I worry about the way that many people think about education–if they bother to think about it at all. What got me started thinking about it was a podcast titled “Freakonomics Goes to College, Part 2,” which I listened to at the gym this morning (and you can find at the link). The podcast focused on assessing the economic value of a college education. As soon as I got home I checked out the dictionary definition of the word education, which is:
the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
Interestingly, though, there seems to be no consistent agreement, even among educators, about the purpose of education.
Philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote:
The central task of education is to implant a will and facility for learning; it should produce not learned but learning people. The truly human society is a learning society, where grandparents, parents, and children are students together.
Bill Beattie, a noted coach, has been quoted as saying:
The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think—rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.
I agree with Hoffer and Beattie that education’s primary purpose is not to provide job skills or knowledge so that people can earn more money. Education should transform us–it should change the way that we think about our world. Because education, done right, does so much more than add bits of knowledge to our repertoire. Education opens our minds to new and radically different ideas, to unlimited possibilities for both personal accomplishment and the advancement of mankind. Perhaps most importantly, Education is the opposite of Ignorance, and I fear Ignorance.
Ignorance breeds Intellectual Rigidity.
Intellectual Rigidity breeds Intolerance.
Intolerance breeds Hatred.
And if we can’t stop the rampant growth of Hatred in our world, Hatred will be the end of us. Education, by eradicating Ignorance, might be the best defense against the growth of Hatred.
The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.