Education vs. Culture

This week in English, we’ve pursued the idea of a conflict between education and culture, stemming from our discussion of the short story “Dead Men’s Path.” These ideas interested me and provided me with another perspective on the mini conflict.

In the story, Michael Obi, the zealous new headmaster of a small, village school, intent on pleasing his superiors and eradicating the so called backward beliefs presiding in the village, will stop at nothing to do so. When Obi finds a small ancestral path that happens to go through the school, he immediately erects a fence to discourage the villagers. The voice of compromise, the town priest, visits Obi and tries bargaining, but to no avail. Obi is set on his ideas of education and will not waver in favor of some cultural issue. And as always, pride comes before fall when the fence and adjacent building are attacked on the day of the school inspection by the angered villagers.

In our modern day world this debate is ongoing and prevalent when education is mentioned, especially in some of the more underdeveloped areas. The conflict between culture and progress in general, stains the pages of history. My favorite example is the Native Americans and their journey to the reserves. For the sake of expansion and “improvement”, the US imposed their modernization upon the “lesser” native culture. This example makes it seems like the focus should be on education and change. But our discussion begged the question, can the two coexist peacefully? Some said yes because education means learning and culture is learning about your identity and heritage. However others brought up the controversy of teaching evolution as opposed to creation as a counter example, clearly indicating that the balance could tilt any way.

Education and tradition have been butting noses for a while and the pendulum is still swinging. What do you think? I’d love to hear which side you’re leaning towards and why.

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