing and expe­ri­ence teach­ers will con­tinue to fall into a range of capa­bil­i­ties. It is just that those capa­bil­i­ties will surely be more real­is­ti­cally tar­geted to stu­dent pro­duc­tiv­ity than exist­ing man­age­rial regimes are likely to com­pre­hend.

Every pro­fes­sion has bril­liant high fliers, those who just get by, and a group who are a dan­ger to every­one around them. Every pro­fes­sion has strict inter­pre­ta­tion­ists – black let­ter lawyers, fun­da­men­tal­ist priests, inflex­i­ble police­men, non-intu­itive motor mechan­ics, teach­ers who never devi­ate from the assigned text­book. Every pro­fes­sion has cre­ative inter­pre­ta­tion­ists – judges who look for the inten­tion behind the law, priests who grasp the psy­cho­log­i­cal needs of their parish­ioners, police­men who know when a stern warn­ing grows a bet­ter teenager than a month in prison, wiz­ard motor mechan­ics who can intuit the heart­beat of an engine, teach­ers with the gift of cre­at­ing teach­able moments.

In no col­lec­tion of human beings can we ever sup­press for long the vari­ety of human psy­cho­log­i­cal types. Ide­olo­gies, reli­gions, train­ing regimes, are even­tu­ally pow­er­less to homog­e­nize human­ity. The his­tory of the last 6000 years is crys­tal clear about this. And why would we want a dreary pop­u­la­tion of robots any­way? So when it comes to set­ting up a sys­tem, say an edu­ca­tion sys­tem, we have to expect the bad with the good. What can be done is to think hon­estly about the pri­or­i­ties of the enter­prise – learn­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity in an edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tion – and arrange the incen­tives to opti­mize out­comes. We have to make it easy to be good, where good, if it is a school, means effec­tive long term learn­ing and grad­u­ated stu­dents who are equipped and moti­vated to con­tinue learn­ing. Mak­ing it easy to be good means that the school accoun­tant, and the jan­i­tor, and the heads of depart­ment, and the teach­ers, as well as the stu­dents, have their secret per­sonal agen­das best sat­is­fied by also con­tribut­ing to a healthy learn­ing envi­ron­ment.


  1. The State of Play – how well do the exist­ing grad­u­ates of mass edu­ca­tion sys­tems seem to be cop­ing?


There is no easy or sim­ple answer to this query. Cop­ing with what? Plainly peo­ple get by from day to day, for bet­ter or for worse, in end­less ways. The “suc­cess” of their cop­ing depends upon what they value, what they are aware of, and how for­tu­nately (or not) their par­tic­u­lar envi­ron­ment impacts upon them. When it comes to mak­ing use of other peo­ple, or offer­ing them a ser­vice, or depend­ing upon them as con­sumers or what­ever, each inter­ested party will have an opin­ion. That exter­nal opin­ion may loom large in the for­tunes of the sup­pos­edly ‘edu­cated per­son’ or it may be regarded as triv­ial. All of this is to say that eval­u­at­ing the out­comes of any edu­ca­tional process is always con­di­tional, not absolute. The eval­u­a­tion always exists in the con­text of an ide­ol­ogy, or a par­tic­u­lar vested inter­est.

When we express our own opin­ions about edu­ca­tional processes, we are usu­ally assess­ing the sit­u­a­tion accord­ing to our own inter­ests and prej­u­dices. That is OK, so long as we can accept that our view­point can­not be uni­ver­sal. If we look at, say mass edu­ca­tion, as a pro­fes­sional researcher, then we are look­ing for large pat­terns and ten­den­cies, but even here the things we observe will be influ­enced by the par­tic­u­lar ques­tions we ask, and those ques­tions will be con­sciously or uncon­sciously cen­sored by per­sonal and pro­fes­sional bias.

In spite of all the pre­ced­ing caveats, very large num­bers of peo­ple wish to express opin­ions about edu­ca­tional processes. What hap­pens polit­i­cally and socially will depend over time upon some kind of social con­sen­sus inter­act­ing with facts on the ground – tech­nol­ogy changes, bud­gets, trans­port sys­tems, even wars. Thus the actual solu­tions may be less than any ide­al­ist would ever hope for.

