Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.

What Is Education? Insights from the World's Greatest Minds

Forty thought-provoking quotes about education..

Posted May 12, 2014 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

As we seek to refine and reform today’s system of education , we would do well to ask, “What is education?” Our answers may provide insights that get to the heart of what matters for 21st century children and adults alike.

It is important to step back from divisive debates on grades, standardized testing, and teacher evaluation—and really look at the meaning of education. So I decided to do just that—to research the answer to this straightforward, yet complex question.

Looking for wisdom from some of the greatest philosophers, poets, educators, historians, theologians, politicians, and world leaders, I found answers that should not only exist in our history books, but also remain at the core of current education dialogue.

In my work as a developmental psychologist, I constantly struggle to balance the goals of formal education with the goals of raising healthy, happy children who grow to become contributing members of families and society. Along with academic skills, the educational journey from kindergarten through college is a time when young people develop many interconnected abilities.

As you read through the following quotes, you’ll discover common threads that unite the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical aspects of education. For me, good education facilitates the development of an internal compass that guides us through life.

Which quotes resonate most with you? What images of education come to your mind? How can we best integrate the wisdom of the ages to address today’s most pressing education challenges?

If you are a middle or high school teacher, I invite you to have your students write an essay entitled, “What is Education?” After reviewing the famous quotes below and the images they evoke, ask students to develop their very own quote that answers this question. With their unique quote highlighted at the top of their essay, ask them to write about what helps or hinders them from getting the kind of education they seek. I’d love to publish some student quotes, essays, and images in future articles, so please contact me if students are willing to share!

What Is Education? Answers from 5th Century BC to the 21 st Century

  • The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. — Jean Piaget, 1896-1980, Swiss developmental psychologist, philosopher
  • An education isn't how much you have committed to memory , or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't. — Anatole France, 1844-1924, French poet, novelist
  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. — Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013, South African President, philanthropist
  • The object of education is to teach us to love beauty. — Plato, 424-348 BC, philosopher mathematician
  • The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education — Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968, pastor, activist, humanitarian
  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, physicist
  • It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. — Aristotle, 384-322 BC, Greek philosopher, scientist
  • Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life. — Brigham Young, 1801-1877, religious leader
  • Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer – into a selflessness which links us with all humanity. — Nancy Astor, 1879-1964, American-born English politician and socialite
  • Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. — William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939, Irish poet
  • Education is freedom . — Paulo Freire, 1921-1997, Brazilian educator, philosopher
  • Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. — John Dewey, 1859-1952, philosopher, psychologist, education reformer
  • Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. — George Washington Carver, 1864-1943, scientist, botanist, educator
  • Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. — Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, Irish writer, poet
  • The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. — Sydney J. Harris, 1917-1986, journalist
  • Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. — Malcolm Forbes, 1919-1990, publisher, politician
  • No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure. — Emma Goldman, 1869 – 1940, political activist, writer
  • Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. — John W. Gardner, 1912-2002, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson
  • Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. — Gilbert K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, English writer, theologian, poet, philosopher
  • Education is the movement from darkness to light. — Allan Bloom, 1930-1992, philosopher, classicist, and academician
  • Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know. -- Daniel J. Boorstin, 1914-2004, historian, professor, attorney
  • The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values. — William S. Burroughs, 1914-1997, novelist, essayist, painter
  • The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. -- Robert M. Hutchins, 1899-1977, educational philosopher
  • Education is all a matter of building bridges. — Ralph Ellison, 1914-1994, novelist, literary critic, scholar
  • What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul. — Joseph Addison, 1672-1719, English essayist, poet, playwright, politician
  • Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. — Malcolm X, 1925-1965, minister and human rights activist
  • Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students. — Solomon Ortiz, 1937-, former U.S. Representative-TX
  • The very spring and root of honesty and virtue lie in good education. — Plutarch, 46-120AD, Greek historian, biographer, essayist
  • Education is a shared commitment between dedicated teachers, motivated students and enthusiastic parents with high expectations. — Bob Beauprez, 1948-, former member of U.S. House of Representatives-CO
  • The most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home. — William Temple, 1881-1944, English bishop, teacher
  • Education is the leading of human souls to what is best, and making what is best out of them. — John Ruskin, 1819-1900, English writer, art critic, philanthropist
  • Education levels the playing field, allowing everyone to compete. — Joyce Meyer, 1943-, Christian author and speaker
  • Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. — B.F. Skinner , 1904-1990, psychologist, behaviorist, social philosopher
  • The great end of education is to discipline rather than to furnish the mind; to train it to the use of its own powers rather than to fill it with the accumulation of others. — Tyron Edwards, 1809-1894, theologian
  • Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation. — John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, 35 th President of the United States
  • Education is like a lantern which lights your way in a dark alley. — Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1918-2004, President of the United Arab Emirates for 33 years
  • When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts. — Dalai Lama, spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism
  • Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence . — Robert Frost, 1874-1963, poet
  • The secret in education lies in respecting the student. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, essayist, lecturer, and poet
  • My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance, but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors. — Maya Angelou, 1928-, author, poet

©2014 Marilyn Price-Mitchell. All rights reserved. Please contact for permission to reprint.

Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., is an Institute for Social Innovation Fellow at Fielding Graduate University and author of Tomorrow’s Change Makers.

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What Is Education For?

Read an excerpt from a new book by Sir Ken Robinson and Kate Robinson, which calls for redesigning education for the future.

Student presentation

What is education for? As it happens, people differ sharply on this question. It is what is known as an “essentially contested concept.” Like “democracy” and “justice,” “education” means different things to different people. Various factors can contribute to a person’s understanding of the purpose of education, including their background and circumstances. It is also inflected by how they view related issues such as ethnicity, gender, and social class. Still, not having an agreed-upon definition of education doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it or do anything about it.

We just need to be clear on terms. There are a few terms that are often confused or used interchangeably—“learning,” “education,” “training,” and “school”—but there are important differences between them. Learning is the process of acquiring new skills and understanding. Education is an organized system of learning. Training is a type of education that is focused on learning specific skills. A school is a community of learners: a group that comes together to learn with and from each other. It is vital that we differentiate these terms: children love to learn, they do it naturally; many have a hard time with education, and some have big problems with school.

Cover of book 'Imagine If....'

There are many assumptions of compulsory education. One is that young people need to know, understand, and be able to do certain things that they most likely would not if they were left to their own devices. What these things are and how best to ensure students learn them are complicated and often controversial issues. Another assumption is that compulsory education is a preparation for what will come afterward, like getting a good job or going on to higher education.

So, what does it mean to be educated now? Well, I believe that education should expand our consciousness, capabilities, sensitivities, and cultural understanding. It should enlarge our worldview. As we all live in two worlds—the world within you that exists only because you do, and the world around you—the core purpose of education is to enable students to understand both worlds. In today’s climate, there is also a new and urgent challenge: to provide forms of education that engage young people with the global-economic issues of environmental well-being.

This core purpose of education can be broken down into four basic purposes.

Education should enable young people to engage with the world within them as well as the world around them. In Western cultures, there is a firm distinction between the two worlds, between thinking and feeling, objectivity and subjectivity. This distinction is misguided. There is a deep correlation between our experience of the world around us and how we feel. As we explored in the previous chapters, all individuals have unique strengths and weaknesses, outlooks and personalities. Students do not come in standard physical shapes, nor do their abilities and personalities. They all have their own aptitudes and dispositions and different ways of understanding things. Education is therefore deeply personal. It is about cultivating the minds and hearts of living people. Engaging them as individuals is at the heart of raising achievement.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and that “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Many of the deepest problems in current systems of education result from losing sight of this basic principle.

Schools should enable students to understand their own cultures and to respect the diversity of others. There are various definitions of culture, but in this context the most appropriate is “the values and forms of behavior that characterize different social groups.” To put it more bluntly, it is “the way we do things around here.” Education is one of the ways that communities pass on their values from one generation to the next. For some, education is a way of preserving a culture against outside influences. For others, it is a way of promoting cultural tolerance. As the world becomes more crowded and connected, it is becoming more complex culturally. Living respectfully with diversity is not just an ethical choice, it is a practical imperative.

There should be three cultural priorities for schools: to help students understand their own cultures, to understand other cultures, and to promote a sense of cultural tolerance and coexistence. The lives of all communities can be hugely enriched by celebrating their own cultures and the practices and traditions of other cultures.

Education should enable students to become economically responsible and independent. This is one of the reasons governments take such a keen interest in education: they know that an educated workforce is essential to creating economic prosperity. Leaders of the Industrial Revolution knew that education was critical to creating the types of workforce they required, too. But the world of work has changed so profoundly since then, and continues to do so at an ever-quickening pace. We know that many of the jobs of previous decades are disappearing and being rapidly replaced by contemporary counterparts. It is almost impossible to predict the direction of advancing technologies, and where they will take us.

How can schools prepare students to navigate this ever-changing economic landscape? They must connect students with their unique talents and interests, dissolve the division between academic and vocational programs, and foster practical partnerships between schools and the world of work, so that young people can experience working environments as part of their education, not simply when it is time for them to enter the labor market.

Education should enable young people to become active and compassionate citizens. We live in densely woven social systems. The benefits we derive from them depend on our working together to sustain them. The empowerment of individuals has to be balanced by practicing the values and responsibilities of collective life, and of democracy in particular. Our freedoms in democratic societies are not automatic. They come from centuries of struggle against tyranny and autocracy and those who foment sectarianism, hatred, and fear. Those struggles are far from over. As John Dewey observed, “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.”

For a democratic society to function, it depends upon the majority of its people to be active within the democratic process. In many democracies, this is increasingly not the case. Schools should engage students in becoming active, and proactive, democratic participants. An academic civics course will scratch the surface, but to nurture a deeply rooted respect for democracy, it is essential to give young people real-life democratic experiences long before they come of age to vote.

Eight Core Competencies

The conventional curriculum is based on a collection of separate subjects. These are prioritized according to beliefs around the limited understanding of intelligence we discussed in the previous chapter, as well as what is deemed to be important later in life. The idea of “subjects” suggests that each subject, whether mathematics, science, art, or language, stands completely separate from all the other subjects. This is problematic. Mathematics, for example, is not defined only by propositional knowledge; it is a combination of types of knowledge, including concepts, processes, and methods as well as propositional knowledge. This is also true of science, art, and languages, and of all other subjects. It is therefore much more useful to focus on the concept of disciplines rather than subjects.

