Times of the Technoculture: From the Information Society to the Virtual Life

By Kevin Robins; Frank Webster | Go to book overview
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8

EDUCATION AS KNOWLEDGE AND DISCIPLINE

We noted in chapter three that it is today quite the conventional wisdom to emphasise the central significance of education in the 'information society'. Thinkers such as Robert Reich, Peter Drucker and Manuel Castells, and eminent politicians across the globe, reason that education is a requisite of success-even of survival-in this new world. The more ambitious politicians (and politicians are ambitious everywhere) consider that a high-quality education system is crucial to the achievement of their ambition to see their nations thrive, since 'symbolic analysts' occupy the upper reaches of the jobs hierarchy in informational capitalism. In the world today capacities such as analysis, conception, planning and communication are at a premium. If any nation is to capture a high proportion of these rewarding and well-paid positions, then its governments educational strategy is crucial to its ambitions for peace and prosperity. Even where nations have less grand goals, and one might suppose that there are a few which do, they must strive to produce a workforce which may operate in a 'network society', and this too calls for a response from the education system. Either way, the ability of education to produce the appropriate sort of 'human capital' is critical. Of necessity, then, it is to the forefront of any attempt to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 'information age'. There seems to be no escape from the fact that 'in the global economy of the 21st century it will be the skills, inventiveness and creativity of the workforce that will give companies-and nations-their competitive edge'. 1

Commentators frequently reflect in these terms on educational policies, evaluating them as positive or negative responses to the arrival of the 'information society' and its attendant stresses and strains. The recurrent theme here is one of education's capacity to adjust effectively to new economic challenges. From the premise that governments now have less opportunity to control their economies since these are not delimited by national borders, it follows logically that national well-being hinges on a country's capacity to win a disproportionate share of the world's most attractive jobs for its citizens. For this reason, Phil Brown and Hugh Lauder quite correctly write of 'global knowledge wars' 2 being fought between

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