Some­times we can see things going wrong on a large scale, and per­haps work to change them. That is, we might agree that in spite of per­sonal dif­fer­ences about “the pur­pose of edu­ca­tion”, some fail­ures are so egre­gious that they reflect badly on what has actu­ally been hap­pen­ing up to now. A few short anec­dotes:

  1. a) Shortly after return­ing to Aus­tralia after about 12 years over­seas, I went to a super­mar­ket with a pocket full of change. My huge mis­take was to pay for just over $10 worth of gro­ceries with small coins. The check­out girl looked mor­ti­fied. Though I told her the value, she had to check of course. After three failed tries she was close to tears and called the super­vi­sor. He too was unable to count the coins. Finally, a lady in the increas­ingly impa­tient queue behind me pro­duced a cal­cu­la­tor. Every­one heaved a sigh of relief. Labo­ri­ously they entered the coin val­ues, one by one, into the machine. Well, draw your own con­clu­sions. Evi­dently tech­nol­ogy in this case has caused a regres­sion in com­mon arith­meti­cal skills.
  2. b) Appar­ently 19% of Amer­i­cans believe that they are in the top 1% of income earn­ers, while a fur­ther 20% are sure that they will achieve the sta­tus in their life­time (Gigeren­zer 2014). If this fac­toid is any­thing like the true sit­u­a­tion, vast num­bers of Amer­i­cans are both deluded and innu­mer­ate. Some­thing has gone dras­ti­cally wrong with their abil­ity to apply crit­i­cal think­ing to the admit­tedly end­less tor­rent of polit­i­cal pro­pa­ganda. Also, some­how they have crit­i­cally failed to under­stand and apply the con­cept of per­cent­ages. Are these peo­ple fit mem­bers of an advanced tech­no­log­i­cally dri­ven soci­ety? Think too of the polit­i­cal consequences.Even the sup­posed pro­fes­sional elites of our soci­eties are often innu­mer­ate in dev­as­tat­ing ways. Gerd Gigeren­zer, the pro­fes­sor of sta­tis­tics just ref­er­enced, tested a thou­sand physi­cians on their inter­pre­ta­tions of tests cen­tral to their daily med­ical prac­tices. His con­clu­sion was that:

… my esti­mate is that 80% of doc­tors do not under­stand what a pos­i­tive test means, even in their own spe­cialties. They are in no posi­tion to coun­sel their patients ade­quately, nor can they crit­i­cally eval­u­ate a med­ical jour­nal arti­cle in their own field.” (Gigeren­zer 2014)

In the same vein, he refers to a dif­fer­ent study of doctor’s sta­tis­ti­cal lit­er­acy:

In one Aus­tralian study of fifty doc­tors, only thir­teen said they could explain what the “pos­i­tive pre­dic­tive value” is (the prob­a­bil­ity of a dis­ease given a pos­i­tive test). And when asked to do so, only one suc­ceeded.” (Gigeren­zer 2014)

  1. c) Just under half of Aus­tralian are func­tion­ally illit­er­ate. The con­cept of func­tional illit­er­acy is rather flex­i­ble, but the mean­ing here is that these peo­ple are unable to decode the dosage instruc­tions on a med­i­cine bot­tle or read a bus timetable. The level of func­tional innu­mer­acy is even worse. Give or take a few per­cent­age points, the lev­els of illit­er­acy and innu­mer­acy are com­pa­ra­ble in all sup­pos­edly advanced indus­trial soci­eties. I have had some involve­ment with teach­ing adult illit­er­ates, enough to know that with end­less time and love pretty well any­one can be dragged to a level of suf­fi­cient com­pe­tency for most jobs. In insti­tu­tions of mass edu­ca­tion it becomes a polit­i­cal and eco­nomic deci­sion to set a cut-off point on dimin­ish­ing returns with slow learn­ers. Instead they pop­u­late the pris­ons at great expense.

Some­where there is a key to human learn­ing in the illit­er­acy & innu­mer­acy prob­lem. Find­ing that key is as impor­tant as research into major dis­eases. Start with the obser­va­tion that even the most appar­ently dumb meat­head will step into his souped-up hoon car and weave at high speed through dense traf­fic with cen­time­ters to spare. Appar­ently some part of his brain is instan­ta­neously com­put­ing a tor­rent of vec­tors with­out error. Give the guy some sim­ple arith­metic and he couldn’t do it – con­sciously. What is going on? As a dri­ver, no doubt he is sub­con­sciously cal­i­brat­ing some very use­ful heuris­tics in real time, but these must be sourced in a kind of math too.

The con­cep­tual puz­zle is why some peo­ple but not oth­ers are able to make con­scious use of math­e­mat­i­cal poten­tials which we all seem to have. The “intel­li­gent” ones some­how achieve the trick either through reflec­tion or learn­ing. A sim­i­lar kind of bar­rier effect occurs with lit­er­acy. Those of us who have had close encoun­ters with cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics are well aware that the sub­con­scious gen­er­a­tion of lan­guage on the fly, spo­ken or writ­ten, is a feat of sys­temic genius that a cen­tury of inten­sive research has been unable to per­sua­sively explain (though many mod­els rashly make the claim). Yet almost every human who walks the earth becomes a mas­ter of lan­guage in child­hood, and that is irre­spec­tive of lit­er­acy.

