On Education

Modern Education is fundamentally flawed because it fails to develop the genius of each individual. 

The genius I refer to is the ability of each individual to weigh the balance of their thoughts against the weight of reality.  It's purpose is not to teach us right from wrong, nor what is true, but to nurture in each individual the seeds of reason that allow us to discover those truths for ourselves. 

When ever we judge education by the quantity of trivia a student can spew forth onto a page, we trivialize the importance of education. In our judgement we show a vain indifference to the capabilities individual and the sole purpose of educating them in the first place: so that they may participate meaningfully in our society. 

Whether a person is employable or not does not matter, as employability is a function of the market's demand for a particular skill set at some point in time.  A few years ago computer repair was an in demand skill set, which has almost entirely disappeared due to ever decreasing costs of computing.  Educating for the purpose of imparting a short term valuable skill, while neglecting the more essential skills, squanders both the youth and potential of those misfortunates who are subjected to such miseducation.  Without the ability to analyze and solve a wide range of problems, with the ability to think identify and challenge their own beliefs, and lacking the basic ability to effectively communicate their thoughts, these misfortunates lack the fundamental tools to unlearn their old ways and adapt to new ones. 

In a world of continuous and rapid change, it is the ability to adapt that matters most. Adaptation on this scale is not a geologic process of continental drift, or a slow process of selective breeding, but a thought process of exploration and judgement making.  A teacher who trains his students to say what, but not to ask how?, or why?, or most importantly what if? fails his students in practice if not in grade.  The purpose of education must not be to "do well on standardized tests", as there is no test which can accurately measure a student's ability to question.  Competition later in life will prove the value of the education, but test scores and grades bare little resemblance to actual results. 

Modern education does not need a new model of education, but an old one. We have in many of our higher learning institutions the seeds of that plant, which needs a field in which to grow and bear fruit.  It is a tradition of liberal arts education which was previously reserved for the elite, the useful, and the church.  Where the tradition has been failing is it has not been applied to the full development of the student, and the preparatory education that fed those institutions strayed from a tradition of tutelage.  The earliest form of education was play, in which the student learned about their world an place in it. Mimicry of adults provides a model for thinking about social interaction, intellectual endeavors, and the value of work. It is through play that the student develops their fundamental values and basic assumptions. 

When the student has played enough to begin a serious education, a tutor is brought in to instruct the child in grammar, reading, writing, and to challenge the assumptions the child had made about the world that were at odds with benefiting from an education. This period is a period of taming a wild animal, breaking it of the bad habits that will prevent further growth, while at the same time nurturing the curiosity necessary to instill a love of learning and new things.  A child's world is full of new things, and the child must me made comfortable to adapt to that. With the basics of literacy, the child can then be introduced to the sea of new things found in literature. 

After this initial tutelage by a grammarian, the child is ready for schooling, in which a series of instructors will train a group of students in the arts: music, painting,  dance and sport, theater, poetry, sculpture, and woodworking.  The role of each of these arts is to develop both the physical skills and mental abilities to further explore the world. Music teaches us to listen, painting teaches us to see, dance teaches movement, theater teaches us to remember,  poetry teaches us communication,  sculpture and woodworking teach us how to use our hands.   All of these subjects involve both hands and practical application, as well as, reading about the theory, history, and practice of the art.  For years students read about woodworking from books before they were ever handed a hammer and saw, much like one would not give a child a game without instructions.  The purpose of the instructors is to impart experience and set limits so that the student may challenge their world in safe and creative ways. Without restrictions, there is no challenge and without challenge no opportunity for growth.  Secondary languages should also be a part of this period of instruction as the historical antecedents should be met on their own turf.  Poems read in their native tongue, artists writings in their own words. 

After this period of instruction the student is ready to begin a study of history, math, philosophy, science, linguistics and rhetoric.   These subjects are not important because of what they teach us, but because they define methodologies for thinking about the world. History and Science both manage the same process of talking about events. Science is concerned with events which must be repeatable, while history offers methodologies for studying events which by definition can not repeat (though similar event may occur on rare occasions). To this end, one must study both to understand the continuum and limits of each.  Math and lingusitics are likewise bed fellows describing the manners in which systematic representation works in human thought and communication. These two form the basis for understanding what proof and argument are. Philosophy and rhetoric finish off the final dimension, with philosophy providing the basis of formalizing an argument, and rhetoric the manipulation of the argument itself. Combined in the continuum they provide a model for discourse about any topic, and set the limits of what can be discussed by defining what is within reason. 

Subsequent to this education end and life begins. A student who has achieved a basic mastery of all these arts and sciences is capable of learning, discovering, and judging anything of import based on its merits and the values ascribed by others. They are able to participate in the public discourse and can reason about a wide variety of topics from many view points. Furthermore they are capable of asking questions and unafraid of the unknown. To the well educated the unknown is an exciting opportunity, and the words "I don't know but let's find out" roll off the tongue as easily and any other answer.