B. Russels Theory on Education and It's Use in the 21st Century

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B. Russels theory on education and it's use in the 21st century

It is quite true that Bertrand Russell's ideas on education are extensive. He attempted to pay attention to every detail of human nature and practical living in order to facilitate an educational system that would produce better social cohesion. From the perspective of the 21st century, however, his optimistic attitude towards the ability of education to change the ways in which human beings socially interact, coexist and co-operate has three major flaws. First, Russell's claim that one's will and one's intellect must cooperate presupposes a tremendous effort on the part of the individual; but it is questionable if each person desires to exert such an effort. The second defect lies in his optimism that each human being wants to change the state of harmony within the individual and hence the social cohesive nature of the community. The third problem is that Russell's educational system cultivates human beings into independent individuals but does not succeed in reconciling this individual independence with co-operative citizenship.

To highlight the first problem of Russell's education system it is necessary to mention three points: (a) Russell's optimistic view of human nature, (b) the problem in the balance between the will (desires) and intellect, which serves as Russell's main aim of education and the main solution to social problems,2and (c) the effort to balance these, if present at all, is usually short-lived (even when human beings are faced with mass destruction) and does not cause revolutionary change in the nature of social cohesion.

Russell's optimistic view of human nature can be brought to light through his writings on education. As stated by him the first question that needs to be answered before designing an educational system is: "What type of individual is going to be the result of this educational system?" Indeed Russell saw education as the key to structuring human character. For him, education was " the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world."3

An initial implication is Russell's belief that human nature is constructed. If he is to say that it is the 'formation' by means of 'instruction,' he is admitting to an ability to structure human nature.4 Furthermore, Russell maintains society needs to "have some conception of the kind of person we wish to produce, before we can have any definite opinion as to the education which we consider best."5 This is important because ultimately, they type of person formed by various educational systems will determine the kind of society we will have.

Unlike his predecessors in philosophy such as, Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau, Russell does not believe human beings to be innately bad or good. According to him, human beings have fundamental impulses. These impulses take two forms in each individual. The first of these is the "possessive impulses, which aim at acquiring or retaining private goods that cannot be shared; these center on the impulse of property."6 The second impulses are the "creative or constructive impulses, which aim at bringing into the world or making available for use the kind of goods in which there is no privacy and no possession."7 Of course, Russell holds the second impulse at a higher value towards the solution of humans' social problems. He does not feel that individuals should be rid of the possessive impulses. Nonetheless, he thinks that "the best life is the one in which the creative impulses play the largest part and the possessive the smallest."8 Indeed, what Russell thinks ought to be cultivated in human beings is clear: "strong creative impulses, overpowering and absorbing the instinct of possession; reverence for others; respect for the fundamental creative impulse in ourselves."9 Russell believes he can then set about constructing the type of educational system necessary to bring about these three...
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