In his essay “Open Education: Open to What? ” Kieran Egan compares open education with traditional schooling and by critically evaluating both forms of education places particular emphasis on the ineffectiveness of the former. On the whole, I agree with Egan’s perspective of open education and share his criticism of it. The main reason why the philosopher opposes open education is that it is based more on the process of learning than on its content (Egan, 1975, p. 25).
Like Egan, I oppose the methods proposed by the theory of open education because its learning process is entirely based on children’s interests and curiosity which cannot give children proper knowledge about the world. The first reason for this position is the fact that most children often abandon their initial interests and get interested in new things. With a child’s frequent shifts to new fields of interest, how then open education can provide any education at all?
The second reason is that children will one day become adults and will have to live in a real competitive society which requires certain skills and knowledge from their members to be successful or at least live a decent life. So it seems natural that adults, not children, know better what the latter will need to know in the future and which skills they will have to possess in order to survive in today’s fast moving world.
Besides, I reject the idea proposed by the proponents of open education that children’s curiosity alone is enough to lead them to good results in education. Even if children do not lose interest in a certain field of knowledge for a long time, they will definitely not be interested in learning everything that is relevant to that field but will be rather focused on its particular area. Will then their educators maintain their interest in this particular area only or will they externally impose the need to learn what is beyond the children’s interest?
It is also unthinkable, in my opinion, to claim, as proponents of open education do, that some subjects are not worth learning because they are not relevant to what children will need in adult life. Even if knowledge of some abstract concepts will not help people earn more money, it is still important as it helps develop their thinking which will definitely be helpful in solving various problems in their life. Given these arguments, I agree with Egan that open education is not educationally sensible.
Unlike Kieran Egan, I would not go so far as to arguing that the debate over the forms of education negatively affects education itself. In Western civilization educational disputes have always existed and will continue to exist in the future as well. But to hear Egan, the educational debate has a negative impact on the education of the younger generation. Nor do I agree with Egan’s belief that the debate over educational methods is in fact an ideological one (Egan, 1975, p. 32).
Today we live in the informational era when the complexity of social relations and the fast moving technological advances require that we learn a huge amount of information every day in order to successfully perform in school, at work, etc. In my opinion, it is natural that there are educators claiming that some information from the past centuries is irrelevant to modern civilization and that it is not worth the effort to learn it. Although I do not share such ideas, I believe similar theories will always have their proponents and do not see any underlying ideological struggle here.
Although traditional forms of education can be subject to certain criticism, I do not see any alternative education that would be as effective. At the moment, alternative forms of schooling are a reaction to traditional education rather than serious systems that could replace it. However, since all systems of education have their pros and cons, I believe open education could suggest some interesting ideas and innovations which would enrich the existing mainstream education and improve its effectiveness.
For example, the idea of using children’s curiosity in education is worth paying a special attention. Educators could develop the methods of making children interested in subjects that are on the curriculum. But apparently the subjects do not have to be imposed externally and children must have the feeling that it is their own choice. Of course, developing such methods would require much research and study. But is it not worth a try?