Education is not a commodity, is not reducible

Fall is the usual time for re-considerations of education. January, though, is perhaps an even beter time as a kind of mid-point in the year. The shine is off the apple but there is a solid stretch of work still ahead. With our memories tuned to a recently sorted out teachers strike (here in Ontario at least), musings about school means high hopes and excitement for some teachers and students, dread and weariness for others as they encounter a system that feels like it was designed for something alien, an administrative monstrosity that seems designed to prevent education rather than to enable learning. For reflections on education that get past backpacks and school supplies, this post from 2011 is  worth reading. The selection below will give you a sense of how Serres is woven into the narrative.

"To illustrate the importance of knowledge sharing, I would like to tell you a little lesson in economics: I have a block of butter, and you have three Euros. If we proceed to do a transaction, you will, in the end, have a block of butter, and I will have three Euros. We are dealing with a zero sum game: nothing happens from this exchange. But in the exchange of knowledge, during teaching, the game is not one of zero sum as more parties profit from the exchange: if you know a theorem and teach it to me, at the end of the exchange, we both know it. In this knowledge exchange there is no equilibrium at all, but a terrific growth which economics does not know. Teachings are the bearers of an unbelievable treasure – knowledge – which multiplies and is the treasure of all humanity.” (Michel Serres)

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