In the latter part of the 20th century, the layout and design of most U.S. slaughterhouses was influenced by the work of Dr. Temple Grandin. She suggested that reducing the stress of animals being led to slaughter may help slaughterhouse operators improve efficiency and profit. In particular she applied an understanding of animal psychology to design pens and corrals which funnel a herd of animals arriving at a slaughterhouse into a single file ready for slaughter. Her corrals employ long sweeping curves so that each animal is prevented from seeing what lies ahead and just concentrates on the hind quarters of the animal in front of it. This design – along with the design elements of solid sides, solid crowd gate, and reduced noise at the end point – work together to encourage animals forward in the chute and to not reverse direction.
“…so that each animal is prevented from seeing what lies ahead and just concentrates on the hind quarters of the animal in front of it.” -Wikipedia, Slaughterhouses.
In Canada’s school system, students are encouraged to chase ‘success,’ without defining with any reasonable certainty what success is representative of. In crowded hallways, students follow the backpack bouncing in front of them until they turn off to their classrooms. Once they have been fattened on knowledge, they are sent out into the world to be sacrificed to the greatest remnant of perennialistic society: the Bureaucratic Administration Machine
There is an excellent TED talk that explains this better than I can, go watch it below.
“The first computer in the world was called the bureaucratic administrative machine. To run that computer, they needed a lot of people. They made another machine, to produce those people – the schools. The schools would produce the people that would become parts of the BA machine. They must be identical. They must know three things: good handwriting, reading skills, and good arithmetic skills. They must be so identical you can pick one up from New Zealand, ship them to Canada and have them function immediately. The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a system that was so robust, its still with us today. Continuously producing identical people, for a machine that no longer exists.”
If you don’t have time to watch the video – in short, the origins of our school system can be traced back to a time when the government wanted a populace that had a common skill set, so as to use them efficiently in the governance of a nation.
But is that what school should be about?
“Just as our classrooms have changed significantly since the 1800s, so have our ideas about the purpose of schools. Our views on education were defined by John Dewey’s theory, which states—and I’m simplifying—that the general purpose of school is to transfer knowledge and prepare young people to participate in Canada’s democratic society. ” -Gene Carter, Journalist at GOOD Magazine
If this quote is accurate, and school is meant to prepare young people for Canadian society, then I believe we have a lot of work to do, reshaping school into a modern, relevant institution. Nations around the world are leading the charge, positioning their societies for success by emphasizing the development of 21st-century skills. Countries like Finland and Singapore are creating “communicative, imaginative, tech-savvy, multilingual students who are prepared for jobs that do not yet exist.” (Carter).
How can Canada follow this path?
This idea, of how to do such a thing, is the first guiding question I am exploring in our philosophical inquiry at Gleneagle Secondary. The discussions we have been having in class concerning educational philosophies have been a peak of interest for me, and I am committed to diving into the the rabbit hole in search of answers.
Philosophy has been given many definitions by my classmates over the past week, centering around ‘the love of wisdom.’ A definition that I resonated with was “an unending desire to understand and comprehend knowledge, society, existence and the universe,” with the operative term being “unending desire.” To that end, I think beginning with a query into philosophical education, into how we should go about learning, is a strong, meta, jumping off point. It is a topic that delves deeply into process, as opposed to results, which is where I want to start.
To begin with, and as a breadcrumb for my next blog post, I’ll close with this quote from Nigel Warburton, in his essay “Lets Talk,” which discusses the importance of human interaction to ground us as we search for existential or cosmic meaning. This quote encapsulates what I hope my process will resemble, in determining a healthy direction to take Canada’s education system.
“Whenever philosophical education lapses into learning facts about history and texts, regurgitating an instructor’s views, or learning from a textbook, it moves away from its Socratic roots in conversation…. the point of philosophy is not to have a range of facts at your disposal, though that might be useful, nor to become a walking Wikipedia or ambulant data bank: rather, it is to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves, questions about reality and appearance, life and death, god and society.”
That’s it, thanks for reading. What a clickbait title, amiright?
Counts, G. S. (1978). Dare the schools build a new social order? Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.