Disciplines are fluid; they constantly merge and collaborate. In focusing on disciplines rather than subjects we can also explore the concept of interdisciplinary learning. This is a much more holistic approach that mirrors real life more closely—it is rare that activities outside of school are as clearly segregated as conventional curriculums suggest. A journalist writing an article, for example, must be able to call upon skills of conversation, deductive reasoning, literacy, and social sciences. A surgeon must understand the academic concept of the patient’s condition, as well as the practical application of the appropriate procedure. At least, we would certainly hope this is the case should we find ourselves being wheeled into surgery.

The concept of disciplines brings us to a better starting point when planning the curriculum, which is to ask what students should know and be able to do as a result of their education. The four purposes above suggest eight core competencies that, if properly integrated into education, will equip students who leave school to engage in the economic, cultural, social, and personal challenges they will inevitably face in their lives. These competencies are curiosity, creativity, criticism, communication, collaboration, compassion, composure, and citizenship. Rather than be triggered by age, they should be interwoven from the beginning of a student’s educational journey and nurtured throughout.

From Imagine If: Creating a Future for Us All by Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D and Kate Robinson, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2022 by the Estate of Sir Kenneth Robinson and Kate Robinson.

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  • Essay writing guide on what education means to me

Essay on the value of education

This essay guide will help you write an essay on the meaning of education.

Define what an education means first

An education by definition is "the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life." This essay will impart upon my readers my opinion of what education means to me. I will extend the value of an education not only within that gained by a "formal education" but also the value of an "informal education" and explain how life in itself if a vehicle for education.

Offer your personal insights - what education means to you

How do you research for an education? Well this depends on the type of education you are perusing. For many formal education or educations obtained by a formal institution such as secondary school or university, you compare schools. Generally you determine what you primary topic of study would be and compare schools based on topics that are important to you. In my own life and my focus on Information Systems and computers when I was comparing universities, I compared programs, and knowing my own skills and my own areas of deficiency I took that into account when preparing for university. My education given to me by secondary school was one which provided me with ample skill in technical areas however I lacked in Mathematics. Since grade school, math was something was a topic which was difficult for me to grasp, however I excelled in technical areas. Knowing my own areas of interest and weakness I selected the university that was most to my liking and offered me one of the best chances at finding a job after graduation.

Education is a life-long learning

Life itself offers an education. This one in my opinion I think is more important than a formal education. Many times I've heard "it's not what you know, but who you know." That statement referencing its not your own knowledge that is important, but also the network of individuals you surround yourself with and the opportunities they could potentially afford to you. The trials and tribulations you go through in life provide you with a great education, from the elementary things such as don't touch fire because it burns, or ice is cold. The education provided by life is one which involves educations on socialization, interaction, and survival. The informal education of life is the one that teaches you trust, love, compassion and understanding. Many of the things in life you will not learn in a school but through your own experiences as an individual.

So to conclude, education to me is a way to allow me to better enjoy life. Through my informal and formal educations I've not only advanced my own knowledge but I've learned to be a better son, coworker, lover and person. Through my formal educations I've learned many things and advanced my skill to very technical and am now able to work in highly paid technical areas of expertise. My informal social skills have allowed me to come in contacts with individuals who can aid in me achieving such a technical job. Through my trials and tribulations in life I've learned to be a more understanding person, a more patient individual and a better friend and family member for those I surround myself with. I've learned that my education and my life are far from over, but that life and education are a journey. Education is a journey we all endure. You cannot go through life and learn nothing, for to even make the realization that you know nothing, you've also realized that there is so much else in life.

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What Does Education Mean to You: Empowerment Through Knowledge

Table of contents, a gateway to knowledge, empowerment and personal growth, preparing for an ever-changing world, contributing to society.

  • Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. Macmillan.
  • Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum.
  • Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Basic Books.
  • Noddings, N. (2003). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. University of California Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

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education, community-building and change

What is education? A definition and discussion

Picture: Dessiner le futur adulte by Alain Bachellier. Sourced from Flickr and reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence. http://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/537180464/

Education is the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning and change undertaken in the belief that we all should have the chance to share in life.

Mark k smith explores the meaning of education and suggests it is a process of being with others and inviting truth and possibility., contents : introduction • education – cultivating hopeful environments and relationships for learning • education, respect and wisdom • education – acting so all may share in life • conclusion – what is education • further reading and references • acknowledgements • how to cite this piece, introduction.

When talking about education people often confuse it with schooling. Many think of places like schools or colleges when seeing or hearing the word. They might also look to particular jobs like teacher or tutor. The problem with this is that while looking to help people learn, the way a lot of schools and teachers operate is not necessarily something we can properly call education. They have chosen or fallen or been pushed into ‘schooling’ – trying to drill learning into people according to some plan often drawn up by others. Paulo Freire (1973) famously called this banking – making deposits of knowledge. Such ‘schooling’ too easily descends into treating learners like objects, things to be acted upon rather than people to be related to.