What is this magic of con­scious­ness? Find­ing a real solu­tion to over­com­ing the cog­ni­tive block between con­scious learn­ing and sub­con­scious capac­ity is one of the major chal­lenges of our civ­i­liza­tion, but appar­ently lacks sex appeal.There is no glory in teach­ing illit­er­ates or innu­mer­ates, and few stud­ies seem to have seri­ously researched them from a cog­ni­tive per­spec­tive.


  1. One ring to bind them all, or tech­nol­ogy to set them free?


The his­tory of tech­nol­ogy in edu­ca­tion echoes with many para­doxes. Tech­nol­ogy has always been a fire god, cre­ator and destroyer.

Pre-lit­er­ate soci­eties kept a thread of cul­tural con­ti­nu­ity alive through songs and sto­ries passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. These medi­ums, often col­lec­tively called myth, car­ried the val­ues, his­to­ries, under­stand­ings and reli­gions of their speak­ers, and claimed to embed unchang­ing uni­ver­sal truths. The effect of such col­lec­tive myths upon those who com­mit­ted them to mem­ory was to bind peo­ple into an invis­i­ble but pow­er­ful cul­tural web which gave their lives proper mean­ing.

The later tran­scrip­tion of selec­tions of this kind of shared myth-cul­ture into writ­ten reli­gious scripts like the Chris­tian Bible retained some of the orig­i­nal cul­tural bind­ing effect. How­ever, hand-writ­ten scripts, and then print­ing espe­cially, freed indi­vid­ual imag­i­na­tions in new ways to inno­vate per­son­ally, to cre­ate their own sto­ries and achieve an his­tor­i­cal iden­tity as writ­ers and thinkers. Thus tech­nol­ogy had set human rela­tion­ships on an entirely new tra­jec­tory.

As lit­er­acy spread, the col­lec­tive cul­tural sto­ries of human tribes dis­persed into sev­eral canons of great minds which fol­lowed the ter­ri­to­rial imprints of great empires. To be edu­cated meant acquir­ing some mas­tery of a library of ideas, not merely the origin songs of a tribe, or even the para­bles told of one god in a sin­gle book. There was the West­ern canon, shared in the lands of Europe, the Per­sian & Indian canons per­me­at­ing cen­tral & south­ern Asia, the Sinitic canons of China and satel­lite cul­tures from Viet­nam to Japan … and so on.

Well into the 20th Cen­tury, edu­ca­tion con­tin­ued to be defined by canons of accepted knowl­edge. This was con­ge­nial to cer­tain per­son­al­ity types who felt more secure with knowl­edge from reputed author­i­ties than knowl­edge acquired through exper­i­ment or expe­ri­ence in tough neigh­bour­hoods where a quick wit was the best guar­an­tee of sur­vival. Ten­sion between the solemn bear­ers of knowl­edge from author­ity and the worldly-wise con­tin­ues to this day (see May 2002).

The canons of inscribed human achieve­ment evolved to include tracts of math­e­mat­ics, phys­i­cal and social sci­ences, mate­rial tech­nol­ogy, phi­los­o­phy, his­to­ries and of course lit­er­a­tures. It became harder, and then impos­si­ble, to be a “fully edu­cated” per­son in the sense that a 17th Cen­tury Euro­pean courtier might have claimed. Yet, like old sol­diers, cul­tural pre­ten­sions don’t die, they sim­ply fade away. In the 1960s when I was an under­grad­u­ate, one lit­er­a­ture tutor haugh­tily asked if I con­sid­ered myself to be an edu­cated man. I won­dered if she knew how to tune the dual bar­rel car­bu­re­tor on my Tri­umph motor bike..

The teach­ing of cul­tural canons and tech­ni­cal skills to very large num­bers of peo­ple led to the birth of mass edu­ca­tion. With mass edu­ca­tion came a pro­lif­er­a­tion of pur­pose designed build­ings, soon more ubiq­ui­tous than churches, mosques or tem­ples for the first time in his­tory. The larger edu­ca­tional build­ings were sub­di­vided into sub­ject areas con­tain­ing spe­cial­ists, and the mul­ti­ply­ing enter­prise of mass edu­ca­tion spawned a whole new breed of admin­is­tra­tors obsessed with what they called “man­age­ment”, mea­sure­ments, agen­das, ide­olo­gies, pol­i­tics and even­tu­ally mar­ket­ing. The learner with all her idio­syn­cratic needs, and the teacher pro­fes­sion­ally com­mit­ted to help­ing the learner … well they tended to dis­ap­pear beneath the super­struc­ture pri­or­i­ties of real estate, man­agers and politi­cians.

