Félix García Moriyón is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Specific Didactics at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He is the author of Pregunto, dialogo, aprendo: cómo hacer filosofía en el aula.
Technology has long been present in education, and in society. What’s more, the compulsory formal education was itself and continues to be one of the techniques or devices of control that Foucault spoke of: one of the decisive instruments of the control of bodies and minds, of disciplining. And it is true that compulsory formal education was born with the first major technological revolution of the late 18th and early 19th century. But it is also true, as Foucault himself points out, that this innovation did not come out of nowhere, but rather took up the educational models initiated in the period of European growth and expansion that began around the year 1000, with the appearance of the universities and the careful organization of time, space and work in monastic orders. This approach reaches in a sense its fullness at the end of the 19th century, when Frederick Taylor developed the principles of scientific business management, later put into practice by Henry Ford. “Taylorism” and “Fordism” became generic terms to indicate social and organizational technologies, based on scientific studies and applied to business, with an important adaptation to the world of education. And they were also disciplines of control, for it should not be forgotten to what extent these technologies were inspired by the slave plantation labor system. Or to what extent, these new technologies had entered into an institution as pre-modern as the slave plantations.1
We should not take Foucault’s approach too far because, by insisting on the technology of social control, we may neglect that the school, according to the Enlightenment ideals, but also according to the ideal of medieval university studies, is the arena of liberation from ignorance, which is the food of slavery and the condition of domination and oppression. Kant’s Sapere aude continues to resonate at the core of every school.2 Nowadays, the number of years of schooling remains one of the indicators of human development. Moreover, the Sustainable Development Goals go a step further: in their goal number 4 they propose “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”; that is, they establish that compulsory formal education should also be quality education. Therefore, it can be said that compulsory schooling is one of the most important social technologies to make possible a quality human life and also to achieve fairer societies capable of satisfying human needs.
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A conversation with Walter E. Block
Cástor Miguel Díaz Barrado