Education, as we understand it here, is a process of inviting truth and possibility, of encouraging and giving time to discovery. It is, as John Dewey (1916) put it, a social process – ‘a process of living and not a preparation for future living’. In this view educators look to learning and being with others rather than acting upon them. Their task is to educe (related to the Greek notion of educere ), to bring out or develop potential both in themselves and others. Such education is:

  • Deliberate and hopeful. It is learning we set out to make happen in the belief that we all can ‘be more’;
  • Informed, respectful and wise. A process of inviting truth and possibility.
  • Grounded in a desire that at all may flourish and share in life . It is a cooperative and inclusive activity that looks to help us to live our lives as well as we can.

In what follows we will try to answer the question ‘what is education?’ by exploring these dimensions and the processes involved.

Education – cultivating hopeful environments and relationships for learning

It is often said that we are learning all the time and that we may not be conscious of it happening. Learning is both a process and an outcome. As a process, it is part of being and living in the world, part of the way our bodies work. As an outcome, it is a new understanding or appreciation of something.

In recent years, developments in neuroscience have shown us how learning takes place both in the body and as a social activity. We are social animals. As a result, educators need to focus on creating environments and relationships for learning rather than trying to drill knowledge into themselves and others.

Teachers are losing the education war because our adolescents are distracted by the social world. Naturally, the students don’t see it that way. It wasn’t their choice to get endless instruction on topics that don’t seem relevant to them. They desperately want to learn, but what they want to learn about is their social world—how it works and how they can secure a place in it that will maximize their social rewards and minimize the social pain they feel. Their brains are built to feel these strong social motivations and to use the mentalizing system to help them along. Evolutionarily, the social interest of adolescents is no distraction. Rather, it is the most important thing they can learn well. (Lieberman 2013: 282)

The cultivation of learning is a cognitive and emotional and social activity (Illeris 2002)

Alison Gopnik (2016) has provided a helpful way of understanding this orientation. It is that educators, pedagogues and practitioners need to be gardeners rather than carpenters. A key theme emerging from her research over the last 30 years or so that runs in parallel with Lieberman, is that children learn by actively engaging their social and physical environments – not by passively absorbing information. They learn from other people, not because they are being taught – but because people are doing and talking about interesting things. The emphasis in a lot of the literature about parenting (and teaching) presents the roles much like that of a carpenter.

You should pay some attention to the kind of material you are working with, and it may have some influence on what you try to do. But essentially your job is to shape that material into a final product that will fit the scheme you had in mind to begin with.

Instead, Gopnik argues, the evidence points to being a gardener.

When we garden, on the other hand, we create a protected and nurturing space for plants to flourish. It takes hard labor and the sweat of our brows, with a lot of exhausted digging and wallowing in manure. And as any gardener knows, our specific plans are always thwarted. The poppy comes up neon orange instead of pale pink, the rose that was supposed to climb the fence stubbornly remains a foot from the ground, black spot and rust and aphids can never be defeated.

Education is deliberate. We act with a purpose – to build understanding and judgement and enable action. We may do this for ourselves, for example, learning what different road signs mean so that we can get a license to drive; or watching wildlife programmes on television because we are interested in animal behaviour. This process is sometimes called self-education or teaching yourself. We join with the journey that the writer, presenter or expert is making, think about it and develop our understanding. Hopefully, we bring that process and understanding into play when we need to act. We also seek to encourage learning in others (while being open to learning ourselves). Examples here include parents and carers showing their children how to use a knife and fork or ride a bike; schoolteachers introducing students to a foreign language; and animators and pedagogues helping a group to work together.

Sometimes as educators, we have a clear idea of what we’d like to see achieved; at others, we do not and should not. In the case of the former, we might be working to a curriculum, have a session or lesson plan with clear objectives, and have a high degree of control over the learning environment. This is what we often mean by ‘formal education’. In the latter, for example, when working with a community group, the setting is theirs and, as educators, we are present as guests. This is an example of informal education and here two things are happening.

First, the group may well be clear on what it wants to achieve e.g. putting on an event, but unclear about what they need to learn to do it. They know learning is involved – it is something necessary to achieve what they want – but it is not the main focus. Such ‘incidental learning’ is not accidental. People know they need to learn something but cannot necessarily specify it in advance (Brookfield 1984).

Second, this learning activity works largely through conversation – and conversation takes unpredictable turns. It is a dialogical rather than curricula form of education.

In both forms, educators set out to create environments and relationships where people can explore their, and other’s, experiences of situations, ideas and feelings. This exploration lies, as John Dewey argued, at the heart of the ‘business of education’. Educators set out to emancipate and enlarge experience (1933: 340). How closely the subject matter is defined in advance, and by whom, differs from situation to situation. John Ellis (1990) has developed a useful continuum – arguing that most education involves a mix of the informal and formal, of conversation and curriculum (i.e. between points X and Y).

The informal-formal education continuum - John Ellis

Those that describe themselves as informal educators, social pedagogues or as animators of community learning and development tend to work towards the X; those working as subject teachers or lecturers tend to the Y. Educators when facilitating tutor groups might, overall, work somewhere in the middle.