The mono­lithic ten­den­cies of mass edu­ca­tion were faith­fully reflected in the choice and appli­ca­tion of new tech­nolo­gies as they emerged through­out the 20th Cen­tury. Schools, or at least the well-appointed ones, would have lab­o­ra­to­ries where stu­dents all did the same “exper­i­ments”, and they would have libraries of approved books whose read­ing was pre­scribed. They would have lan­guage lab­o­ra­to­ries where cohorts of stu­dents would pre­tend to learn a for­eign lan­guage by repeat­ing simul­ta­ne­ous drills through iden­ti­cal head­phones … Large mon­e­tary invest­ments by gov­ern­ments were needed for all of this mass-use tech­nol­ogy, and its pro­vi­sion was always a hot polit­i­cal topic. There was much, much less inter­est in whether this stuff served a use­ful pur­pose, almost no idea of how to gen­uinely mea­sure such effec­tive­ness over time (e.g. What was the life­time reten­tion of knowl­edge? Was this reten­tion rate chang­ing?), and very lit­tle inves­ti­ga­tion of alter­na­tive routes to effec­tive learn­ing.

This essay has already noted that nearly half the adult pop­u­la­tions of even rich coun­tries like Aus­tralia are func­tion­ally illit­er­ate and innu­mer­ate. As early as 1981 James Asher was not­ing that 98% of Amer­i­can stu­dents never pro­ceeded beyond two years of class­room for­eign lan­guage study and there­fore emerged incom­pe­tent. This has not changed, and is gen­eral to Anglo­phone coun­tries. Although Amer­i­cans have a gen­er­ally pos­i­tive view of sci­ence, a quar­ter of them don’t know that the earth revolves around the sun and 48% of them dis­agreed with the propo­si­tion that “Human beings, as we know them today, devel­oped from ear­lier species of ani­mals” (Pola­dian 2014). The research Pola­dian refers to con­cluded that the very uneven pub­lic under­stand­ing of sci­ence was not unique to the United States. Clearly mass edu­ca­tion as we know it has been an extremely blunt tool with only lim­ited suc­cesses. The over­all “edu­ca­tional pro­duct” would not pass muster in any seri­ous qual­ity con­trol pro­ce­dure for most com­mer­cial prod­ucts. The fac­tory tech­nol­ogy model of edu­ca­tion is just not good enough. There has to be a bet­ter way.


  1. Dis­persed tech­nol­ogy and the dis­per­sion of learn­ing


Gath­er­ing pace since the 1990s there has been a civ­i­liza­tional rev­o­lu­tion. Writ­ing cre­ated a path for the gen­er­a­tional trans­mis­sion of new ideas from gifted indi­vid­u­als. Print­ing mul­ti­plied the spread of indi­vid­ual ideas and stim­u­lated the syn­the­sis of new ones. Mass edu­ca­tion set crude tem­plates for pass­ing large slabs of knowl­edge onto whole pop­u­la­tions. Its trans­for­ma­tional effects were pro­found but uneven. Now elec­tronic tech­nolo­gies – per­sonal com­put­ers, smart phones, the Inter­net – are cre­at­ing chan­nels which remove the monopoly on the dis­tri­b­u­tion of new knowl­edge from insti­tu­tions. Schools, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties are strug­gling to under­stand the democ­ra­ti­za­tion of knowl­edge. Some attempt, piece­meal, to make some use of it (e.g. May 2005, Moro­tomi 2014), but the processes are spin­ning in so many direc­tions that plan­ning pre­dic­tion becomes almost impos­si­ble. This is anath­ema to the insti­tu­tional and polit­i­cal mind, so offi­cial resis­tance is also evi­dent at var­i­ous lev­els.

With super­fi­cially unlim­ited access to infor­ma­tion online for peas­ants, com­pany pres­i­dents, chil­dren and researchers, com­plex­ity also mul­ti­plies beyond con­trol. Mis­in­for­ma­tion spreads as rapidly gen­uine insight. The skills needed by learn­ers are no longer pas­sive (if they ever were). The abil­ity to ask the right ques­tions online and offline becomes crit­i­cal. The abil­ity to fil­ter mis­in­for­ma­tion becomes an issue of sur­vival.

The prob­lems of how to assess and accredit stu­dents work­ing inde­pen­dently and often unpre­dictably on their own ini­tia­tive is totally baf­fling yesterday’s guardians of the canons of accepted knowl­edge. Stay tuned.


