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Spoltore Francesco, The Federalist - 1 gennaio 1994
The future of schools.


by Franco Spoltore

The Federalist, 1994, Number 1


The challenge of the scientific and technological revolution.

All over the world school is at the centre of a process of profound social and institutional transformation. This process began at least twenty years ago, when the first effects of the scientific and technological revolution, and of the internationalisation of the economy, manifested themselves in industrialised countries. The education system inherited from the industrial mode of production and from the nationalistic formulation of education policies is simply marking time in the face of growing unemployment, increased leisure and the importance of the growing circulation of information compared to the production of material goods. The system which in the course of the previous century favoured the progressive mass schooling of industrial societies, affirming a model of instruction subordinated to productive needs and raison d'état, is now proving increasingly inadequate, not only for the generations who are facing the world of work for the first time, but also for those who need to retrain professionally,

or to raise their level of education. Faced with this challenge, neither the decentralised and mixed (public, private) school systems (the Anglo-Saxon type) nor the centralised systems (the Napoleonic type) are able to solve the contradiction which has come about between the educational values to which the school is always obliged to refer, and the content which it must import.

The challenge of leisure.

We are entering an age in which a new conception of time dedicated to work and time dedicated to leisure is being established, yet state education policies are still modelled on the basis of the requirements of the Taylor-Ford mode of production.

With the spread of the scientific mode of production, work can no longer be evaluated in relation to man-machine yield per hour.1 The new touchstone of civilisation has become free time. Production becomes efficient to the extent that it frees man from dedicating himself to material production at the expense of planning, projecting, control and information management. In this context, truly productive employment is that which increases the average level of education and training in society, so as to multiply the opportunities to exploit and improve scientific and technological innovations, and not that which aims at the exploitation of labour. In a situation in which progress in productivity can be achieved without increasing the number of jobs, and in which in any case the more advanced countries cannot compete with the developing countries in mass production with minimal labour costs, school often is the scapegoat for intellectual unemployment according to this criticism there are too many young people stu

dying with respect to the actual requirements and for the national economies lack of competitiveness. But is it really necessary to limit access to education?

In the first few decades of the nineteenth century, the average worker or peasant succeeded in increasing his productivity by 0.3% every year. At the end of the century, productivity for these groups grew six times as fast.2 With the current rates of annual increase in productivity (about 3%), it should already be possible in most of Europe to reduce the working week to four days without any diminution of goods produced. If this has not happened yet, it is because politics and the economics have not yet succeeded in adjusting to the profound change in the mode of production which we see today. The crisis in school is thus rooted in the crisis in politics and the economics. While in traditional industrial development, school and education as a rule represented a specific moment, limited in time, in the educational process of individuals, in the current phase of development based on intensive recourse to science and technology, education has become a permanent element in the new mode of production. It must bec

ome, in other words, the instrument through which to reconcile specialisation, which is necessary to maintain contact with technological progress (but not really educational in the wider sense), with a solid cultural, humanistic and scientific foundation (which is necessary to refine ones capacities and to cultivate individual creativity). Our society no longer faces the dilemma of whether to accept a general reduction in the standard of living in the name of a better distribution of wealth, choosing to maintain production methods that contradict the necessary search for competitiveness, or whether to promote the wealth and comfort of a minority. The new dilemma of modern society is rather the choice between adapting institutions to the scientific mode of production, seeking to make the most of all human resources, or keeping alive obsolete productive and educational models.

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