Acting in hope

Underpinning intention is an attitude or virtue – hopefulness. As educators ‘we believe that learning is possible, that nothing can keep an open mind from seeking after knowledge and finding a way to know’ (hooks 2003: xiv) . In other words, we invite people to learn and act in the belief that change for the good is possible. This openness to possibility isn’t blind or over-optimistic. It looks to evidence and experience, and is born of an appreciation of the world’s limitations (Halpin 2003: 19-20).

We can quickly see how such hope is both a part of the fabric of education – and, for many, an aim of education. Mary Warnock (1986:182) puts it this way:

I think that of all the attributes that I would like to see in my children or in my pupils, the attribute of hope would come high, even top, of the list. To lose hope is to lose the capacity to want or desire anything; to lose, in fact, the wish to live. Hope is akin to energy, to curi­osity, to the belief that things are worth doing. An education which leaves a child without hope is an education that has failed.

But hope is not easy to define or describe. It is:

An emotion . Hope, John Macquarrie (1978 11) suggests, ‘consists in an outgoing and trusting mood toward the environment’. We do not know what will happen but take a gamble. ‘It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk’ (Solnit 2016: 21).

A choice or intention to act . Hope ‘promotes affirmative courses of action’ (Macquarrie 1978: 11). Hope alone will not transform the world. Action ‘undertaken in that kind of naïveté’, wrote Paulo Freire (1994: 8), ‘is an excellent route to hopelessness, pessimism, and fatalism’. Hope and action are linked. Rebecca Solnit (2016: 22) put it this way, ‘Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope… To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable’.

An intellectual activity . Hope is not just feeling or striving, according to McQuarrie it has a cognitive or intellectual aspect. ‘[I]t carries in itself a definite way of understanding both ourselves – and the environing processes within which human life has its setting’ ( op. cit. ).

This provides us with a language to help make sense of things and to imagine change for the better – a ‘vocabulary of hope’. It helps us to critique the world as it is and our part in it, and not to just imagine change but also to plan it (Moltman 1967, 1971). It also allows us, and others, to ask questions of our hopes, to request evidence for our claims. (See, what is hope? ).

Education – being respectful, informed and wise

Education is wrapped up with who we are as learners and facilitators of learning – and how we are experienced by learners. In order to think about this, it is helpful to look back at a basic distinction made by Erich Fromm (1979), amongst others, between having and being. Fromm approaches these as fundamental modes of existence. He saw them as two different ways of understanding ourselves and the world in which we live.

Having is concerned with owning, possessing and controlling. In it we want to ‘make everybody and everything’, including ourselves, our property (Fromm 1979: 33). It looks to objects and material possessions.

Being is rooted in love according to Fromm. It is concerned with shared experience and productive activity. Rather than seeking to possess and control, in this mode, we engage with the world. We do not impose ourselves on others nor ‘interfere’ in their lives (see Smith and Smith 2008: 16-17).

These different orientations involve contrasting approaches to learning.

Students in the having mode must have but one aim; to hold onto what they have ‘learned’, either by entrusting it firmly to their memories or by carefully guarding their notes. They do not have to produce or create something new…. The process of learning has an entirely different quality for students in the being mode… Instead of being passive receptacles of words and ideas, they listen, they hear , and most important, they receive and they respond in an active, productive way. (Fromm 1979: 37-38)

In many ways, this difference mirrors that between education and schooling. Schooling entails transmitting knowledge in manageable lumps so it can be stored and then used so that students can pass tests and have qualifications. Education involves engaging with others and the world. It entails being with   others in a particular way. Here I want to explore three aspects – being respectful, informed and wise.

Being respectful

The process of education flows from a basic orientation of respect – respect for truth, others and themselves, and the world. It is an attitude or feeling which is carried through into concrete action, into the way we treat people, for example. Respect, as R. S. Dillon (2014) has reminded us, is derived from the Latin respicere , meaning ‘to look back at’ or ‘to look again’ at something. In other words, when we respect something we value it enough to make it our focus and to try to see it for what it is, rather than what we might want it to be. It is so important that it calls for our recognition and our regard – and we choose to respond.

We can see this at work in our everyday relationships. When we think highly of someone we may well talk about respecting them – and listen carefully to what they say or value the example they give. Here, though, we are also concerned with a more abstract idea – that of moral worth or value. Rather than looking at why we respect this person or that, the interest is in why we should respect people in general (or truth, or creation, or ourselves).

First, we expect educators to hold truth dearly . We expect that they will look beneath the surface, try to challenge misrepresentation and lies, and be open to alternatives. They should display the ‘two basic virtues of truth’: sincerity and accuracy (Williams 2002: 11). There are strong religious reasons for this. Bearing false witness, within Christian traditions, can be seen as challenging the foundations of God’s covenant. There are also strongly practical reasons for truthfulness. Without it, the development of knowledge would not be possible – we could not evaluate one claim against another. Nor could we conduct much of life. For example, as Paul Seabright (2010) has argued, truthfulness allows us to trust strangers. In the process, we can build complex societies, trade and cooperate.

Educators, as with other respecters of truth, should do their best to acquire ‘true beliefs’ and to ensure what they say actually reveals what they believe (Williams 2002: 11). Their authority, ‘must be rooted in their truthfulness in both these respects: they take care, and they do not lie’ op. cit.).

