Education is the symbol of the modern era. Contemporary system of education emerged as an outcome of the fast industrial development: factories needed workers, and workers had to gain some special skills to work with machines. In the course of time, various new professions appeared which required developing new skills and abilities. Besides, the old approach to knowledge was transformed into the Baconian approach: knowledge is power. To know means to control, to be able to act properly. Whereas prior to F. Bacon knowledge had been perceived rather as wisdom (important principles related to how to live righteously, or how to avoid dangerous situations, etc.) than as an instrument for achieving certain goals, the modern times established the principle of knowledge as power. Only by knowing the world which surrounds them human beings are capable of controlling it.
This principle was not the only one emerging in modernity. The modern era brought about a special feeling of optimism about mankind’s future. It envisaged our common future as times of universal social equality, nice and pleasant jobs, reconciliation and peace at international level. Philosophers like Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Saint-Simon, and others preached that the intellect is the main human instrument for achieving eternal peace and common well-being. Cartesian rationalism (the philosophy of Descartes) aspired for comprehending the universal truth, the truth which would unite the whole mankind and overcome all religious divisions.
Within the historical and social context of the Industrial Revolution, various ideologies were developed: from Conservatism to Liberalism to Marxism. Although differing widely from each other, they all shared one common feature: the idea that the future will be better. Education has been seen as the main tool for achieving this “bright future.” The 18th and 19th centuries were a time of rapid growth in the field of academic and school education. Children from poor families had the opportunity to attend elementary schools or to attend additional courses for enhancing certain skills. The governments in the United States and many European countries (France, Germany, Great Britain) began supporting a wide range of educational institutions with the aim of building a society of educated and skillful professionals. Knowledge was seen as an important investment in the future of the nation – to “produce” soldiers, seamen, engineers, businessmen, diplomats, researchers, doctors. The 20th century witnessed a series of intensive changes in the educational systems in other continents- in Australia, Asia, Africa and South America. Especially after the Second World War, the nations inhabiting these continents started investing a lot of financial and human resources in their educational systems, including invitations of foreign teachers and researchers. Good education has been seen for a long time as an important step towards success. Having a Bachelor degree was perceived as something wonderful which opens all gates to the person with the diploma. As we will see while discussing Zygmunt Bauman’s conception of education, today such a degree does not bring almost anything.
It is a pity that education today does not bring what it has to. Young people look less and less interested in classroom activities. Knowledge has become meaningless to them. All that is important is only success – immediate, at any cost, but success. This is due to one essential deficit in our school system: students learn facts about the world, but they do not learn values. Students are assessed on the basis of their classroom achievements. It is important- even obligatory- to have good marks and to be active in all types of classroom activities. But one thing is missing: the stress on morality. Their good deeds, their relations with classmates, and with people, in general, are not assessed. Hence, they cannot become personalities because their only goal is to achieve success – whatever this is – and being recognized and appreciated by the others. They are not taught in fundamental ethical values.
As it is well-known, ethics stands close to religion. Christian ethics contains all universal, basic moral principles. It comprises values such as love, compassion, hope, faith, altruism. Whether people realize it or not, Christian ethics is part of their daily living. Furthermore, the American society, as well as the traditional European societies, are based upon Christian morality. America was founded by Puritans and its political tradition has its roots in Puritanism. There is no sense to go deeper into the topic; it is enough to refer to Max Weber’s theory that the economic development of the so-called Western civilization is mainly due to its Protestant character and the Protestant ethics.
An excerpt and summary from Dr. Anthony Vento’s book, A History of the Foundations of Catholic Education: A Philosophical Enquiry. St John Neumann established the foundation of Catholic education, the parochial school system, in the United States of America! The Roman Catholic school system has been the pioneer of the national organized educational system in our country, as well as the standard of success in pedagogy! In AD 1950, there were more than eleven thousand Catholic elementary schools in America; sadly, there are only around twelve hundred still functioning. The title of this work serves as a hallmark and a means of exaltation for the contributions made by the Roman Catholic Church in the field of education! (Source: Amazon)