Volume:7, Issue: 3

Dec. 15, 2015

Child-adult communities and educational production
Grigoryev, Dmitry V. [about]

KEYWORDS: consumerist society, consumerization of education, loss of a social education function in the educational system, child-adult communities, child-adult educational production.

ABSTRACT: The authors argues that the only adequate answer of the education system to the challenges of the current consumerist society, which reduces an individual to the level of a “dream machine”, is a shared creative-productive activity of children and adults based on the principals of high-tech production, self-administration, social enterprise, and social service.


We live in a consumerist society. Infinitely increasing production, consumption, and the so-called material wellbeing have been declared the purpose of a human life within this society model. Such society is global, supranational. Its supporters state, “Homeland is where you can live a good life.” Inhabitants of the consumerist society are more preoccupied with the quality of life rather than with its meaning. The issues they see are not “why and what I live for” but only “how I live.”

The consumerist ideology has chosen youth as the most pliable social group and demanded its full-scale consumerization (turning young people into followers of a consumerist civilization and into proponents of the utilitarian-hedonistic outlook). A young person is not, even for a second, given an opportunity to fall out of the consumerist system; all his/her identities, except for the customer identity, are erased, his/her individual freedom is paralyzed, and s/he is turned into an attachment to goods (computers, cell phones, music hits, bestsellers, blockbusters, etc.) becoming an obedient “things-addict” (the term was coined by Sekatsky, a modern Russian philosopher) [1].

The expansion of the consumerist ideology fueled by mass culture leads to a deformation of almost all tools and mechanisms of socialization, including education system. Consumerization of education (i.e., its transformation into another institute and mechanism of the consumerist society) causes two types of consequences. 

The first type is connected with the loss of the educational function of schools, which turns education system into an institute to produce consumers. The resulting consumer may be identified as having poor functional knowledge, lack of independence, and a limited utilitarian mindset. When education is seen as a service, then there comes a feeling that a student receives it automatically (like a purchase at the store), and does not have to put any effort in making it happen.

Consequences of the second type are connected with the loss of the social education function of schools. Out of three key positions a student can hold while being at school (“a student of his teachers”, “a citizen of the school” (a subject of the child-adult educational community) and “a citizen of the society”, – the first, the position of “a student”, becomes aggressively dominant. The school environment expands when educational forms and content (in a rather simplified manner) take over both in-school and out-of-school social environments. Extreme impact of instruction on social education or as Karakovsky would call it, over lessoning of social education,  [2] thrives. Even the titles provided could speak volumes:  a lesson of courage, a lesson of ethics, a lesson of tolerance, etc. Such lessons are offered to students instead of placing them in real-life situations where they would be able to behave in courageous and moral ways. Management skills are taught in various “self-government bodies” instead of practical activities where children could take up leadership positions. Participation in social and educational projects is replaced by classes, which teach how to design and present such projects. Instead of doing and ‘learning by doing’, children are being taught without any opportunity to apply their skills in practice.

The loss of the social education function in the context of prevailing consumerist frame of mind and its settings leads to the increase of deviant juvenile behavior and an overall decrease of labor motivation and performance.

Meanwhile, it is no secret that most modern children and teenagers are able to participate in the real life of the society (their activities in social nets could serve as a solid proof for it). However, it is not the case, primarily due to the fact that the society does not feel the need of children’s contribution in solving their real-life problems. This process is also hampered by the absence of social technologies that could enable us to benefit from such a contribution, analyze and incorporate it in the decision-making process.

Modern prevailing technologies and practices are those of the individualized child support and dyadic “child-adult” interaction. They have put aside the fundamental thesis of Russian educational tradition stating that apart from the powerful influence of the teacher’s personality on the child’s development, there is also the power of the community – a group of peers, younger and older children as well as adults whose influence is vital for the child. It is the existing child-adult unity (in the form of small groups, teams, collectives, etc.) that presents the genuine space for the initial formation of essential human capacities which allow a young man or woman to become an active leading power in his/her own life (Slobodchikov) [3]. Indeed, child-adult communities possess a unique potential to renovate our social life.

The way out of young people’s infantilism and consumerization is to stop using traditional (and, in fact, consumerist) methods and forms of social education (pre-arranged, verbally-demagogic, amusement-oriented, etc.) and asserting creative, community-based methods and forms of social education, including, what we believe, the ultimate cultural form – the child-adult educational production [4].

It may sound like a simple idea: if we do not want the overall immoderate and all-absorbing consumption to affect our children’s development, the latter should somehow be producers and creators. What can be produced by children together with adults? Goods, services, and information. Production can be technical (workshops, laboratories, stations, etc.) and liberal (editorial boards, societies, projects teams, etc.). But can production help if it is totally oriented towards constantly increased mass consumption?

The answer may be yes, but only if we imagine, or, as philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis [5] put it, fancy a different, unconventional form of production (and it is not really important whether it will be technical or liberal).

Not every activity or work built in the system of socio-economic relations contributes to social education. Makarenko emphasizes the fact that it is not labor that is a key in social education, that is, neither a certain sequence of actions, leading to a particular result (that is “labor-work”) nor an acquisition of skills and knowledge required for this work  (that is “labor-training”, teaching labor). Only labor that is oriented towards caring when young people feel their responsibility for the world, other people and themselves [6].

