A Critique of Western Education

Global Impacts of the Western School Model: Corporatization, Alienation, ConsumerismJoel SpringRoutledge, 2018; 158 pages, $46.95 The Western model of schooling has few greater foes than Joel Spring. An emeritus professor at both Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Spring defines this model as the con­ventional K-12 “educational ladder that students climb” from primary school to graduation from high school. This approach, he says, has swept around the globe, leaving in its wake an astonishing catalogue of woes: “shop ‘til you drop . . . consumerism, global urbanization, corporatism, nationalism, corporate English, environmental destruction, alienation from others, and a decline in spiritualism.” Equally astonishing are the forms of schooling that he favors; he praises both the Forest Schools of Finland and the traditional schools of Nepal, alongside positive com­ments about both independent Antifa and Alt-Right schools—even as the parents found in each movement battle it out on the streets of Portland! The Western school model, Spring shows, is in part the product of state ambition. He cites the Spanish philosopher Francisco Ferrer, who noted in 1909 that “governments have ever been careful to hold a high hand over the education of the people.” State authorities know “that their power is based almost entirely on the school,” which serves as the most effective “means of enslavement in the hands of the governing power to-day.” The old German Kingdom of Prussia, the author relates, was the pioneer of compulsory Western schooling. Loyalty and service to the school and obedience to its rules, the system’s architects held, prepared the young for national military service and war. In the 21st century, Spring argues, government schools continue to instill the emotions of nationalism through pledges, songs, and official national histories, with a “warfare state” still as the goal. To be sure, the
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