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Wasted: Why Education Isn't Educating [Hardcover]

Frank Furedi
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Sep 2009 1847064167 978-1847064165 1
Furedi turns his attention to the education system, skilfully analyzing current processes and providing a way forward. Never has so much attention been devoted to education - and the problems with it. Yet we rarely ask why everyone from the government to parents continually obsess about it. Why are we so constantly worried about it? Why do so many of the solutions proposed actually make matters worse? Tony Blair's 'education, education, education' slogan ensured it remained at the forefront of political agendas. However, the more education is talked about the clearer it becomes that education is not considered as a value in its own right. It is praised for its potential contribution to economic development, as a central instrument for encouraging social inclusion and mobility. Increasingly, the promotion of education has little to do with learning as such. This book is a brilliant piece of analysis. No one from Piaget to David Cameron is safe from Furedi's criticism.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; 1 edition (25 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847064167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847064165
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 14.4 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 437,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Furedi build his case methodically and argues it carefully, if not elegantly. He supports it with quotes (shrewdly selected, sometimes repeated) from politicians and educationalists ... the analysis rings true, as does Furedi's defence of a subject-based curriculum and a philosophy of education that recognises the duty of one generation to impart a canon of knowledge to the next. --The Observer

'[A] penetrating critique.' --Family Bulletin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Frank Furedi is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He is the author of numerous books including Invitation to Terror and Paranoid Parenting, all published by Continuum.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Furedi argues in Wasted that the primary function of education is the intergenerational transmission of information about the world in which our young will shortly have to make their way. In the light of this criterion, he judges that the British education system has been diverted from its true purpose by a well-meaning alliance of politicians from all parties and education specialists who have embraced a therapeutic model of education. For Furedi, this means that, paradoxically, at a time when education has never been more central to political discourse, and education commands a greater fraction of national expenditure than ever before, the purely educative function of education has never been so marginalised, nor has the authority of teachers per se ever been lower.

In the author's view, the British education system is now being used inappropriately as a vehicle for theories of child socialization and personal fulfilment that lack a convincing evidential base. At best, all that can be achieved by these means is some degree of mitigation of the harm caused by serious underlying social problems that are not being tackled directly. At worst, Furedi argues that this approach has had serious unintended results: purely academic educational outcomes are poorer; teachers find themselves unconfident and deprived of the authority rooted in subject knowledge that allows them to be effective educators; and even the acknowledged social-engineering agendas - such as a reduction in the degree of inequality of educational attainment between children of different classes - are not achieved.

The real value of this book seems to me to be twofold.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading even if you don't have kids 8 Jan 2010
In a nutshell, Furedi argues that school reformers have abandoned their original agenda of making the academic, subject-based education previously only available to the offspring of a moneyed elite available to all, in favour of a blatant exercise in social engineering, accompanied by low expectations and philistinism. While this movement has intensified under the Labour government, Furedi is careful to point out that it's roots can be found in the 19th century, when universal education was first introduced. Furedi argues that education has become politicised, substituting the transmission of 'values' (i.e. whatever 'values' happen to be fashionable) for the transmission of knowledge; furthermore, that the vogue for 'child-centred learning' is more about a loss of adult authority than about engaging children in education.

Many of the themes in this book will be familiar to readers of Frank Furedi's other books, such as The Culture of Fear, Therapy Culture, or Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone - in particular the breakdown of authority in the West, or the infantilisation of adults. Admirers of Hannah Arendt's work will also find a lot to admire Furedi's books (he cites her frequently).

Yes, Furedi is a Marxist, however don't let that put you off. There *is* an implicit political impulse to his writing, but it is remarkably liberating (and libertarian). He points the way toward a political alternative that we *could* have, but currently don't - largely, in my opinion, because of the poor intellectual calibre and sheer moral cowardice of our political elites.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wasted opportunity 2 Jan 2010
By jsm
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book argues that the politicisation of education has undermined its true mission and that education must now be allowed "to discover its future direction for itself" (206). Education, which should be about the transmission of intellectual and cultural achievements from one generation to another, has been hijacked by politicians bent on using it to re-engineer society. Teachers have been elbowed aside by managers, behavioural experts, and social workers, and their authority (and so ability to do their job) has been undermined. Under the influence of these 'outsiders', traditional subject knowledge-based education has been replaced by child-centred learning to the detriment of all. The expansion of testing and league tables and the inflation of paper qualifications has led to a lot more education but of much poorer quality. All of this has been made worse by an erosion of adult authority generally.
I'm sympathetic to many of these arguments and the book's questioning of much of the rhetoric that surrounds education is welcome. But it falls down badly on its own mission -- it is scathing about the poor quality of much of what is being taught in classrooms, yet it is itself poorly argued. Professor Furedi makes a reasonably good job of attacking the weaknesses of the current consensus, but fails to ask hard questions about the positions he himself is advocating. This, for a senior academic (he's Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury), is depressing. It may be, for instance, that subject knowledge-based education should lie at the heart of education, but it is a case that has to be argued rather than a proposition that can simply be asserted.
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