Also, only “model  labor” can be socially educative (A.S. Makarenko). That means the kind of labor where organization and content are perfect at a given period of time. If we start a child-adult choir, it should be based on the solutions worked out by the best modern professional choirs. If we set up a child-adult joiner's shop, it should function like the best joiner's shops in the world. If we have established a child-adult editorial board of a newspaper or a magazine, our editions should be the best in the world.

At the same time, “model labor” is to be profitable, if not not in the economic sense of the word, then at least, in social matters (in terms of public recognition of labor results, moral encouragement and support for laborers).

Since the type of production under consideration is educational, i.e., it forms certain values and competencies, it must include not only advanced production technologies and profitability, but also the following:

- Creativity in labor (not so much spontaneous insights but a systematic creation of something new);

- Production game;

- Production self-governance;

- In-service training.

Thus, child-adult educational production is a child-adult community where children have leading administrative and executive roles, which allows them to take part directly in organizing exemplary labor and activities as well as describe, plan and design them. In such a union adults take the most difficult and important work as well as coordinating and consulting functions upon themselves; meanwhile, all of them, regardless of their profession, are valuable mentors.

Technological basis of child-adult educational production consists of the following components:

1.  A cluster of advanced production technologies (according to the area of occupation).

2.  A cluster of educational technologies which turn a child-adult production community into a place for teaching and social education as well as intergenerational cooperation (experience shows that game and project technologies are of particular importance).

3.  Social and management technologies which provide self-administration and self-regulation of a child-adult collective.

4.  A set of marketing, financial and economic solutions which ensure social and economic (where possible) profitability of production.

Thus, a child-adult educational production is a highly productive social and pedagogical innovation, for it is not limited to “the little world of school” but bringss students into real life social and economic relationships and begins the process of creation for public benefit.

In this case, a school photo and video workshop turns into a photo and video studio, which provides services for the local community. A small school publishing facility and an editorial board become a child-adult publishing house which takes both inside and outside orders. Senior students’ liberal research groups are united into a child-adult sociological service to study public opinion in the local area. A school museum becomes a community center with a system of open public events and special interactive programs for the local community. A team of senior students develops into a child-adult educational service working with younger children in daycare groups. A school designer club transforms into a design firm and helps teachers, parents and local residents to improve their houses and environment. A computer club becomes a child-adult web design and IT support center. This list of examples and scenarios can be continued.

A school can host a theme park of child-adult educational production (liberal and technical). If the school has connections with research centers, there is a possibility of creating child-adult scientific educational production [7].

It is vital for the child-adult production to gradually switch from the hierarchy of management to child-adult self-administration based on initiative, rotation of executive positions, openness in public debates, and equally distributed responsibility.

In conclusion, we would like to note that powerful social educational potential of the child-adult educational production is determined by: 

  • The content and nature of business, interpersonal and inter-age communication in the process of productive work;
  • The necessity for an individual to make decisions and take the responsibility (in production and in management);
  • Community and personal significance and value of the product;
  • the necessity for the subject to design, plan, create, analyze and forecast his work;
  • The aesthetics of a highly organized and highly technological work;
  • Labor discipline understood as a voluntary self-restriction during the labor process;
  • The spirit of cooperation in joint activity.

The child-adult educational production is a fusion of “pedagogy of business” and “pedagogy of relationships”. It is a real life environment of responsible care demonstrated by children and adults. It does not abuse altruism or enthusiasm (as used to be the case with many Soviet initiatives) but presents a mutually developing practical cooperation of children and adults based on the principles of social service, social enterprise, and technological effectiveness.

Finally, the child-adult educational production is an innovation which originated in Russia and will help us return the leading positions in world education and youth policy. And in this way we might see light at the end of the tunnel known as the consumerist society.


References

  • Sekatsky A. Dezertiry s Ostrova Sokrovishch [Deserters from the treasure island]. – Saint Peterburg, 2006. – 348 p.
  • Karakovsky V. A. Vospitanie dlya vsekh [Social education for everyone]. – М., 2008. – 240 p.
  • Slobodchikov V. I., Isaev E. I. Psihologiya razvitiya cheloveka [Human development psychology]. – М., 2013. – 400 p.
  • Kushnir A. M., Ilaltdinova E. Yu. Shkolnyy mini-tekhnopark i detsko-vzrosloe obrazovatelnoe proizvodstvo: ponyatiyno-sushchnostnyy aspekt [School mini-technopark and child-adult educational production: notionally-semantic aspect] // Narodnoe education, 2012, №4.
  • Kastoriadis K. Dreyfuyushchee obshchestvo [Drifting society]. – М., 2012. – 328 p.
  • Nevskaya S. S. Vospitanie grazhdanina v pedagogike A. S. Makarenko [Social education of a citizen in the pedagogical system of A. S. Makarenko]. – М., 2006. – 1040 p.
  • Moskovskaya shkola budushchego: Albom [Moscow school of the future: the Album]. – М., 2007. – P.45-55.




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