Ref­er­ences & Read­ing List(Note that the writ­ers in these links are express­ing their own views. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily share them. Apolo­gies for the exces­sive num­ber of my own papers ref­er­enced here, but this topic has been embed­ded in my career, such as it was).Akin, Fes­tus (July 23, 2014) “Inno­va­tion and chal­lenge of the British edu­ca­tion sys­tem”. LinkedIn web­site, online @ http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140723234653–37336684-innovation-and-challenge-of-the-british-education-system?trk=eml-ced-b-art-Ch-4–9107279322531634392&midToken=AQEpyF6vbUXU3w&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=1pqcS4HzHLE6k1

Asher, James (August 1981) “Fear of For­eign Lan­guages”. Psy­chol­ogy Today, reprinted online @ http://www.tpr-world.com/foreign-languages.pdf

Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion (2 August 2013) “What’s In The Gon­ski Report?”, ABC (Aus­tralia) web­site online @ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012–08-27/whats-in-the-gonski-report/4219508

Aus­tralian Pri­mary Principal’s Asso­ci­a­tion (2014) “The Gon­ski Report – Review of Fund­ing for School­ing”. APPA web­site, online @ http://www.appa.asn.au/gonski-report.php

Bear, John and Allen Ezell (June 13, 2012 ) “Does Your Doc­tor Have a Fake Degree? The Bil­lion-Dol­lar Indus­try That Has Sold Over a Mil­lion Fake Diplo­mas”. Alter­Net web­site, online @ http://www.alternet.org/story/155864/does_your_doctor_have_a_fake_degree_the_billion-dollar_industry_that_has_sold_over_a_million_fake_diplomas?page=0%2C3

Burn­ing­ham, Grant (May 25, 2014) “China boasts the world’s top stu­dents but are they equipped to cope beyond the class­room?”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/china-boasts-the-worlds-top-students-but-are-they-equipped-to-cope-beyond-the-classroom-20140524-38vvu.html#ixzz32g3LxR7d

Craven, Greg (Octo­ber 3, 2012) “Petty elit­ists need to be taught value of diver­sity”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/petty-elitists-need-to-be-taught-value-of-diversity-20121002-26xam.html#ixzz28Bx2s1rb

Chom­sky, Noam (2012) “The Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion”. The Daily Riff web­site, online @ http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/noam-chomsky-the-purpose-of-education-869.php

Edu­ca­tion Scot­land (n.d.) “The pur­pose of the cur­ricu­lum”. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, Scot­land, online @ http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/thecurriculum/whatiscurriculumforexcellence/thepurposeofthecurriculum/

Gigeren­zer, Gerd (2014) Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Deci­sions. [highly rec­om­mended] pub. Viking Adult. Avail­able online (includ­ing ebook for­mat) @ http://www.amazon.com/Risk-Savvy-Make-Good-Decisions/dp/0670025658

Gille­spie, Ian (August 13, 2014) “Trans­form­ers point way to pro­gram­ma­ble mat­ter”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/sci-tech/transformers-point-way-to-programmable-matter-20140813-1013il.html

Gillin, Lau­ren (March 19, 2014) “New study says elec­tronic media is bad for kids”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/new-study-says-electronic-media-is-bad-for-kids-20140318-350dj.html#ixzz2wMEJbNbp

Git­tins, Ross (April 19, 2014) “Mod­ern econ­o­mists are clever with num­bers but way out of tune”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/business/modern-economists-are-clever-with-numbers-but-way-out-of-tune-20140418-36w84.html#ixzz2zNX7ctq2

Gon­ski, David (Feb­ru­ary 21, 2012) “We need to stop both nation and needy from falling behind”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/we-need-to-stop-both-nation-and-needy-from-falling-behind-20120220-1tjka.html#ixzz1myFU2PAd

Guo, Philip (Octo­ber 2010) “The main pur­pose of edu­ca­tion”. Philip J. Guo web­site, online @ http://pgbovine.net/purpose-of-education.htm

Hawk­ing, Stephen (4 Octo­ber 2013) “What They Don’t Teach You at Oxford”. http://mag.newsweek.com/2013/10/04/what-they-don-t-teach-you-at-oxford.html#!

