Prestige versus Competence


Two posts ago, we explored the difference between education and learning.

Education is defined as systematic instruction in an institution.

Learning is quite different: the act of a free individual, acquiring skills or knowledge, through practice, experience  study or instruction.

In the last post, we unpacked the title Teacher.  When we use this term, are we speaking of an idealized Educational Unicorn:  a subject matter expert, pedagogical wizard, guide, mentor and role model all rolled into one superhuman?  Or do we mean an obedient  instructor, either acting with all kindness or as a petty tyrant, tasked with stuffing young minds with facts that can be regurgitated onto a standardized test?

Before you answer these last questions, let’s introduce three more terms.

Competence is the ability to do something effectively or efficiently, or both.

Prestige  is the widespread respect and admiration felt for someone or something on the basis of a perception of their achievements or quality.

Politics are the activities associated with governance, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.

So why does all this matter?   Look no further than Hans Christian Andersen, and his fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Politicians and their institutional educational accomplices appeal to prestige and the perception of achievement,  conveyed by hollow  degrees with the primary intent of protecting adult jobs, with a goal of achieving more power for the politician.

Do you notice any mention of learning or young heroes in the paragraph above?  Is it really in the best interest of the politicians or educational institutions to equip and inspire a competent army of young people to change the world? I don’t think so.

Do we have teachers at Acton Academy?  Well, that’s a loaded question.  What we do have are young heroes, learning to engage the experts, mentors, guides, coaches and role models they will need to find a calling that will change the world.  And the focus is on competency and mastery that matter in the real world, not the hollow prestige prized by the chattering classes.

Words do have meanings.  Definitions do matter.  So do the lives of young heroes.  Far more than the attempts of naked Emperors to subdue them by appealing to the fears of parents, false nostalgia or political illusions.

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