Education becomes useless

Subject didactics German

Useless education - a misunderstanding

The introduction to Peter Bieri's educational speech has become almost canonical when it comes to the demarcation from training:

Education is something that people do with themselves and for themselves: you educate yourself. Others can educate us, everyone can only educate themselves. This is not just a play on words. To be educated is actually very different from being educated. We go through training with the aim of being able to do something. When we educate ourselves against it, we work to become something - we strive to be in the world in a certain way.

If, for example, the concept of competence is discussed or the accusation is raised that certain school subjects are of little use to learners, teachers at grammar schools often fall into this trap set by Bieri. The humanities are particularly at risk. It is precisely the uselessness that makes school education worthwhile, is quickly asserted. The usability is hostile to education, the competence orientation is the intellectual child of economic demands on school learning.

It pays to be more precise on these questions. If I read a novel with a class, then I have to indicate which learning processes are triggered. As a teacher, I have to set goals for myself, check whether they have been achieved and ultimately always develop competencies - that means neither a narrow transfer of knowledge nor a restriction to economically useful skills. Rather, competencies imply that the school cannot do what Bieri ascribes to the concept of education. He himself says it is "a value in itself, like love". The school can reflect ideas of love and give the opportunity for learners to develop their own: But it cannot make love. Just as little as education. "Everyone can only educate themselves," says Bieri, and he is right.

So as a teacher stiffening on the claim that you are committed to education, not training, is ultimately a denial of the school context in which you are. School can only develop skills - the only question is which skills are involved.

Andreas Pfister recently wrote the following about the usability of the humanities:

The humanities in particular have a much broader horizon than the current usability. They don't have to be a perfect match for economic demand, they have their own goals. That it is precisely this discrepancy, this supposed uselessness, which in turn leads to innovation and flexibility for the future, is a nice utilitarian punchline.

He's right about that. Significantly, he does not speak of uselessness, but of "supposed uselessness". The humanities make many important contributions to training and promote crucial skills. Anyone who wants to distance themselves from the fact that only economic demands determine the school should therefore not fall into the excuse, fortunately the humanities just turned in the void, but clearly state what they achieve.

In a contribution to the education of values ​​through literature lessons, Sabine Anselm provided an example that this requires highly differentiated considerations. However, these are to be expected of teachers at the grammar school. If the political imperative for saving in school and university education is to experience substantial resistance, such demarcations between complex and simple competencies are needed more frequently and in broader discussions:

In the field of values ​​education, this means that school is less about dealing with hard facts and more about ethical communication in the classroom. Instead of “conveying values”, justifications for values ​​are discussed and reflected upon. Have students learn to evaluate the standards that are being applied. On the one hand, this results in a paradox of values ​​education, which consists in the desire to educate people about the value of »problematizing values«. On the other hand, it is important to reflect on a fundamental dilemma so that value education is not understood as a remedy against pluralism. The question to be asked is how one does not end in arbitrariness in, with and under the conditions of a plural society, but without eliminating plurality. It is therefore important to guide the learners to form values ​​so that they do not lose themselves in indifference in a plural world in which all values ​​are equally valid.

(These considerations were initiated by Bob Blume's essay "A Sentence Formation." Theo Byland commented on them extensively.)