He Na, Liu Ce and Luo Wang­shu (2014–07-23) “Fak­ing the grade for over­seas study”. China Daily online @ http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/2014–07/23/content_17901110.htm?bsh_bid=458222444&from=timeline&isappinstalled=0

Hurst, Daniel (Jan­u­ary 25, 2013) “Young adults still fare badly in earn­ing and learn­ing”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/education/young-adults-still-fare-badly-in-earning-and-learning-20130124-2d9p9.html#ixzz2IwJhErKN

Huber, Josef (n.d) “Seven the­ses on teacher edu­ca­tion and the pur­pose of edu­ca­tion”. The Euro­pean Werge­land Cen­tre, online @ http://www.theewc.org/statement/seven.theses.on.teacher.education.and.the.purpose.of.education.2

Inman, Michael (Sep­tem­ber 16, 2012) “Inter­na­tional stu­dents sue to get bach­e­lor for their buck”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/tertiary-education/international-students-sue-to-get-bachelor-for-their-buck-20120915-25yx3.html#ixzz26aCaq4Cy

Jack­son-Webb, Fron ( June 21, 2013) “Engaged chil­dren lead suc­cess­ful lives”. Essen­tialKids web­site, online @ http://www.essentialkids.com.au/older-kids/education-for-older-kids/engaged-children-lead-successful-lives-20130620-2olw5.html#utm_source=FD&utm_medium=lifeandstylepuff&utm_campaign=schoolsuccess

Josh B. (Feb­ru­ary 15, 2014) “The Myth of the Bell Curve”. [read the com­ments for cri­tique] LinkedIn online @ http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140215200145–131079-the-myth-of-the-bell-curve?trk=eml-ced-b-art-M-3&midToken=AQEpyF6vbUXU3w&ut=17IP0vg_CbbC81

Kelly, Melissa (n.d) “What Is the Aim of Edu­ca­tion? – Dif­fer­ent Opin­ions About the Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion”. About.com web­site online @ http://712educators.about.com/od/teachingstrategies/tp/What-Is-The-Aim-Of-Education.htm

Kitchen, Taren (2013). “What is the pur­pose of edu­ca­tion?: The most impor­tant ques­tion in the edu­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tion”. TED Talks web­site, online @ http://www.ted.com/conversations/20241/what_is_the_purpose_of_educati.html

Mar­tin, Peter (August 21, 2012) “‘Edu­ca­tion mak­ing us igno­rant’”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/education-making-us-ignorant-20120820-24ipb.html#ixzz248MMZodZ

May, Thor (2013) “The Lim­its of Edu­ca­tion”. Thor’s Short Cuts blog, online @ http://thorshortcuts.byeways.net/2013/05/20/265-the-limits-of-education/

May, Thor (2013) “Test­ing for Teach­ing; Teach­ing to What?” Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/2393660/Testing_for_Teaching_Teaching_to_What

May, Thor (2013) “Inter­na­tional Lan­guage Test­ing – Stand­ing the mon­ster on its head” . Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/3321484/International_Language_Testing_Washback_-_standing_the_monster_on_its_head

May, Thor (2012) “ Hid­den Bound­aries: – A Joint-Ven­ture Edu­ca­tion Pro­gram in China” . Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/2291935/Hidden_Boundaries_-_A_Joint-Venture_Education_Program_in_China

May, Thor (2011) “Why Write a PhD?”. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/1978293/Why_Write_A_PhD

May, Thor (2010) ” Lan­guage Tan­gle : Pre­dict­ing and Facil­i­tat­ing Out­comes in Lan­guage Edu­ca­tion”. Doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion from the Uni­ver­sity of New­castle. Through exam­in­ing a series of twenty case stud­ies, this the­sis deals with issues of knowl­edge worker pro­duc­tiv­ity. An abstract of the dis­ser­ta­tion can be seen here. http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay/Papers/1605533/Language_Tangle_-_Predicting_and_Facilitating_Outcomes_in_Language_Education_-_PhD_Thesis_-_ThorMay. The the­sis is also online in the Uni­ver­sity of New­castle research depos­i­tory at http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/804346 . A fur­ther link is the Aus­tralian Research Direc­tory.

May, Thor (2008) “Cor­rup­tion and Other Dis­tor­tions as Vari­ables in Lan­guage Edu­ca­tion”. TESOL Law Jour­nal, Vol.2 March 2008; direct online access @ http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay/Papers/1615553/Corruption_and_Other_Distortions_as_Variables_in_Language_Education
May, Thor (2006) “ Is Assess­ment a Satire?  –  The Con­spir­acy of South Kog­gle­bot”. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/1919347/Is_Assessment_a_Satire_-_The_Conspiracy_of_South_Kogglebot

May, Thor (2005) “Rude Thoughts About IT In Lan­guage Edu­ca­tion”. Academia.edu online @ http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay/Papers/1671112/Rude_Thoughts_About_IT_in_Language_Education . Also at http://thormay.net/lxesl/itinlxeducation.html. b) An ear­lier, less ref­er­enced ver­sion of this paper was pub­lished in the ASIAN EFL JOURNAL, vol.1, 2005 at http://asian-efl-journal.com/pta_jan_04_tm.html. c) A slightly shorter (6,637 words) but up to date ver­sion has also been pub­lished as “Brief Thoughts About IT in Lan­guage Edu­ca­tion” in TEACHING ENGLISH WITH TECHNOLOGY, vol.5/2 May 2005 (IATEFL Poland) at http://www.iatefl.org.pl/call/j_article21.htm .

