Philosophy Bites: Meira Levinson on the Aims of Education

This episode of Philosophy Bites is about the philosophical goals of education -- the guest, Meira Levinson, has taught in public schools in Atlanta and Boston, often working with children of color living in poverty. Near the end of the podcast, she raises a problem with the educational narrative taught to these children about escaping poverty:

Insofar as my aim was to help each of my students achieve power over their lives, I also had to help the achieve power as a collective. ... We could not establish a goal of having each individual child escape his or her circumstances -- that that was a profoundly limiting goal, because it meant ... that the child was taught that in order to succeed, he or she had to leave his or her community behind. And so that experience transformed my thinking from just thinking about the individual to how I could help young people learn to work together to transform the communities in which they lived.

I answered a question a while ago about what Solarpunk education would be like -- my answer was basically the long-form version of “I don’t know.”  But this seems like a vivid example: Solarpunk education is about teaching kids about community, support, and building resistance to systematic adversity; it rejects the narrative that the oppressed should seek to relieve their suffering by pursuing unlikely accomplishments with the intent to leave their community behind them.

I can only talk so much on this topic, being a white person who grew up in a suburb, before I’m pretty hugely out of my depth, but I wanted to bring this podcast, and this idea, into the conversation.

(Philosophy Bites is a podcast featuring 15-20 minute interviews with contemporary philosophers dipping into very specific questions. I think it’s really accessible, if you’re looking to check out a philosophy podcast.)