Thursday, September 19, 2002

UNESCO – Just like you never left

The US has decided to rejoin UNESCO. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. All I can do is relate a personal anecdote about the organization that fancies itself the booster of global education.

A couple of years ago, I agreed to edit biographies of prominent thinkers in the field of education for UNESCO’s Bureau of Education. The biographies were to be published in a series entitled 100 Thinkers on Education. One day I was working on an Indian educational reformer whose name escapes me. Reading through the text I was to edit, I found this fellow to be less than inspiring. For the most part his ideas were copies – and often bad ones – of Rousseau’s thoughts on education.

Aware of my educational background in philosophy, my supervisor mentioned that I should find this particular Indian thinker quite interesting. I replied that I in fact found him rather dull, his work being little more than a watered-down version of Rousseau’s far more insightful treatment of the same topics in Emile. A few hours later, the supervisor e-mailed me saying he had asked around the offices of the Bureau of Education here in Geneva, but no one had ever heard of this book, Emile.

I complimented him on his democratic polling efforts and returned to my editing.


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