Why educate? For cognitive development! We see ourselves as intelligent beings and therefore we see the need to use our intellect to acquire knowledge in support of cognitive development. Operationally education involves disseminating facts from within various subjects/disciplines and then testing for retention and recall, with the percent passing a test being the indicator of educational success.
Or could the reason to educate be to prepare people to be productive willing workers in the economy? Clearly an industrialized society does need workers to perform the work of society’s enterprises that require educated people. Here the view that we have an intellectual capacity for knowledge is the same but the relevance of the knowledge we acquire is aligned with the needs of business and industry—acquiring knowledge that is not directly useful for economic purposes is not valued.
So which is it?
Let’s Think About This
Before coming to a resolution let’s think more critically about this. Since instinct is not a major or dominant factor in our development, at birth we are the most helpless beings requiring a much longer period of parental guidance than other beings. Relative to how one’s life will unfold, relative to all other animals, very little is determined at birth.
More to the point, at birth we are born with a human brain with dimensions that are quite fixed, so we can’t grow our brains through education. But the same can’t be said about the human mind. The mind presents great opportunity for expansion. It can expand with the exploration of new ideas throughout life, if we allow our self the opportunity.
Not only because we can think—just as all other animals can—and but also because we are consciously aware, we have the unique capability of thinking about our own thinking. This capacity for awareness of self provides us with the potential to evolve beyond our position as the most intelligent animal on earth.
In light of this, if we think a bit more critically about ‘the why’ of education we will unavoidably be brought to the unquestionable truth that human beings must continually learn in order to remain viable and to develop throughout life. Is it that the intent of education is to facilitate people further developing as human beings?
Each person increases the likelihood that he/she will actualize his/her potential when he/she allows his/her mind to expand. So what must one do? Learn and continue to do so by continually improving one’s thinking.
In short, learning is integral to the development of a person throughout (his/her) life. Moreover, because we rely on learning far more than any other species, learning facts is not as helpful to our development as is learning how to learn and how to continually improve our thinking (one of the many benefits of critical thinking).
That is to say people must be unceasing learners and therefore they must learn how to learn and think at increasingly higher levels, if they are to improve their chances for success in an unknown future. If we are all capable of doing this, then no future challenge will be unmet! But if our educational experiences diminish the will to learn, then our fate is sealed.
So again let’s ask, why educate?
If the education experience provides people with the ability to recall all sorts of facts in a variety of categories then success on Jeopardy (the game show) is possible—otherwise there is little value to this. If we are provided skills that business/industry need then we will be useful in service to the interest of others, for a while.
But if people come through the education system with a greater love for learning than when they entered—and as young children we all naturally enter with a thirst for it—then the education system will have prepared them to continually learn and to be-in-the-world as an evolving human being. This unfolding of our (human) potential will enable us to meet unforeseen challenges and to create a future progressively better than the present.
As stated in a previous posting, a society of the people for the people and by the people necessitates a discerning public. Therefore we must take the education reformers to task for there to be a quality system of education that will prepare people to sustain the viability of a free and democratic society. A free society for generations to come depends on it!