Constitutional Debates and Educational Structure

Recently I’ve been learning about the Federalist debates that took place in the USA in the late 1700s. This was the quite passionate and deeply detailed discussion that lead the USA to ratify the Constitution in such a way that shifted the balance of power away from the individual states and more to the collective country. Incredible thinkers on both sides of the issue stated their cases for and against more centralized government structure in a series of papers that eventually convinced the population, who seemingly were majorly non-federalist, to go the route of collective. There’s a sense in this debate that these statesmen were practically applying their ideas in a situation they knew was bigtime. They were constructing a country with incredible potential, and basing it on centuries of example and precedent, not something that happens every lifetime. These were lucky people, and they rose to the challenge. It’s absolutely fascinating.

What is striking to me in this debate is how much it has in common with current innovation and emerging issues about education. There seemed to be continual points that made the connection for me. The wide-angle view of the federalist issue, to me, was a debate about the individual vs the collective. Or, even simpler, about moving between two levels of distinction. The issue at hand was where most of the power in government would lie: at the collection of states, or at the state level itself. In education we see this commonly now in balancing things like autonomous learning, individual goals and even cultural ideas between the more collective concepts of blanket course design, subject matter, and best practices. It’s Education vs Learning. Structure vs Individual.

A great stand-out quote I came across is when Hamilton states (in an argument for pro-federalism, even) that necessities will grow to resources. It’s a brilliant example of the way the federalists seem to ride their criticisms and just go with what exists rather than fight it. However, it also made me think of academia, and the growing monster of citations, certifications, awards, references, badges, prestige and red-tape that kind of clutter the industry. Are they needed, or have they just grown simply because educated people are becoming more numerous and knowledge is piling up? Because they can? I dunno, I tend to like these big scale metaphors and tend to find a lot of insight from pulling back to compare what cross-subjects share in common.

Maybe the most interesting insight I had, though, was in considering how this debate and Education differ, and in the nature of structure. For a government to succeed, the constitutional structure needs to be quite solid, sturdy. There are issues of money, policy making and justice that can’t really serve the people unless they are set in a uniform way. There’s an aspect of fairness. In education, learning isn’t as dependent on fair or level structure. I would argue that structure is needed, and is inherently a part of the word education, just not uniformly like in running a country of collected independent states. There’s no issue of fairness or diving up up collected funds. Maybe there’s no issue of estate or property to contend with, either. Structure can evolve differently for each learner under identical subject matters. The idea of Non-Essential Structure, or Non-Uniform Structure is one of the amazing developments in this era of education. It’s a powerful idea, I think, but perhaps a difficult one to balance. The United States needed a golden age of thinkers to grapple with this balance. And, in many cases now, learners have the ability to test their own balance between themselves and their involvement with a larger structure. 

As an aside, here’s a nice catalog I just found of some pro-federalist papers in audio format.


One thought on “Constitutional Debates and Educational Structure

  1. I seldom write comments, but i did some searching and wound up here Constitutional
    Debates and Educational Structure A Point of Contact. And
    I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it seem like some of these remarks come across like they are written by brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are posting at other online social sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you make a list of all of all your communal pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?


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