May, Thor (2002) “The Para­dox of Schol­ar­ship: Piss­ing On Every Lamp Post”. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/2227990/The_paradox_of_scholarship_pissing_on_every_lamp_post

May, Thor (2001) “Unseen Gram­mar – Sus­pect­ing the god of cracks between the floor­boards”. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/2312782/Unseen_Grammar_-_Suspecting_the_God_of_Cracks_Between_the_Floorboards

May, Thor (2001) “Stu­dent Activism : Truth and False Prophets”. The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site, online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/student.html

May, Thor (2000) “Teach­ing as a Sub­ver­sive Activ­ity”. The Pas­sion­ate Skep­tic web­site, online @ http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/teachers.html

May, Thor (1997) “Appren­tice Lit­er­acy: Designs for a Bon­fire of the Van­i­ties”. FINE PRINT Vol. 20 No. 4  Decem­ber 1997. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/1788758/Apprentice_Literacy_Designs_for_a_Bonfire_of_the_Vanities

May, Thor (1996, 2012) “ Thor’s “Tech­ni­cal & Fur­ther Edu­ca­tion in Aus­tralia: Is there a star to steer by?”. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/1777165/Technical_and_Further_Education_in_Australia_Is_there_a_star_to_steer_by

May, Thor (1996) “Nego­ti­at­ing Knowl­edge – Cen­tral­ized Plan­ning in Cur­ricu­lum Con­trol and Eval­u­a­tion” Fine Print Vol.18, No.1 1996. Academia.edu web­site, online @ https://www.academia.edu/1849662/Negotiating_Knowledge_-_Centralized_Planning_in_Curriculum_Control_and_Evaluation

May, Thor (1987) “Super-Cul­ture And The Ghost In The Machine”. Academia.edu online @ https://www.academia.edu/3653431/Super-Culture_And_The_Ghost_In_The_Machine

Moro­tomi, Satoshi (August 9, 2014) “RareJob’s online suc­cess built on trust with Fil­ipino teach­ers”. Nikkei Asian Reiview, online @ http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/RareJob-s-online-success-built-on-trust-with-Filipino-teachers

National Cen­tre for Voca­tional Edu­ca­tion & Research Aus­tralia. See the research pub­li­ca­tions index. NCVER online @ http://www.ncver.edu.au

McLough­lin, Peter (Jan­u­ary 5, 2012) “Fad poli­cies over­ride basics of edu­ca­tion”. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/fad-policies-override-basics-of-education-20120104-1pl5j.html#ixzz1iXAcO8Px

Niel­son, Thomas William (5 May 2013) “Out from the cave: have we lost the pur­pose of edu­ca­tion?”. The Con­ver­sa­tion web­site, online @ http://theconversation.com/out-from-the-cave-have-we-lost-the-purpose-of-education-12374

Pola­dian, Charles (Feb­ru­ary 15 2014) “1 Out Of 4 Amer­i­cans Do Not Know The Earth Orbits The Sun, But What Do Those Fig­ures Really Mean?”. Inter­na­tional Busi­ness Times, online @ http://www.ibtimes.com/1-out-4-americans-do-not-know-earth-orbits-sun-what-do-those-figures-really-mean-1555810

Preiss, Ben­jamin and Peter Cai (Octo­ber 17, 2012) “Con­fes­sions of a uni­ver­sity ghost writer”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/education/confessions-of-a-university-ghost-writer-20121016-27pch.html#ixzz29Uwsd7e2

Preiss, Ben­jamin (Octo­ber 6, 2012) “Immi­gra­tion crack­down: over 10,000 stu­dent visas revoked”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/immigration-crackdown-over-10000-student-visas-revoked-20121005-274wj.html#ixzz28StRRi5x

Pren­sky, Marc (May 5, 2014) “The Goal of Edu­ca­tion Is Becom­ing”. Edu­ca­tion Weekly online @ http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/05/06/30prensky_ep.h33.html

Rubel, Owen (July 23, 2014) “The Argu­ment For Appren­tice­ships”. LinkedIn online @ http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140723222511–3242558-the-argument-for-appreticeships?trk=eml-ced-b-art-Ch-6–9027445427773527186&midToken=AQEpyF6vbUXU3w&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=2Dbxfb3mHME6k1

