Why does our education system work the way it does? How can we improve it?
Whether we are analyzing an existing educational system or designing one, there are two primary questions:
Any explanations or justifications of our answers to the primary questions will rest on our answer to the ultimate question:
While this framework is a necessary part of any rational argument about education, education is so enmeshed in history and in other aspects of a culture's lifeways (economy and social structure) that it is very difficult to choose educational practices based on abstract principles.
Comparison of current western educational systems to those in other times and places is very valuable. Where there are similarities, it suggests a widespread need or constraint. Differences are especially important because they help us to move beyond unthinking acceptance of the current system. History is also an important explanation, since education tends to adopt and perpetuate practices of other cultures.
Main article: Anthropology and History of Education
Education is a fascinating topic for this wiki because it seems like a wonderful example of the process of Cultural Evolution. The basic concept of the Darwinian cultural evolution that we endorse is that cultural institutions (such as education) evolve by a process which is a generalization of biological Evolution.
Cultural evolution sits somewhere between history and rational analysis. It understands practices such as education as having arisen by a historical process of descent-with-modification. Modifications are imposed by humans, who presumably had their reasons, but the ultimate justification is that the practice has to work–it has to implement a social function. It is quite possible for a useful practice to be justified using a weak or incorrect explanation.