The basic definition of education is “the acquisition of knowledge.” The problem with a formal education is that the knowledge is to often learned and then rarely applied for years. No wonder many students get bored. And, with a formal education, we are generally taught to acquire facts, but often we are not even taught when those facts should be applied.
For example, I heard a math teacher once say most people have no idea how to apply the skills they learn in math class to the real world. Students are usually taught how to solve mathematical equations, but not when they will need those. His solution was to give lots of story problems related to the new skills the students were using that involved real life problems.
I had the most wonderful weekend. I spent three wonderful days in the presence of some of the most incredible success coaches in the world. Craig, our son Austin, and I attended a conference in Las Vegas where we listened to some incredible speakers. We learned from Brian Tracy, Hyrum Smith, Dan Caro, Rudy Ruettiger, Marsha Petrie Sue, Garrett Gunderson, and John Gray, and many others.
As I was sitting there I felt so blessed because we were receiving relevant and up-to-date information that I could put into my life nearly that instant. Information that, if applied, could alter my life, and the lives of my children forever.
And I couldn’t help pondering the purpose of education…
Certainly, at this point in my life the primary goal of education is to receive actionable knowledge, to learn skills that can improve my life now. To me the basic purpose of education is to solve life’s problems.
But what about formal education?
What if it was approached in nearly the same way?
Certainly all skills can’t be applied immediately, because skills often build upon other skills. Knowledge builds upon previous knowledge. But certainly more skills could be taught, along with that knowledge, that could be applied sooner.
Imagine what could be accomplished if teachers were concerned more about teaching the skills that could maximize the full capacity of each student, and how to apply those skills in real life.
For example, if rather than teaching history simply as a a story, or facts about people in the past, all teachers taught it from the frame-of-view of:
- What can we learn from this story?
- What can we learn that will help us to not make the same mistakes?
- What can we learn that can help us achieve great results?
- What character traits did this person in history have that led him or her to achieve what they achieved?
- What mistakes did this person make and what were the results of those mistakes?
So what do you think?
- What do you think the purpose of education is?
- How has the way you approach education changed over the years?
- What educational methods have worked for you?
Here’s a few thoughts to contemplate…
“The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past-and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort.” ~ Ann Rynd
“The one real object of education is to leave a man in the condition of continually asking questions.” ~Bishop Creighton
“The object of education isn’t knowledge, it’s action.” ~ Thomas Kempis
“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.” ~Bill Beattie
Your post brings up a really good point… when I think education, automatically I think to prepare for life, and some of it does… but there is an awful lot that doesn’t. and a lot of other things I wish I could have learned in school, but never did.
it goes along with, I want my kids to learn practical skills. to change a tire, to knit (anything, just so they can do it if a need should arise) to sew (again, they don’t have to be experts).
I think its interesting that for me, with what I now do, if I could go back in time, I might pick a curriculum heavy in computers and crafty stuff… but then, I think… what if this isn’t what I wanted to do then?
I think the wide range of knowledge we get from school gives us a base to try anything we like, rather than limiting ourselves to a small set of skills. Thats the point of education.
You’re right Theresa. Education should prepare us for life. The practical skills are so important, and often times simply not taught at school.
Thanks so much for contributing with your thoughts and comments.
Great post! Education goes hand in hand with the Biblical concept of wisdom, as far as I am concerned. True education should target the head and the heart, challenging me to live better and more effectively.
Thank you. And thanks for taking the time to comment.
You’re right about wisdom. I believe there is a big difference between wisdom and education. I believe wisdom is the ability to apply what you have learned, and wisdom is the ability to not learn from others so you don’t make the same mistakes. The Bible is a perfect vehicle for learning.
And I love how you put that: “education should target the head and the heart.” Only true change can take place if the heart is in alignment with the head.
Wow! I couldn’t agree with you more.. about the purpose of education. In fact, I just started a blog about ‘education for relevance’ in this second decade of the 21st century. Your quotes and guidelines in this article are superb and they guide me faster along a parallel path. I will link to you. Thanks, GD, Australia.
I like the quote by Thomas Kempis. It is something that I am apt to remind techies … who love to read, study and research but sometimes find it hard to tie all that knowledge to some real-world practical good.
Perhps, this woild be the topic of new blog post 🙂
I am glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for the link back to the article. I appreciate it greatly.
I really like that quote as well. So much of what we are taught in school isn’t ever put into action because it is someone’s idea of what is necessary to learn but it doesn’t take into account the individuals gifts, goals, and aspirations. Thankfully that tends to go away with higher education where the student is (hopefully) learning about topics of their own choosing. Thankfully, there is a recent surge in more customized education for youth.
At the same time, one never knows where that next bit of inspiration may come from that will spark a new invention or solve one of the worlds problems. Thomas Edison was great a perfect example of taking that knowledge he had learned and putting it together in ways that changed the world.