Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is Compulsory Education Granting or Limiting Autonomy?

It's Einstein's birthday today, a good time to think about one of the Einstein quotations you will find on bumper stickers -- "Imagination is more important than knowledge." We have a senior major considering the argument that children have a right to education because they have a right to autonomy, something that is challenged by the influence of their parents. Being raised by parents forces you to be indoctrinated with certain beliefs, in Einstein's terms a limitation of imagination, a shrinking of the possibilities of the world. Education, on the other hand, will inevitably cause you to have to face other beliefs, it will enlarge the pool of possibilities. Since it is only when you have a choice that you have autonomy, to guarantee the autonomy of children when they reach adulthood, it is crucial therefore to counter the influence of the parents to some degree. The children may choose to believe what their parents do, but we only treat them as autonomous beings if we guarantee them the right to make that choice. The odd part of this argument is that we grant a right by coercion, by forcing them to confront something they may not want. We make them autonomous by removing their autonomy. Should children have to think about different ways of being as a part of required education? Is it healthy to think about education as deprogramming?