This is a really powerful account by Roberto Unger about the role of education in producing capable agents, able to act within the present order but also to resist it and see beyond it, opening out possibilities for transformation which are latent within the way the world currently is. He suggests states are concerned with obedience and families with reproduction, leaving school as the institution which should be orientated towards the future in this way.
He suggests principle which ought to inform the content and method of education to further these ends:
- The prioritisation of analytic and synthetic skills over mastery of information
- The preference for selective depth over encyclopaedic similarity, organised around themes and projects
- The prioritisation of cooperative between students, teachers and schools over individualised competition (this echoes what Lazega talks about as collegiality vs bureaucracy)
- The insistence on teaching every subject being taught multiple points of time from contrasting points of view (he calls this the dialectical model of education)
He makes the fascinating point that disciplinary culture within higher education conflates method with subject matter, with this culture in turn defining the organisation of curricula. As he puts it, they “project these orthodoxies back to the education of the young and induce them to mistake the dominant ideas for the way things are”.