A Critical Assessment of Education by Applying Habermas
Muhammad Imran Khan
Paraphrasing Jurgen Habermas, Ruane and Todd state that ‘the interpenetration of state and economy in advanced capitalism leads to new forms of social crisis […] this leads to social and personal pathologies’ (1988: 533-4). The realm of education, particularly during compulsory schooling age – the focus of this essay – is one such sector that is beleaguered by a multitude of pathologies. To assess some of these problems, the following main concepts of Habermas will be used: the “lifeworld”, “system”, “rationalisation”, “colonisation”, and to a lesser extent, the “universal presuppositions of speech”. While looking at these concepts we will consider how some of the current problems within modern education can be overcome.
Habermas asked critical questions about the nature of modern society, the problems it faced, and the place morality, language, politics and the law played in it. In the same spirit, some concepts of Habermas’s theory will be applied and analyzed to the field of education to see if certain conflicts can be resolved. It is through the quality of communication, a genuine appreciation of the ability of others to arrive at their own informed conclusions (with the appropriate education), and less interference by those who are not acquainted professionally with the learning and teaching process, that educational performance will be enhanced. If, on the other hand, policymakers, corporate interests and the education system take on the belief that the learner must be respected as the most important agency through which effective learning takes place, and should not be patronized or undermined to serve the interests of others, then the successful teaching as described by Habermas can be achieved.