Some Educated Guesses about Education

by Bob on 週四, 26 四月 2007 評論
Today I was inspired to write about education because I rediscovered in my old papers an essay I wrote when I was twelve years old. It was submitted in an essay contest for six-graders. I don’t think I won, because I would probably remember if I had, but I am struck by how closely it describes what I still believe about education sixty-three years later after surviving twenty-four years of education.

Whenever I think to write about a topic, I often look it up first on the internet. Even a cursory look at what Google says about education shows that there are almost as many opinions and controversies about what education is as there are educators and critics. There are many ways of looking at education. It can be the process of learning or what is learned. There are arguments about what should be taught and about how it should be taught. It is praised and vilified. It depends upon one’s point of view and especially on one’s ideals.

Is the purpose of education just the accumulating of information? to build character? To cram the mind with facts that will soon be forgotten? to teach how to think forming people who can discern and think for themselves? to empower people with the skills they need to obtain a livelihood? to impart culture and appreciation for literature, art and music? to develop imagination and creativity? to equip people for independence and action? To indoctrinate and brainwash, propagating some ism? to control the masses? to pass on the treasures of the past or to go beyond them? to pass on opinions, theories or hypotheses as facts? to turn everyone into identical moulds or to develop and enhance their individuality?

In a sense everything above is true sometimes somewhere. Schools teach what their Boards of Directors dictate, teachers impart their own ideas and opinions. Fortunate the students with the opportunity to attend schools with sound curricula and enlightened teachers. Fortunate those who manage to educate themselves without those helps.

Education should transmit information, but even more importantly how to interpret the data. Education should give us the skills and tools necessary for meaningful, satisfying livelihoods, not as jacks of all trades but expert in what is important for each individual’s goals and success. Education should prepare us for enjoying our leisure time, instilling interest and appreciation for art, literature, music, sports, hobbies. Education should develop our imaginations and creativity and open our eyes to worlds and possibilities beyond us, so at least we won’t mind others going there though we don’t. Education teaches us how to recognize what is true and what isn’t, to discern what is important and what is unimportant, to discriminate what is fact and what opinion, and to judge properly what should be done and what should not. Education should be tailored to the capacities of the students, but always aim just a little higher. Not everyone has the ability to go all the way, but even those with the lowest I.Q.s can be taught something to make their lives more pleasant and meaningful.

Not the best education system in the world will succeed if the students will not listen or learn. The secret to good teaching is the teacher’s ability to instill the appetite for learning and to make the process pleasant and entertaining and memorable. As Educator Gail Goodwin once said: “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.” Just as teachers have different ways of teaching, students have different ways of learning. Some rely primarily on what they hear, others on what the see, or what they read. The trick is to get them to think about what they are learning so it becomes part of them, because they have added something of themselves. Passive reception of what one is taught is not as effective as hands on participation and involvement and personal contribution. A goal of education should to enable the students to go on educating themselves the rest of their lives.

As usual I turned to the internet for meaningful quotes. Some are very critical of what is taught or how it is taught. Some are more positive expressing the goals that education should ideally aim for. Some are wordy and boring. I prefer the witty ones that come right to the point, but one long one really moved me. It was the words of Helen Keller who was both blind and deaf.

Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbor was. “Light! Give me light!” was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.

Education, however is not just the shedding of light, but in being able to know and follow where the light leads. That is why I like the following quote from George Savile , English Marquis of Halifax in the 17th century:

Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.

This echoed by Elbert Hubbard:

The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson said:

Knowledge comes, but wisdom stays.

And by the poet William B. Yeats:

Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire.

Finally in the same vein is a saying of Edmund S. Wilson who thinks one’s Q.Q. is more important than one’s I.Q.

Only the curious will learn and only the resolute will overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient.

There are quite a number of interesting proverbs and sayings that deal with education and learning.
Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand. (Native American saying)
Whatever is good to know is difficult to learn.
(Greek Proverb)
Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back. (Chinese Saying)
He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever. (Chinese Proverb)
Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. (Lao-Tzu)
The final quote is my own, namely that essay I wrote when I was twelve. It was entitled “What Education Means to Me”.
Education should provide me with suitable instruction to fit me for the duties of adult life. It should cover such qualities as virtue, wisdom, good manners and knowledge.
Virtue is necessary for the true art of living. It should guide me in the right relation of things temporal as well as things spiritual. It should teach me courage and honesty.
Wisdom will give me understanding of truth and justice. A mind will give greater understanding of life and its problems.
The learning and practice of good manners will develop good behavior and consideration and kindness to others. Correct social forms are essential to be a part of good society.
Knowledge will help to perfect my natural abilities, so that they will provide me with a livelihood. The study of music and reading of good books will broaden my mind and help me to enjoy life to the fullest extent. Sports and recreation are essential for well being.
A good foundation based on the above should help me to carry out the duties of citizenship and to be a respected member of society. It will give me an appreciation of the better things of life.
I am amazed at how this still rings true today.

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