Education for Economic Life: The Role of Communicative Action
by Ben Endres - 2006
This article addresses the tension between the need to prepare students for functional activity in organizations on the one hand, and the need to instill dispositions and competencies that transcend these determinate roles on the other. I take for granted that schools must fulfill both tasks, and I suggest that they are failing at the latter in part because these social and moral purposes of education have not been constructively developed in relation to its economic aims. I first use Max Weber's theory of social action to explain the role of functional activity in modern schooling and society. I then argue that a qualified form of Jürgen Habermas's theory of communicative action can provide a meaningful connection between functional activity and the kinds of participatory, open interactions and relationships that progressive educators seem to prioritize. I argue that communicative action plays a crucial role in a wide range of organizational contexts, even those that involve narrow functions within strict hierarchies. Communicative action thus shows how progressive educational ideals are relevant for work life, regardless of one's place in the economic hierarchy. It also exposes the common ground beneath a range of progressive ideals. I conclude by showing how the role of communicative action in functional work may motivate reform in the practices of teaching and learning.
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