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Pupils in a science class at Summerhill School in Suffolk, England. Summerhill will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2021. Photo by In Pictures Ltd/Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Education
Education, unchained

Rousseau’s child-centred ideals are now commonplace but his truly radical vision of educational freedom still eludes us

James Brooke-Smith

Berlin, Potsdamer Platz (1932) by Carl Grossberg. Photo by AKG-Images

Essay/
Education
The scholar’s vocation

A century ago, Weber both diagnosed the ills of the corporatised, modern university, and pointed out the path beyond it

Chad Wellmon

Plaque depicting warrior and attendants (16th-17th century), Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
Global history
Africa, in its fullness

The West focuses only on slavery, but the history of Africa is so much more than a footnote to European imperialism

Toby Green

The Memorial Hall, Harvard University, c1900. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Essay/
Education
Pluck versus luck

Meritocracy emphasises the power of the individual to overcome obstacles, but the real story is quite a different one

David Labaree

Artwork by G Clausen. Photo by SSPL/NRM/Pictorial Collection/Getty

Essay/
Education
Classics for the people

A Classical education was never just for the elite, but was a precious and inspiring part of working-class British life

Edith Hall

‘Aristotelian education, like its Platonic predecessor, is almost lifelong.’ In the reading room of Widener Library, Harvard University, 1974. Photo by Constantine Manos/Magnum

Essay/
Education
The well-educated person

If we took Aristotle seriously we would revolutionise our educational systems to enable citizens to learn throughout life

C D C Reeve

How much? The big, red Brexit bus. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty

Essay/
Mathematics
Citizens need to know numbers

A single statistic, or its misuse, can help upend a nation. Civic life depends on a basic level of statistical literacy

David Spiegelhalter

Warships in a Heavy Storm (c1695), by Ludolf Bakhuysen. Courtesy Rijksmusuem, Amsterdam

Essay/
History of science
When pirates studied Euclid

How did the sailors of early modern Europe learn to traverse the world’s seas? By going to school and doing maths problems

Margaret Schotte

Shaheen Qureshi works in Mumbai’s (Bombay) Wadala fish market by day and studies at night school (21 January 2009). Mumbai’s night schools date back to the 19th century, providing educational opportunity to the poor. Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
Bombay nights

In the night schools of Bombay, factory workers dreamed that literacy and learning would raise them to respectability

Arun Kumar

Photo by Frederick Florin/AP/Getty

Essay/
Teaching and learning
The growth mindset problem

A generation of schoolchildren is being exhorted to believe in their brain’s elasticity. Does it really help them learn?

Carl Hendrick

Graduating students of the City College of New York cheer during the commencement ceremony in the Harlem section of Manhattan, New York on 3 June 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Essay/
Education
Engines of democracy

Society will be much improved by loosening the stranglehold of top universities on the education of elites. But how?

Jennifer M Morton

Recently discovered prisoner writings on the wall of Lyon’s notorious Montluc prison from which résistant and historian Marc Bloch was taken and executed by the Nazis on the night of the 16 June 1944. A noted historian, Bloch wrote: ‘The task of the historian is understanding, not judging.’ Photo by Bony/AP/Rex

Idea/
History of ideas
The empathetic humanities have much to teach our adversarial culture

Alexander Bevilacqua

Photo by Gulfiya Mukhamatdinova/Getty

Essay/
Education
Gold among the dross

Academic research in the US is unplanned, exploitative and driven by a lust for glory. The result is the envy of the world

David Labaree

Photo by Chris Radburn/PA/Getty

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
The broad, ragged cut

Aptitude and IQ tests are used to distinguish those young people who deserve a chance from those who do not. Do they work?

Elizabeth Svoboda

Detail from a contemporary fake miniature, purporting to be from the 17th century, depicting Ottoman-era scholars observing the night sky through telescopes. Allegedly from the Istanbul University Library. Photo by DEA/Getty

Essay/
History of science
Forging Islamic science

Fake miniatures depicting Islamic science have found their way into the most august of libraries and history books. How?

Nir Shafir

Students at the University of California, Berkeley, attend graduation ceremonies amid protests against the Vietnam War c1968. Photo by Ted Streshinsky/Corbis/Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Education
A wild muddle

The ethical formation of citizens was once at the heart of the US elite college. Has this moral purpose gone altogether?

Chad Wellmon