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BREAKING EDUCATIONAL PROTOCOL 521 Breaking Educational Protocol w.J. KEITH David Solway. Education Lost: Reflections on ContemporanJ Pedagogical Practice OISE Press/Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 1989. xi, 141. $24.50 paper Education Lost is at one and the same time a devastating expose of contemporary educational inadequacies, a philosophical meditation on how the human mind works or should work, and an impressive piece ofwitty and erudite prose-polemic. David Solway, one of Canada's finest poets (somewhat neglected, to be sure, because he knows that a poem must mean as well as be) earns his living as a teacher of English literature at John Abbott College in Montreal. Troubled by the decline in literacy, mental acuity, and intellectual curiosity on the part of the generation he is now teaching - a generation, as he puts it, 'for which simply reading a book with a modicum of understanding assumes the monumental proportions of deciphering Linear A or the Peresianus Codex' - he is not content, as so many £ us are, merely to bemoan the laziness and ineptitude of the young. Instead, he has been moved to questionthe theoretical foundations upon whichnotonlymoderneducationbut the whole of contemporary technological society is based. His focus is directed not so much on the young themselves as on 'the barbarous effect our educational system is having on the current generation of students.' Modern education has failed, he argues, because it is determined by 'considerations thathave morein commonwithindustrialplanning,corporateeconomics,and technical requirements.' Teaching is essentially an art but, because our society has pressured us, bamboozled us, into believing it to be a science, we now provide not education in the true, traditional sense but mere training. Students 'are being processed, not taught; instructed, not transformed: As a result, and this is the gravest charge of all, 'we have betrayed the mind.' Hisfindings, welcome to many, will also be unpopular with many. In summarizing , I shall inevitably distort to some extent, so it is important to insist from the start that anyone who wishes to dismiss him as a reactionary will have to bring to any rebuttal the same kind of close reasoning and philosophical rigour that Solway himself commands. He begins by maintaining, against the principles of pseudoegalitarianism , that education must be elitist. First, the teacher must haveauthority; second, thereisno reason to persevere withthose who showthemselves impervious to teaching - especially if, in the process, the proper education of the able is endangered. Solway is uncompromisingly blunt on this point: 'when a student successfully resists his education and willnot be teased, badgered, orprovoked into thought, then he must be given up. The student who is bright, inquisitive, and receptive must never be made to suffer in his development for the sake of the student who fails to respond to treatment.' In a paradoxical sort of way, this is ultimately democratic: a civilized and highly complex state needs the highest possible, undiluted education for its brilliant few. Solway then turns his attention to teachers' credentials, practice, and attitudes. 522 W.J. KEITH Lookingback overthis owneducation, he remarks: 'The teachers whom Iremember as having exercised a decisive influence on my own development as a student were rarely those who would have done well in Teachers' Training College.' He realizes that students need to be stimulated by independent-minded loners and eccentrics - the very people discouraged by official training programs. The bureaucratic solution to set up 'a kind of Polytechnic Institute of Learning accredited to churn out presumably qualified educators who have specialized chiefly in the discipline of educating' is doomed to failure because such places inevitably lay emphasis 'on form at the expense of content - which is, after all, the modern intellectual heresy par excellence.' Education is not a matter of providing knowledge or importing skill but a demonstration of a way of life. Teaching, 'even in data-based subjects, ... must always be the expression of personality and the creation of personalities.' It is ideally a ritual, in which 'the teacher must identify with his role as intercessor and the student with the part ... of apprentice, novice, or postulant.' At this point Solway turns to possible correctives, but is notably unimpressed by the current finger-in-the-dike emphasis on remedial...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 521-524
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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