By Matěj Baťha (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Let’s start today’s post with a definition.  Again.  Because in case you hadn’t noticed, I love words.  (I’ll only list the definitions I want to focus on.)

ESSAY:

  1. an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.  (n)
  2. Obsolete . a tentative effort; trial; assay.  (n)
  3. to try; attempt.  (v)
  4. to put to the test; make trial of.  (v)

Understanding these definitions really changed the way I looked at the essay form of writing.  But I’m not talking about essays today.  Nor am I talking about the euphonium, which was another option that came to mind when I started stressing about what I want to blog about.

Why am I stressing about blogging on Education?  Because it is one of those subjects that people get defensive about, and when people get defensive, they also tend to get nasty.  And I don’t like nastiness.  To avoid this (hopefully) I am starting with two things.

First, a plea that if you want to comment (which I would love you to do, even if you disagree with me!  I love discussion and hearing other points of view.) you do so civilly.  Stick to presenting your own perspective in a positive way, and please, no personal attacks.  (I have a whole post on civil discourse, but it’s not up yet, so let’s see if we can get along without all the guidelines being spelled out.  If it gets nasty, I’ll simply delete comments, and close it down if I have to.)

Second, a brief list of things to keep in mind as you read the rest of my post(s).  (That is plural because I suspect that this will not be the only post I ever make on education.)

  1. I do not hate public, private, or parochial education.  I do not advocate the destruction of the Department of Education or the education system.
  2. I revere teachers.  They are, generally, amazing people faced with an unbelievably difficult task who, generally, do a darn good job.  I even respect administrators and lawmakers who, I believe, are really trying, generally, to make the system work as well as possible, and who take care of a lot of the necessary stuff so teachers can teach.  I realize that there is contention between these different groups, but I’m not getting involved in that.  I respect each group’s contribution.

That being said, I will definitely say things that challenge the status quo of education in the US (and anywhere else that uses a similar system to educate their children, which is basically everywhere.)  If you start feeling defensive, please refer back to these two points.

Remember how this started with the word “essay?”  That’s because I’m not exactly sure where this is going, and at this rate, I might not get a lot said about education itself.  Hopefully I’ll lay the ground work in this post, however, for an ongoing discussion.  And at this point, that may be the something I’m trying to accomplish.

What is education?  I’m not resorting to Dictionary.com or Wikipedia this time.  I’m sharing my own view.  Education is the accumulation of knowledge.  That’s the short answer.  This knowledge can be useful or worthless, correct or incorrect, common or esoteric.  It can be extended and received in any number of settings.  (One of the silliest things I’ve ever heard was the comment “Some things you can only learn in public school.”)  To be educated implies that one has accepted the education that has been proffered.  Education is something that may be offered, like a gift, but the gift cannot be forced upon anyone.  And the gift comes unassembled.  It’s like the time your aunt gave you a jigsaw puzzle for your birthday.   All the pieces were there, but you had to do something to see the whole picture.  Education is all the puzzle pieces.  People involved in education (teachers, other professionals, parents, siblings, friends)  (I like parentheses, too…) give you the pieces and may help you see how they fit together.  To be educated is to put all the pieces together.  Of course, the more educated you becomes, the more you realize the puzzle is never finished.  There are pieces missing that you have not been given yet.  This leads to the true learner seeking out those pieces, not waiting for someone else to hand them the neatly wrapped package.

I was recently putting together a puzzle with my brother.  He had one set of pieces that he knew belonged in a specific place.  One slid in beautifully, but when he tried to attach the second, it would not fit.  He quickly realized that some surrounding pieces had been misplaced.  Making the necessary adjustments, he was able to correct the mistake and make progress with the puzzle.  All the pieces belonged somewhere in the finished product, but because the shapes were all the same and that part of the picture relatively monochromatic, it took some effort to work out the solution.  This happens sometimes in education, as well.  We are none of us perfect, nor do we have a perfect knowledge of things.  It is important for both the teacher and the student to recognize that mistakes can be made, and corrected, on either side.  Humility is essential to becoming well-educated.

Which brings me to another point.  Knowledge and education are amoral and inanimate.  They are puzzle pieces, bits of data and information.  Any morality, perception, insight, any application must come from the learner.  Along with putting the pieces of the puzzle together, the learner can bring it to life.  This enlivening can be modeled by a teacher, but it must be accomplished by the student.  Sadly, too many students accept the teacher’s model without doing anything themselves.  One who does this is not truly educated.  He or she is simply, as I call it, “regurgitating.”  There are many who receive diplomas and high gpas who are not truly educated.  They know how to perform, but they have allowed someone else to put their puzzle together.  The good news is that puzzles can be pulled apart and rebuilt, as in my brother’s case.

One of the most wonderful things about this puzzle of education is that it can never be completed.  There are so many things we don’t know, so many things yet to happen, so many things yet to be created, so many discoveries yet to be made.  Education is the eternal pursuit of knowledge.  To deem someone educated by virtue of an adequate test score, a piece of paper, the completion of a reading list, or the adoption of certain philosophies, indeed, to deem someone completely educated at all is to deny the essence of education.

 

What does “education” and “being educated” mean to you?  Thanks for visiting.  I look forward to your comments.

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Comments
  1. chontali says:

    Very thought-provoking post on one of my favorite subjects. I think that a person who is educated not only accumulates knowledge, but knows how to access/acquire knowledge that is helpful to society. People who are educated may have different degrees of knowledge, but they (we) all possess skills of researching and gathering information needed to solve problems and accomplish meaningful things. Thank you for sharing!

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