Second, educators should display fundamental respect for others (and themselves) . There is a straightforward theological argument for this. There is also a fundamental philosophical argument for ‘respect for persons’. Irrespective of what they have done, the people they are or their social position, it is argued, people are deserving of some essential level of regard. The philosopher most closely associated with this idea is Immanuel Kant – and his thinking has become a central pillar of humanism. Kant’s position was that people were deserving of respect because they are people – free, rational beings. They are ends in themselves with an absolute dignity

Alongside respect for others comes respect for self. Without it, it is difficult to see how we can flourish – and whether we can be educators. Self-respect is not to be confused with qualities like self-esteem or self-confidence; rather it is to do with our intrinsic worth as a person and a sense of ourselves as mattering. It involves a ‘secure conviction that [our] conception of the good, [our] plan of life, is worth carrying out’ (Rawls 1972: 440). For some, respect for ourselves is simply the other side of the coin from respect for others. It flows from respect for persons. For others, like John Rawls, it is vital for happiness and must be supported as a matter of justice.

Third, educators should respect the Earth . This is sometimes talked about as respect for nature, or respect for all things or care for creation. Again there is a strong theological argument here – in much religious thinking humans are understood as stewards of the earth. Our task is to cultivate and care for it (see, for example, Genesis 2:15). However, there is also a strong case grounded in human experience. For example, Miller (2000) argues that ‘each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace’. Respect for the world is central to the thinking of those arguing for a more holistic vision of education and to the thinking of educationalists such as Montessori . Her vision of ‘cosmic education’ puts appreciating the wholeness of life at the core.

Since it has been seen to be necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. This idea helps the mind of the child to become fixed, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied, having found the universal centre of himself with all things’. (Montessori 2000)

Last, and certainly not least, there is a basic practical concern. We face an environmental crisis of catastrophic proportions. As Emmett (among many others) has pointed out, it is likely that we are looking at a global average rise of over four degrees Centigrade. This ‘will lead to runaway climate change, capable of tipping the planet into an entirely different state, rapidly. Earth would become a hell hole’ (2013: 143).

Being informed

To facilitate learning we must have some understanding of the subject matter being explored, and the impact study could have on those involved. In other words, facilitation is intelligent.

We expect, quite reasonably, that when people describe themselves as teachers or educators, they know something about the subjects they are talking about. In this respect, our ‘subject area’ as educators is wide. It can involve particular aspects of knowledge and activity such as those associated with maths or history. However, it is also concerned with happiness and relationships, the issues and problems of everyday life in communities, and questions around how people are best to live their lives. In some respects, it is wisdom that is required – not so much in the sense that we know a lot or are learned – but rather we are able to help people make good judgements about problems and situations.

We also assume that teachers and educators know how to help people learn. The forms of education we are exploring here are sophisticated. They can embrace the techniques of classroom management and of teaching to a curriculum that has been the mainstay of schooling. However, they move well beyond this into experiential learning, working with groups, and forms of working with individuals that draw upon insights from counselling and therapy.

In short, we look to teachers and educators as experts, We expect them to apply their expertise to help people learn. However, things don’t stop there. Many look for something more – wisdom.

Wisdom is not something that we can generally claim for ourselves – but a quality recognized by others. Sometimes when people are described as wise what is meant is that they are scholarly or learned. More often, I suspect, when others are described as ‘being wise’ it that people have experienced their questions or judgement helpful and sound when exploring a problem or difficult situation (see Smith and Smith 2008: 57-69). This entails:

  • appreciating what can make people flourish
  • being open to truth in its various guises and allowing subjects to speak to us
  • developing the capacity to reflect
  • being knowledgeable, especially about ourselves, around ‘what makes people tick’ and the systems of which we are a part
  • being discerning – able to evaluate and judge situations. ( op. cit. : 68)

This combination of qualities, when put alongside being respectful and informed, comes close to what Martin Buber talked about as the ‘real teacher’. The real teacher, he believed:

… teaches most successfully when he is not consciously trying to teach at all, but when he acts spontaneously out of his own life. Then he can gain the pupil’s confidence; he can convince the adolescent that there is human truth, that existence has a meaning. And when the pupil’s confidence has been won, ‘his resistance against being educated gives way to a singular happening: he accepts the educator as a person. He feels he may trust this man, that this man is taking part in his life, accepting him before desiring to influence him. And so he learns to ask…. (Hodes 1972: 136)

Education – acting so that all may share in life

Thus far in answering the question ‘what is education?’ we have seen how it can be thought of as the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning. Here we will explore the claim that education should be undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life. This commitment to the good of all and of each individual is central to the vision of education explored here, but it could be argued that it is possible to be involved in education without this. We could take out concern for others. We could just focus on process – the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning – and not state to whom this applies and the direction it takes.

Looking beyond process

First, we need to answer the question ‘if we act wisely, hopefully, and respectfully as educators do we need to have a further purpose?’ Our guide here will again be John Dewey. He approached the question a century ago by arguing that ‘the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth’ (Dewey 1916: 100). Education, for him, entailed the continuous ‘reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases the ability to direct the course of subsequent experience. (Dewey 1916: 76). His next step was to consider the social relationships in which this can take place and the degree of control that learners and educators have over the process. Just as Freire (1972) argued later, relationships for learning need to be mutual, and individual and social change possible.

