Some of my friends are probably aware that I don’t have a high opinion of high schools. I attended some very prestigious schools, claiming to be dedicated to educating future leaders, and found that they shared several objectives – especially instilling the following values in their pupils:
1. Respect hierarchies.
2. Excellence would require running the risk of allowing diversity of learning styles. We don’t like risks.
3. Rules have to be obeyed, even if all people involved agree that the rule should not exist.
4. Conservatism is the lowest common denominator of diversity.
5. Pulic sector workers and bureaucracies are awesome. Markets not so much.
So I was not surprised to learn about this study about the effect of schooling on democratic values:
Those who posit that more schooling leads to greater democracy often have specific ideas about how people’s attitudes change as a result of their becoming more educated, arguing that it creates people who are more willing to challenge authority. It is possible, however, that education reinforces authority and the power of ruling elites; indeed, it may often be designed to do precisely this…The authors compared a group of Kenyan girls in 69 primary schools whose students were randomly selected to receive a scholarship with similar students in schools which received no such financial aid…
…[G]irls who benefited from the scholarship and got more schooling were more independent and less accepting of the traditional sources of authority within the family. But although education seemed in some sense to have “liberated” them in terms of their personal aspirations…those with more education did not become more favourably inclined towards democracy. In fact, education deepened their sense of identification with their ethnic group and increased their tolerance for political violence. There was little evidence that having more education made them more engaged in civic life or political organisations.
…Education may make people more interested in improving their own lives but they may not necessarily see democracy as the way to do it. Even in established democracies, more education does not always mean either more active political participation or greater faith in democrac…Many yearn instead for the kind of government that would execute the corrupt and build highways, railway lines and bridges at the dizzying pace of authoritarian China.