The book, ‘Introduction: Ways of Reading’, affirms that reading is a “social interaction” in which the reader pays attention to the text even if nothing is being understood, due to the firm belief that “it will all make sense in the end” (Pg. 3). Giving examples of the essays from the book, the authors point to the success of Richard Rodriguez through the essay “The achievement of Desire” in which Richard achieves success in life and in the world, but has actually distanced him from his parents and family who fail to understand him and vice versa. Rodriguez mentions how he has read a book by Richard Hoggart and asserted prime significance to the phrase “scholarship boy” in the book. This text enables Richard to apply the text to his life so that he uses it to find meaning in his life and similarly, the text which I read concerning educational goals and achievements have enlightened me regarding the needs and objectives of education in modern society. The paper aims to compare and analyze the meaning and significance of real education in today’s world as elucidated by Orr in his article and whether this education can be used to enhance personal life and future beliefs.
Human activities add to the environmental pollution and degradation of the atmosphere, importantly, those humans who are educated are “ignorant” play a vital role in destroying the natural beauty of the earth. Surprisingly, this destruction of nature and the beauty of the earth is due to highly qualified and educated individuals who have received their graduate and post-graduate degrees in various fields (Orr, pg. 2). Orr cites Wiesel who states that the Germans lay great emphasis on “theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings” which makes this education faulty rather than perfect. An initial reading tends to confuse the reader regarding the author’s intent, but does make “sense in the end” when the author provides appropriate reasoning (Ways of Reading).
Investigating the crucial question about the value and worth of real education, one realizes the uselessness and worthlessness of education because it does not guarantee “decency, prudence or wisdom” (Orr, pg. 2). Thus, the author assert that it is not simply education “but education of a certain kind” which will save human kind, and which should be a top priority in today’s debasing society and culture.
The entire world is engaged in the “modern drive to dominate nature” an inherent flaw which occurs at all levels of society, especially in the modern globalized world. Orr criticizes the modern framework of education which he believes is based on historical foundations which are “enshrined in myths” rather than reality. Outlining six important myths, Orr elucidates each one of them individually and distinctively. Debating that “ignorance is a solvable problem” Orr gives the classic example of CFCs which had been discovered by Thomas Midgely and had been earlier ignored, but was later found to be “ a trivial life-threatening gap in the human understanding of the biosphere”, which I believe has resulted in global warming and melting of the ice caps.
Proceeding to the second myth, Orr states that there is the belief among humans that it is possible to manage the earth “with enough knowledge and technology” including computers and dials. Obviously, this has proven to be baseless, since with the advancement of technology, the world is becoming more complex and difficult to live with increasing poverty, pollution and population and not enough resources to support. The author asserts that the ‘complexity of earth and its life systems” cannot be managed by humans because of the simple fact that even the biological structure of the top soil of the top most layer of the earth is yet unknown to humans and its relationship to the biosphere has not been established. Coming to the manageable aspects of human life, Orr mentions that what can and should be managed are the aspects relating to humans including “human desires, economies, politics and communities”. The most important point Orr makes here is the importance of reshaping human lives to “fit a finite planet” rather than altering the planet itself in trying to fit the “infinite wants” of human beings.
The third myth which Orr wants to debate is the belief that with the increase in knowledge, human goodness is also augmenting. Orr agrees that there is substantial increase of “data, words, and paper” but this does not imply an increase of knowledge and wisdom in the world, which are immeasurable aspects. Taking the argument further, Orr states that “some” knowledge such as “molecular biology and genetic engineering” is augmenting, while important knowledge like “systematics, taxonomy, or ornithology” is “lost” simply because of the former fields appear to be more lucrative than the latter more ancient ones.
Orr makes an extremely valid point about the loss of vernacular knowledge which refers to the loss of cultural, local and traditional knowledge which is making people “more ignorant” of the things they ought to know in order to “live well and sustainably”. He expounds the next myth that education has the “power” to restore what is already been “dismantled”, whether it is layers of top soil in the production of wheat or “biotic impoverishment” as a result of soil erosion, and the poisonous emissions into the earth’s atmosphere.
Orr criticizes the myth that education provides one with “the means for upward mobility and success”, asserting that the world does not need “more successful people”, rather it needs more “peacemakers, healers, storytellers, and lovers” with the moral will to make the world a more “habitable and humane” place to live. Expending the final myth that the present culture is at the “pinnacle of human achievement”, Orr compares the failures of communism and capitalism because they function to destroy morality in some form or the other making poverty, crime and the disintegration of culture rampant aspects of modern society.
Progressing to the important elements which education must be comprised of, Orr mentions the six principles on which education must be based. Stating that “all education is environmental education” Orr affirms the importance of teaching students “that they are a part of the natural world”, which can be accomplished by integrating the principles of ecology and thermodynamics into the curriculum. He firmly believes that the goal of education should not be the mastery of the subject but of the personal self, so that an individual can use education as a tool to frame an appropriate identity and personality in the world. A third important proposal is that knowledge must be used with responsibility in a safe manner for the good of people so that tragedies like the ozone depletion and Valdez oil spill do not recur.
It is also extremely crucial to understand the “effects” of knowledge on people and communities so that destruction of lives and people does not occur due to the irresponsible handling of power and knowledge. Education should be provided to students by using examples so that faculty and administrative staff serve as role models for students, bridging the gap between “ideals and reality”. Learning and education must occur by real world experiences rather than plain indoor learning so that students are engaged in activities which promote environmental learning and bonding with nature. It is only through practical experiences in education that societies and communities will be developed to coexist harmoniously with nature.
The article is highly educative and informative and has enlightened me that people tend to think of learning “as good in itself” which is a basic flaw in the process of education (Orr, 1991). The article makes readers ponder over the real value of education which has in more ways than one “created a monster” and educationalists need to alter the way education is imparted (Orr, 1991).
Bartholomae David and Petrosky Anthony. Introduction: Ways of Reading.
Orr, David (1991). “What is Education For? Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new principles to replace them.” Web.