What educates a person?

By Mathias Maurer, June 2019

The so-called digital pact to promote digital learning in German schools has been agreed. The billions are flowing. The future of education is safe. The digital classroom is intended not just to make pupils compatible with Industry 4.0 but at the same time to put an end to teacher shortages and problems with learning.

Yet curiously, apart from the fact that the greatest detriment to learning is the time (for living) wasted online, there is no evidence whatsoever that digital equipment raises learning performance. The most recent Didacta education trade fair in Cologne appears to have ignored this completely under the motto “The education update”; and it shows without embarrassment who is the winner in this whole extravaganza: not the pupils, not the teachers, but the education industry. The finding is also noticeably concealed that the person of the teacher, that is, a living person of flesh and blood standing before the pupils, is the key to successful learning. 

In contrast, PISA head Andreas Schleicher sees undreamed of teaching, learning and methodological potential for pupils in the hype surrounding the digitalisation of teaching while the teachers, as virtual team players, rise to the peak of their full professional capacity and the school – because liberated by Google from the weight of having to impart knowledge – can turn its attentions once again to its core task, namely the training of moral, social and creative skills. But Schleicher here ignores that education specifically does not differentiate between knowledge and skills, neither is education a business model and learning an algorithmic function. The fear of parents is cleverly manipulated: “My child must not miss the boat!” 

To my knowledge the Struwwelpeter* brochures published by the German Association of Waldorf Schools are the only coherent media education concept building on a foundation based on the study of the nature of the human being which also accord with the latest neurological research.  In short, this foundation consists of the idea that analogue education is needed first to form the basis for the subsequent competent handling of digitalisation. A healthy development in childhood requires learning and educational experiences in the real world with all the human senses. 

Completely unresolved is the issue of the expansion of the 5G network as a result of digitalisation and the associated exposure of pupils and teachers to radiation; equally, how personal data are handled in the school cloud. 

Statements such as “Digital first – concerns second” are symptomatic of the level of political thinking. It is time for us to counter the digital pact with a human pact.** It is not money and technology that educate but a creative love of the human being. 

www.waldorfschule.de | ** www.eliant.eu

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