A Difficulty in the Concept of Educational Sustainability
Steven Loomis, John Gunderson, Paul Spears, Doug Grove
A free and civil society’s sustainability, as well as the proper functioning of its social institutions, pivot on the quality of its system of education. A quality system of education provides reliable dissemination of knowledge, skill, and moral and intellectual virtue among a citizenry. Yet information priorities, patterns, and the rules generated by ‘maximal institutionalism’ threaten the conditions necessary for that sustainability. Our thesis is that, within a technical model of production, particular, heuristic and tacit information, that is, the kind of information bound up with the individual person and local community and culture, is divided from and comes to be displaced by standardized information. This information loss impairs production of the education good (i.e., quality education), thus diminishing the creation of human and social capital. If this is correct, the strategic institutional question that surfaces for a nation-state and its education system is what kinds of particular information need to be preserved or reintroduced into production in order to provide individuals (near) optimal conditions for their development and flourishing, conditions that provide to a community or to a nation-state strategic advantage in competition under conditions of scarcity. Solutions will look different over different time horizons and cultural contexts. Authors recommend to researchers, policy makers, and leaders the use of institutional analysis to arrive at meaningful strategic questions that might help lead to plausible solutions to information imbalances plaguing educational production. Authors illustrate with examples and discuss implications for the international audience.
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