In our search for aims in education, we are not concerned… with finding an end outside of the educative process to which education is subordinate. Our whole conception forbids. We are rather concerned with the contrast which exists when aims belong within the process in which they operate and when they are set up from without. And the latter state of affairs must obtain when social relationships are not equitably balanced. For in that case, some portions of the whole social group will find their aims determined by an external dictation; their aims will not arise from the free growth of their own experience, and their nominal aims will be means to more ulterior ends of others rather than truly their own. (Dewey 1916: 100-101)

In other words, where there are equitable relationships, control over the learning process, and the possibilities of fundamental change we needn’t look beyond the process. However, we have to work for much of the time in situations and societies where this level of democracy and social justice does not exist. Hence the need to make clear a wider purpose. Dewey (1916: 7) argued, thus, that our ‘chief business’ as educators is to enable people ‘to share in a common life’. I want to widen this and to argue that all should have a chance to share in life.

Having the chance to share in life

We will explore, briefly, three overlapping approaches to making the case – via religious belief, human rights and scientific exploration.

Religious belief. Historically it has been a religious rationale that has underpinned much thinking about this question. If we were to look at Catholic social teaching, for example, we find that at its heart lays a concern for human dignity . This starts from the position that, ‘human beings, created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), have by their very existence an inherent value, worth, and distinction’ (Groody 2007). Each life is considered sacred and cannot be ignored or excluded. As we saw earlier, Kant argued something similar with regard to ‘respect for persons’. All are worthy of respect and the chance to flourish.

To human dignity a concern for solidarity is often added (especially within contemporary Catholic social teaching). Solidarity:

… is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. On Social Concern ( Sollicitudo rei Socialis . . . ), #38

Another element, fundamental to the formation of the groups, networks and associations necessary for the ‘common life’ that Dewey describes, is subsidiarity . This principle, which first found its institutional voice in a papal encyclical in 1881, holds that human affairs are best handled at the ‘lowest’ possible level, closest to those affected (Kaylor 2015). It is a principle that can both strengthen civil society and the possibility of more mutual relationships for learning.

Together, these can provide a powerful and inclusive rationale for looking beyond particular individuals or groups when thinking about educational activity.

Human rights. Beside religious arguments lie others that are born of agreed principle or norm rather than faith. Perhaps the best known of these relate to what have become known as human rights. The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it this way:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 26 further states:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms….

These fundamental and inalienable rights are the entitlement of all human beings regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status (Article 2).

Scientific exploration. Lastly, I want to look at the results of scientific investigation into our nature as humans. More specifically we need to reflect on what it means when humans are described as social animals.

As we have already seen there is a significant amount of research showing just how dependent we are in everyday life on having trusting relationships in a society. Without them even the most basic exchanges cannot take place. We also know that in those societies where there is stronger concern for others and relatively narrow gaps between rich and poor people are generally happier (see, for example, Halpern 2010). On the basis of this material we could make a case for educators to look to the needs and experiences of all. Political, social and economic institutions depend on mass participation or at least benign consent – and the detail of this has to be learnt. However, with our growing appreciation of how our brains work and with the development of, for example, social cognitive neuroscience, we have a different avenue for exploration. We look to the needs and experience of others because we are hard-wired to do so. As Matthew D. Lieberman (2013) has put it:

Our basic urges include the need to belong, right along with the need for food and water. Our pain and pleasure systems do not merely respond to sensory inputs that can produce physical harm and reward. They are also exquisitely tuned to the sweet and bitter tastes delivered from the social world—a world of connection and threat to connection. (Lieberman 2013: 299)

Our survival as a species is dependent upon on looking to the needs and experiences of others. We dependent upon:

  Connecting: We have ‘evolved the capacity to feel social pains and pleasures, forever linking our well-being to our social connectedness. Infants embody this deep need to stay connected, but it is present through our entire lives’ ( op. cit. : 10) Mindreading: Primates have developed an unparalleled ability to understand the actions and thoughts of those around them, enhancing their ability to stay connected and interact strategically… This capacity allows humans to create groups that can implement nearly any idea and to anticipate the needs and wants of those around us, keeping our groups moving smoothly ( op. cit. : 10) Harmonizing: Although the self may appear to be a mechanism for distinguishing us from others and perhaps accentuating our selfishness, the self actually operates as a powerful force for social cohesiveness. Whereas   connection   is about our desire to be social, harmonizing   refers to the neural adaptations that allow group beliefs and values to influence our own. ( op. cit. : 11)

One of the key issues around these processes is the extent to which they can act to become exclusionary i.e. people can become closely attached to one particular group, community or nation and begin to treat others as somehow lesser or alien. In so doing relationships that are necessary to our survival – and that of the planet – become compromised. We need to develop relationships that are both bonding and bridging (see social capital ) – and this involves being and interacting with others who may not share our interests and concerns.

Education is more than fostering understanding and an appreciation of emotions and feelings. It is also concerned with change – ‘with how people can act with understanding and sensitivity to improve their lives and those of others’ (Smith and Smith 2008: 104). As Karl Marx (1977: 157-8) famously put it ‘all social life is practical…. philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; ‘the point is to change it’. Developing an understanding of an experience or a situation is one thing, working out what is good and wanting to do something about it is quite another. ‘For appropriate action to occur there needs to be commitment’ (Smith and Smith 2008: 105).

