Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is that he who would act the angel, acts the brute.
It is surprising that Angel - with its inclusion in the syntopicon a surprise - should not only be relevant, but a fundamental idea in education. It reveals our ontological understanding, assumptions and ideals of what it means to be human. I.e. What does it mean to be a human being? Consequently, our philosophy of education and its purpose is directed by it.
The idea of Angel also reveals our view of reality. Is its existence confined to our perceptions or is there a reality beyond our senses? Put simply, if angels exist, what are they made of? If angels are intelligent beings with incorporeal bodies, it follows that knowing, understanding and wisdom cannot be reduced to physical, chemical and biological processes. It's an important consideration as pedagogies moves towards being 'empirically based' and 'data driven'.
While angels may seem out of date, the idea of beings above that of humans remains essentially intact. In contemporary times, aliens and comic superheroes have replaced angels; modern expressions of the ideal society and its citizens.
Education is the only means that assures the future existence of a society and its inhabitants. Thus, it is also a highly contested space; while everyone wants to leave a better future for the next generation, there is little agreement about what a better future means.
What is the ideal human being? The idea of Angel forces us to examine our understanding of reality and ontology. Without a clear answer to both, it is likely that education will be shaped by circumstances and fads. Consider how the popularity of critical and creative thinking has risen alongside the change from an industrial economy to a globalised knowledge-based economy. When the ideal human is made clear, it is much easier to clarify the ideal education, and subsequently the role of parents, the school and society in achieving that aim.