With prolonged school closings due to coronavirus, a lot of parents and families are getting an opportunity to think a little deeper about education. And in most instances, parents and caregivers are much more involved in the day to day aspects of educating right now. Lives have been upended, many have jumped in the trenches with their sleeves rolled up, taking initiative and doing their best to make sure learning is not canceled.
How we educate our children is an essential component of society, particularly on how we collectively engage in self-government in hopes of sustaining a healthy Republic. The lessons we learn at this moment, particularly because they are so unusual given current events, will have an impact for decades.
Below is a list of diverse voices on the topic of education. It’s a reminder that there is such a wide view when it comes to the meaning of education. Considering that, it makes sense that a one size fits all system does not work. I wouldn’t endorse every selection, but I do hope it provides some contrast on the topic. It’s also a reminder that even in a changing world, some truths are timeless.
The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.
Every public school student in North Carolina will be empowered to accept academic challenges, prepared to pursue their chosen path after graduating high school, and encouraged to become lifelong learners with the capacity to engage in a globally-collaborative society.
The primary purpose of a liberal education, then, is the cultivation of the person’s own intellect and imagination, for the person’s own sake. It ought not to be forgotten, in this mass-age when the state aspires to be all in all, that genuine education is something higher than an instrument of public policy. True education is meant to develop the individual human being, the person, rather than to serve the state. In all our talk about serving “national goals” and “citizenship education”—phrases that originated with John Dewey and his disciples—we tend to ignore the fact that schooling was not originated by the modern nation-state. Formal schooling actually commenced as an endeavor to acquaint the rising generation with religious knowledge: with awareness of the transcendent and with moral truths. Its purpose was not to indoctrinate a young person in civics, but rather to teach what it is to be a true human being, living within a moral order. The person has primacy in liberal education.
The practical side of good citizenship is developed most successfully in school because in miniature one is living in a society, and the conditions and problems of the larger society are more easily reproduced and met and solved.
To accomplish this, however, presupposes a high grade of teaching, a teacher who not only teaches a subject but is always conscious of the relation of the subject to the larger purpose of learning to live.
Learning to be a good citizen is learning to live to the maximum of one’s abilities and opportunities, and every subject should be taught every child with this in view.
Children arrived at the age of maturity belong, not to the parents, but to the State, to society, to the country.
Without the presence of a great directing moral force intelligence either will not be developed or, if it be developed, it will prove self-destructive. Education which is not based on religion and character is not education. It is a contradiction in terms to suppose that there can be any real intelligence which does not recognize the binding force of right, of justice, and of truth.
As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes that it is responsible not to conserve and transmit the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as to make for a better future society. The school is its chief agency for the accomplishment of this end.
Without education, he lives within the narrow, dark and grimy walls of ignorance. Education, on the other hand, means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is easy to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness and to defeat the very end of their being.
Adm. James Stockdale (channeling the stoics):
The challenge of education is not to prepare people for success but to prepare them for failure.