by Somaiya K. Padilla
Editorial Note This blog has been written by a finalist of the Blog Wars event organised the PeaceX. The writing prompt, "As Adam Smith, write an essay on the topic 'The Digitalisation Of Education: A boon or a bane'", was created from a writing prompt generator to allow participants to step into the minds of the most famous and influential of international personalities, and recreate their vision on contemporary issues. We encourage you to read, like and share your favourite posts, which can be found here! Happy reading, Blog Wars Organising Team
When the circumstances are bleak and the opportunities are compromised, what are the odds of optimizing what is left? When education has been jeopardized, and the norms have entirely reversed, how much more until the silver lining is reached? A thunderbolt of shock and grief has electrified the entire globe when the CoVid-19 pandemic emerged and shifted entire norms and standards that we have been so accustomed to. Apart from the countless aspects of crisis that emanated from this global health emergency, one of the most fundamental pillars of societal progress and development has been halted, and that is none other than the pillar of education. It is a known fact that the attainment of education serves as an integral part to an individual’s life, hereby serving as a foundation upon which greatness is built. Knowledge acquisition leads to victory, whereas ignorance leads to failure. In the current context, however, with the whirlwinds of change that has replaced traditional learning, online education has drastically taken over. The pandemic has resulted in the unprecedented closure of university facilities, affecting millions of students worldwide. The abrupt conversion of teaching and learning activities to virtual modalities was deemed necessary to maintain academic courses while avoiding crowding and the potential for infection spread. Through this, controversies have been raised; specifically the debate whether online education is a boon or bane. This controversy will be the primary focus of this magnification, in an attempt to perceive matters in the lens of Adam Smith.
As an 18th-century economist, philosopher, and the father of modern economics, Smith held the ideology that one should attain education in a manner that befits a holistic approach, instead of purely being centered on academic excellence. Being equipped with information about sciences alone is not sufficient. Rather, wisdom and morality should be acquired and inculcated within a person in order for society to pave the path towards progress. In the pursuit of a well-rounded character, what better way for one to hone himself than embark in the halls of university, socialize with people from all walks of life and instill the value of courage and independence? The price of wisdom exceeds the Ivy League Institutions and surpasses any fleeting material. Wisdom commences when we undertake a journey and bask in the cycle of triumphs and failures that shape who we are and who we aspire to be. The children in their daycare classrooms playing with their classmates, and the teenagers from high school in the library crumbling in pressure, but studying together in solidarity. These are the treasures that the realm of technology could not provide. Experiences. Memories. The splendor of diverse cultures uniting in pursuit of knowledge and the harnessing of minds. The world becomes dull when we are too lost and absorbed in front of a screen, subtly drifting away from the reality and the world that is in front of us. This was a pivotal advocacy that Smith stood by; more than the formal institutions, and the prestigious organizations, education is attained when we transcend our social boundaries and realize that there is more to life than mere books and examinations. Hence, if the entire concept of education will succumb in digitalization, we may as well have become lifeless robots devoid of empathy and authentic human experiences.
Another prominent stance taken by Smith is his endearment towards the constant furnishing of one’s moral compass. Having mentioned that education is a social experience, Smith was distinctly assertive in his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” that a nonnegotiable component of education is acquiring the values that will serve lanterns of guidance not only in our prospective careers, but will also help us navigate the right direction when it is our time to serve humanity. Prudence is a keystone in the entire equation, as the ability to determine right and wrong is critical. Self-control is also regarded as indispensable. One has to learn to regulate his internal world in order to make beneficial impact towards the external world. A sense of justice, on the other hand, is also necessitated in the whole quest of education, considering this aspect will either make or break the backbone of society. What good will education do if we are governed by notorious individuals whose platforms and values and platforms have been tainted by corruption? These values, then, are taught, sought, and acquired. Humanity will never be victorious in eradicating the era of ignorance and immorality if our education is solely being received through the screen, trapped in the comforts of our homes, barely experiencing real-world moments that can spark a developmental revolution.
As a final gem to untangle Adam Smith’s philosophical perspectives in regards with education, Smith was an adamant proponent towards the notion that education should be accessible to all, regardless of economic status, racial distinctions, and other factors. As outlined in his Wealth of Nations, he is a firm supporter of public education, with partial contributions for those who can afford it. Smith argued for universal education because he believed that it would mitigate the negative effects of division of labor on workers, and thus education had to be accessible to all. If we magnify this concept, it demonstrates that equality should be maintained in all spheres of society, most notably education, regardless of individual circumstances. Laborers are those who devote a significant portion of their lives to work in order to support their families and, in a broader sense, society. The irony, on the other hand, should perplex us: they receive a meager wage despite their tireless efforts. It is a disgrace to society that those who rely on us for basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing are placed at the bottom of the social hierarchy and have the least access to education. We are lackadaisical of the fact that they should be the ones that are commended, and the very least we could do is provide them with a means of acquiring the fundamental knowledge that will aid them in their daily lives. However, the digitalization of education will impede this entire concept, as the financial prerequisites of e-learning are significantly higher than those of a traditional setting.
Now that the points have been established, it is rightfully deserving to tackle the question that has been lingering in our minds: Is education a Boon, or a Bane? Seeing things in the perspective of the father of economics, the clear answer would be neither. While this particular response may elicit feelings of confusion, rattling, and paranoia, it is critical to examine the circumstances surrounding a situation before arriving at the best, and fittest, response. Why aren't we able to see clearly and recognize something? The era where we reside in today is a technological era, and the inevitable blossoming of advancements leaves us with no choice but to embrace the sophistication and the convenience that it has tremendously brought humanity. And with the wake of the horrifying pandemic that left us no choice but to adapt electronically, the best course of action we could take was to transition to online learning. The pandemic's circumstances necessitated that we adapt digitally.
To wrap things up, it is not a controversy of whether digital education is a boon or a bane. Because as much as Adam Smith favored traditional, social education, what he favored far more is a prosperous society that is perpetually in the trajectory of progress as humanity. Therefore, the digital aspects of education and its efficacy will surely retain, but that will only be triumphant if we combine it with the traditional setting of universities, and interactions with fellow individuals. At the end of the day, we are a generation of the 21st century. We are a product of universities, and classrooms, and libraries, but we are far more sophisticated because our education has been blessed and made more efficient through the pursuit of technology. We are a hybrid of technological prowess and the traditional style of acquiring knowledge, and this is what distinguishes us as a successful generation that utilizes the best of both worlds.