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Response to Danielle Allen’s Essay “What is Education For”
Danielle Allen raises valid points through his articles by giving the reference of the highest court in New York that every student in the state has the right to the civic education. In this regard, he focuses on the idea that education is not only the name of building vocational capacities rather it also deals with enhancing civic capabilities. The overall society is getting diverse, and that is the reason why citizens are required to work collectively across differences such as different prejudices, ideologies, cultures, income, and ethnicities. Furthermore, the civic agency can be viewed from cultural perspectives as values, symbols, and behaviors of life that that improve or diminish abilities for collaborative action. Subsequently, these practices can set the foundation for an initiative to upgrade sources of public downfall into the renewal of civic resources.
In other words, Danielle Allen meant that knowledge and education of an individual should be utilized for the greater good of the society. However, when people send their children to schools, they think that primary purpose of child's education is that he would be good in the calculation, history, geography, and other subjects, whereas they ignore the fundamental element of civic agency (Allen Danielle). In this respect, the policymakers are also responsible because while formulating education policies and curriculum they do not take into account the significance of citizenship which is one of the core social elements. Society needs to come close to each other and remove linguistic and cultural barriers. Through Civic Agency, skills are transferred from one individual to others, which eventually benefits society in a broader spectrum. Society has already gone through many inequalities; therefore, young individuals need to come forward and improve their civic capabilities so that a gap in society can be bridged. In this context, Allen gives a roadmap through his essay that designing a uniform system of education is not the only solution to bridge inequalities in the society.
The civic conception is the right approach to bring economic and democratic equality in the society, and it is all about participatory readiness at the school level. For that purpose, educational institutions and the schools need to raise their standards so that they can train the children right from the beginning in the context of civic participation. The author rightly identified the responsibility of people at the helm as they need to allocate more resources to schools to educate children so that they can be prepared for civic participation. If this idea is implemented in its true letter and spirit at the school level, then society will see a paradigm shift, and the social values will be transformed through this civic agency and participatory readiness.
Moreover, the model suggested by Allen demands a firm commitment from the public to make civic participation. Thus, not only the resources need to be allocated to the schools, the community should be trained about the challenges of the inequalities that are embedded in society. The public education is necessary because people of different age group can play their role in the development of society. In this way, the onus is not only on young school and college students. Several organizations and NGOs talk about equality and human rights but in reality, the role of their speeches does not seem to be effective, and one would feel that many often their narratives turn out to be rhetoric. The world has transformed into a global village, and the village comprises different classes and economic inequalities in society. The world will become a global village in a real sense when society gets rid of all the inequalities. If seeds of civic participation are sown today in schools and communities, then we will be able to see the outcomes in the near future as the results will not come overnight instead it will take some time. There is also a lot of division in political parties which indicates that there is political inequality as well which needs to be addressed, and the best way is the civic engagement of people as it would not only support political equality may result in economic fairness overall. In this respect, emphasis should be on subjects such as humanities and social sciences as they provide students with knowledge of society and the overall structure.
For students to become an active civic agent, they need to understand the dynamics of society, and they should be guided by their mentors that how can they effectively play their roles through civic participation. The righter critically analyzed that there is no effective model of civic agency in American culture. Also, the question arises that what tasks should be performed by civic agencies. In this regard, first should be the fair-minded discussion on public issues. This concept is derived from Athenian citizens. Secondly, visionary works aimed at changing overall society values which includes public perception and communication literature, this is now known as "frame-shifting".
Moreover, in response to Danielle Allen’s essay, Deborah Meier rightly described that association between liberal arts and political participation is a class difference and the parallels cannot be drawn with socioeconomic status. Also, for the students who belong to the same socioeconomic background the focus on social sciences and humanities would provide them with the opportunity for active political participation. The due attention was not paid to the differential impact on the civic progress of humanistic education even though it is very critical. The humanistic aspect of education backs the development of participatory readiness. The primary focus should be on getting equality for poor and underprivileged people. Also, the author rightly points at the shortcomings at the K-12 and college level education that extra-curricular activities and other programs are dwindling, and as a result students do not seem to be taking an interest in civic participation instead they either stick to their course books and the tools such as PC, smartphones, and tablets.
The response of Carlos Fraenkel is also balanced in a way that he rightly describes that wise sailors are needed to strengthen the overall system of democracy. Also, the parallels of Allen's essay was drawn with Platonism by Fraenkel by saying that in democracy a right man may not be elected by people, whereas the society needs wise people more. According to Fraenkel the system proposed by Allen would benefit society in the long run because the curriculum based on civic engagement and participation would produce wise, sympathetic and considerate individuals who would bring equality in all respects. The citizens with the civic, educational background will believe in collective happiness. They would be able to set the direction of society in their own way which will be the right approach.
Finally, Danielle Allen emphasizes civic agency, which means that children should be trained in school to participate within communities to remove inequalities from the society effectively. In this regard, the main focus should be on subjects like Humanities and Social Sciences because these enable students to learn the dynamics of society. People need to change the perception about education as it is not only about being well versed in Mathematics, Science and Technology rather participatory readiness is essential. Through participatory readiness and active civic participation, society will see a positive change in the form of political, educational, and economic fairness.
"What Is Education For?". Boston Review, 2019, http://bostonreview.net/forum/danielle-allen-what-education.
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