Sharma, Mahesh (May 1, 2012) “Teach­ing start-ups the new cool kid”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/it-pro/business-it/teaching-startups-the-new-cool-kid-20120430-1xtuc.html#ixzz1tfQo2LCT

Shaw, Anne (n.d.) “The Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion – Crit­i­cal Ped­a­gogy for the Demo­c­ra­tic Soci­ety”. 21st Cen­tury Schools web­site, online @ http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/Purpose_of_Education.htm

Stem­ler, Steven & Damian Bebell (n.d.) “What is the Pur­pose of School?”. Philo­soph­i­cal Per­spec­tives web­site, online @ http://www.purposeofschool.com/philosophical/

TES (1 April, 2011) “What is the pur­pose of edu­ca­tion (in 500 words or fewer)?”. Times Edu­ca­tion Sup­ple­ment, online @ http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6075468

The Con­ver­sa­tion (2013) “Gon­ski review – Analy­sis and Com­ment”. [73 arti­cles on Aus­tralian school­ing objec­tives & fund­ing] The Con­ver­sa­tion web­site, Aus­tralia, online @ http://theconversation.com/topics/gonski-review

Tovey, Josephine (Decem­ber 12, 2012) “Maths and Eng­lish – nation could do bet­ter”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald online @ http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/maths-and-english–nation-could-do-better-20121211-2b7vl.html#ixzz38S8FAgUy

Wade­witz, Adri­anne (April 25, 2014) “How Adri­anne Wade­witz learnt to embrace fail­ure”. Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, online @ http://www.smh.com.au/world/how-adrianne-wadewitz-learnt-to-embrace-failure-20140425-zqzgx.html#ixzz2ztSUR9a5

War­lick, David (Jan­u­ary 19, 2009) “What is the Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion?”. TWo Cents Worth web­site, online @ http://2cents.onlearning.us/?p=1668

Welch, Anthony (Sep­tem­ber 5, 2012) “Asia not all it’s cracked up to be in edu­ca­tion”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/asia-not-all-its-cracked-up-to-be-in-education-20120904-25cji.html#ixzz25YGdk8fH

Wikipedia(2014) “The Learn­ing Curve”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_curve

Wikipedia(2014) “The For­get­ting Curve”. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgetting_curve

Wikipedia(2014) “Spaced Repi­ti­tion “. Wikipedia online @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetitionZyn­gier, David (Sep­tem­ber 5, 2012) “Teach­ers learn at the school of hard knocks”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/teachers-learn-at-the-school-of-hard-knocks-20120904-25ci5.html#ixzz25YI6YVCR

Zyn­gier, David (Sep­tem­ber 5, 2012) “Teach­ers learn at the school of hard knocks”. Bris­bane Times online @ http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/teachers-learn-at-the-school-of-hard-knocks-20120904-25ci5.html#ixzz25YI6YVCR


Source of this essay 

mee­tup group: Bris­bane Active Think­ing Mee­tup http://www.meetup.com/Brisbane-Active-Thinking-Meetup/

top­ics already dis­cussed: http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/DiscussionTopics/DiscussionIndex.htm

com­ments: Thor May – thormay@yahoo.com

Pro­fes­sional bio: Thor May has a core pro­fes­sional inter­est in cog­ni­tive lin­guis­tics, at which he has rarely suc­ceeded in mak­ing a liv­ing. He has also, per­haps fatally in a career sense, cul­ti­vated an inter­est in how things work – peo­ple, brains, sys­tems, coun­tries, machi­nes, what­ever… In the world of daily employ­ment he has mostly taught Eng­lish as a for­eign lan­guage, a stim­u­lat­ing activ­ity though rarely regarded as a pro­fes­sion by the world at large. His PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, Lan­guage Tan­gle, dealt with lan­guage teach­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Thor has been teach­ing Eng­lish to non-native speak­ers, train­ing teach­ers and lec­tur­ing lin­guis­tics, since 1976. This work has taken him to seven coun­tries in Ocea­nia and East Asia, mostly with ter­tiary stu­dents, but with a cou­ple of detours to teach sec­ondary stu­dents and young chil­dren. He has trained teach­ers in Aus­tralia, Fiji and South Korea. In an ear­lier life, prior to becom­ing a teacher, he had a decade of find­ing his way out of work­ing class ori­gins, through unskilled jobs in Aus­tralia, New Zealand and finally Eng­land (after back­pack­ing across Asia in 1972).

con­tact: http://thormay.net thormay@yahoo.com

aca­d­e­mic repos­i­tory: Academia.edu at http://independent.academia.edu/ThorMay

dis­cus­sion: Thor’s Unwise Ideas at http://thormay.net/unwiseideas/unwisendx.html


The Pur­pose of Edu­ca­tion A Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy? © Thor May 2014

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