Education as transformation and self-care – Blogs – Echo of Moscow, 06/29/2021

I have a tradition: every summer I find books that are as far as possible from my profession and work, but simply allow me to look into new areas of knowledge. So, last year I could not tear myself away from the “Autumn of the Middle Ages” Huizinga, and this time the philosophy of Michel Foucault came into my hands, which some praise, while others, let’s say it mildly, criticize.

His thought about “disciplinary authority”, which seeks to achieve obedience and has developed a huge number of methods for this, makes you stop and look around. After all, let’s admit to ourselves that we are used to living in a society where there are clear rules. No, they are not strict, they do not require some kind of feat from us, but they are. Moreover, there is a time-tested oversight of everyone and everyone. And this is not even a conversation about Big Brother. Everything is much more prosaic. Just control accompanies a person from the very first step, Foucault believes, and cites the school as an example. Perhaps I do not remember that time very well, but I remember exactly the stories of my older brother about how they rejoiced at the cancellation of the obligatory school uniform (this is after the parents were immediately summoned to the director for their appearance at school in something distant resembling jeans). So, according to Foucault, a working “disciplinary mechanism” is being created in our society, which acts as “an apparatus for observation, registration and drill”. At first glance, it turns out this way: all our institutes actually do what they describe us, evaluate our actions, compare our actions with the actions of others (classic: “and in a parallel class, everyone has already donated money for the curtains”), but this is followed by and Foucault is also striving to “lead to the norm, to exclude.” That is, it turns out that in order to be included in the modern system, we actually need to follow this entire list of rules? Or you can find a way out, which will become … education. Yes, everything is hidden in educational institutions, which should not remain a source of book knowledge, but be a “temple of nature,” Foucault believes. He believes that a school will emerge where “they will not teach at all what the ancient teachers believed, but it will be a form of truth open to everything that daily experience manifests.” And I wanted to push off from this starting point.

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Without pretending to be a philosophical approach, I think about what modern education can be like today, even more precisely higher education, which is closer and more understandable to me. Of course, we are still at the mercy of our rules, but nothing prevents us from being open to “everything that daily experience manifests.” I know what I’m talking about, because every day I communicate with both students and young scientists. And I see how their attitude to education is changing: the modern world is open to them, they can learn and see a lot, they can compare. This applies not only to personal impressions, but also to scientific work. Moreover, today, it seems to me, all incoming information makes people more complex, I would even say complex. Because you can hardly find two students who watch the same sources on the Internet, choose the same videos, articles, social networks. Critics here de reproach me that this is more likely self-education. And what about university education itself? It seems to me that here too, we are undergoing great changes right now. The point is that students will be able to change their trajectory of development, choose those specialties that interested them already in the process of study (and it is normal that an applicant or freshman does not know all the possibilities of the educational institution where he entered). This will actually be a new level of freedom – not only choice and self-realization, but the freedom to say “no” to oneself, to the one who made a choice that he does not quite like today a couple of years ago. And here again my reasoning echoes with Foucault, who believed that the true task of education is “taking care of yourself.” Of course, it smells a little of the ideal world, and it might even make someone smile. But education is also “taking care of oneself,” the knowledge of a specialty and, at the same time, knowledge of oneself. And education is also a way to build oneself or, again, remember the French philosopher, “make oneself”, “transform oneself”, “turn to oneself.” One can argue with this, but one thing is clear: without a deep and versatile education, the world will not move on, and a person without interest in himself will not be very interesting to live. Idealism? Selfishness? Or is it excessive modesty, which education will help to overcome.

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