Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development

Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development

Education in the Age of the Network /Internet Age: Organization and Extremism? Or Adventure and Creativity?

Ibrahim Gharaibeh

By Ibraheem Gharaibeh, Jordanian writer and recent addition as a researcher to ARDD’s Renaissance Center

The simplest manifestations of the Networking/Internet age, especially in its "Fourth Industrial Revolution" phase, were the shift from hierarchical to networking or from central to decentralized, in which central or "centralized" areas such as media, education, religion and culture were most affected by the internet. Though the transformation of media seems to be the most apparent in this storm of transformations, education stands to face major challenges that are no less radical than the challenges of the media. In fact, education has been transformed by this storm already and we only need to recognize these transformations and their ends. As professions, businesses, and markets in their major transformations have put education and existing educational institutions face-to-face with its feasibility and meaning, and even extinction.

It was also possible (and logical) for the authorities and elites, in the light of the centrality they enjoyed, to design the system of learning and education in a manner that eliminates critical thinking, analysis and creativity, and disrupts philosophy, arts, literature, life skills, and social behavior.  Even critical and creative thinking courses, creative writing, philosophy, theater, arts, and literature were taught with a hostility to actual thought, creativity, philosophy, arts, and literature.  This is in part because, simply and clearly, schools and universities were established towards goals and objectives that are independent of teaching and learning in their original and pure narratives. They were established to organize citizens and raise them according to the goals and interests of the dominant elites, and at best to enable countries and societies to educate and control social actors, so schools in their founding narrative aim at organizing and socializing and moralizing, and school education aims to build skills and attitudes that promote the interests of elites, markets, communities, and all their needs.

Historically, universities have evolved according to the interests and aspirations of three dominant groups: the religious establishment; markets, companies; and trade unions that need professionals and technicians; and the aristocratic class to learn arts, philosophy, and history.

When universities expanded in the teaching of literature, art and philosophy in the Arab world, their aim was not the formation of philosophers, writers, and artists, as this didn't happen in the natural sciences and technology, instead this expansion’s aim was to  adhere to a social direction to emulate the elites and aristocrats but because these elites have been decomposed and lost their ability to inspire, and have often , especially in the Arab world, formed around the distortions and collapses of markets and societies of the fugitives and opportunists, and have also centered and the extension of moneylenders and collectors and taxpayers and agents of foreign companies and followers of extinct elites, studies, and preoccupations of philosophy, literature, arts, poetry, and music that have, of course, degenerated as much as the elites themselves degenerate and transform.

Today, education is facing two completely contradictory options: responding to and adapting to new business and priorities derived primarily from creativity, initiative and adventure, which means sacrificing educational elites, business leaders, and professionals that are facing the inevitability of extinction; the second option is for the elites to lead in the lost time to more fear and failure. Which can be inferred today by increasing cases of extremism and chauvinism, and even when nations appear to be strong and prosperous, is that the rise and dominance of radical extremism points to challenges and weaknesses that have yet to be clearly demonstrated or a self-destructive tendency that is naturally accompanied by force and prosperity, as something always leads to what is against it.

It is not surprising to repeat that extremism is not only religious extremism, and that religious extremism is not only Islamic extremism, but that patterns of non-religious, national, ethnic or class-based extremism are more lethal to nations than religious extremism. It is also necessary to realize that the nation means the interactive totality of communities, groups, individuals, and authorities in a given State. Today, it is necessary to liberate the term from its trans-national concept because the traditional structures of the authorities, communities, and individuals in the age of the internet are no longer and will not be mingled together, but transforms (are transformed) into distinct entities that need new organization of their relationships and partnerships, and for education in its formative stage it is necessary to think about building clear institutional partnerships between individuals, families, communities, cities, and central authorities.