This combination of reflection; looking to what might be good and making it our own; and seeking to change ourselves and the world we live in is what Freire (1973) talked about as  praxis. It involves us, as educators, working with people to create and sustain environments and relationships where it is possible to:

  • Go back to experiences . Learning doesn’t take place in a vacuum. We have to look to the past as well as the present and the future. It is necessary to put things in their place by returning to, or recalling, events and happenings that seem relevant.
  • Attend and connect to feelings . Our ability to think and act is wrapped up with our feelings. Appreciating what might be going on for us (and for others) at a particular moment; thinking about the ways our emotions may be affecting things; and being open to what our instincts or intuitions are telling us are important elements of such reflection. (See Boud et. al. 1985).
  • Develop understandings . Alongside attending to feelings and experiences, we need to examine the theories and understandings we are using. We also need to build new interpretations where needed. We should be looking to integrating new knowledge into our conceptual framework.
  • Commit . Education is something ‘higher’ according to John Henry Newman. It is concerned not just with what we know and can do, but also with who we are, what we value, and our capacity to live life as well as we can . We need space to engage with these questions and help to appreciate the things we value. As we learn to frame our beliefs we can better appreciate how they breathe life into our relationships and encounters, become our own, and move us to act.
  • Act . Education is forward-looking and hopeful. It looks to change for the better. In the end our efforts at facilitating learning have to be judged by the extent to which they further the capacity to flourish and to share in life. For this reason we need also to attend to the concrete, the actual steps that can be taken to improve things.

As such education is a deeply practical activity – something that we can do for ourselves (what we could call self-education), and with others.

Conclusion – so what is education?

It is in this way that we end up with a definition of education as ‘the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life’. What does education involve?

We can begin with what Aristotle discusses as hexis – a readiness to sense and know. This is a state – or what Joe Sachs (2001) talks about as an ‘active condition’. It allows us to take a step forward – both in terms of the processes discussed above, and in what we might seek to do when working with learners and participants. Such qualities can be seen as being at the core of the haltung and processes of pedagogues and educators (see below). There is a strong emphasis upon being in touch with feelings, attending to intuitions and seeking evidence to confirm or question what we might be sensing. A further element is also present – a concern not to take things for granted or at their face value (See, also, Pierre Bourdieu on education , Bourdieu 1972|1977: 214 n1).

Beyond that, we can see a guiding eidos or leading idea. This is the belief that all share in life and a picture of what might allow people to be happy and flourish. Alongside is a disposition or haltung   (a concern to act respectfully, knowledgeably and wisely) and interaction (joining with others to build relationships and environments for learning). Finally, there is praxis – informed, committed action (Carr and Kemmis 1986; Grundy 1987).

The process of education

The process of education

At first glance, this way of answering the question ‘what is education?’ – with its roots in the thinking of  Aristotle , Rousseau , Pestalozzi and Dewey (to name a few) – is part of the progressive tradition of educational practice. It seems very different from ‘formal tradition’ or ‘traditional education’.

If there is a core theme to the formal position it is that education is about passing on information; for formalists, culture and civilization represent a store of ideas and wisdom which have to be handed on to new generations. Teaching is at the heart of this transmission; and the process of transmission is education…
While progressive educators stress the child’s development from within, formalists put the emphasis, by contrast, on formation from without— formation that comes from immersion in the knowledge, ideas, beliefs, concepts, and visions of society, culture, civilization. There are, one might say, conservative and liberal interpretations of this world view— the conservative putting the emphasis on transmission itself, on telling, and the liberal putting the emphasis more on induction, on initiation by involvement with culture’s established ideas.(Thomas 2013: 25-26).

As both Thomas and Dewey (1938: 17-23) have argued, these distinctions are problematic. A lot of the debate is either really about education being turned, or slipping, into something else, or reflecting a lack of balance between the informal and formal.

In the ‘formal tradition’ problems often occur where people are treated as objects to be worked on or ‘moulded’ rather than as participants and creators i.e. where education slips into ‘schooling’.

In the ‘progressive tradition’ issues frequently arise where the nature of experience is neglected or handled incompetently. Some experiences are damaging and ‘mis-educative’. They can arrest or distort ‘the growth of further experience’ (Dewey 1938: 25). The problem often comes when education drifts or moves into entertainment or containment. Involvement in the immediate activity is the central concern and little attention is given to expanding horizons, nor to reflection, commitment and creating change.

The answer to the question ‘what is education?’ given here can apply to both those ‘informal’ forms that are driven and rooted in conversation – and to more formal approaches involving a curriculum. The choice is not between what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ – but rather what is appropriate for people in this situation or that. There are times to use transmission and direct teaching as methods, and moments for exploration, experience and action. It is all about getting the mix right and framing it within the guiding eidos and disposition of education.

Further reading and references

Recommended introductions.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books. (Collier edition first published 1963). In this book, Dewey seeks to move beyond dualities such as progressive/traditional – and to outline a philosophy of experience and its relation to education.

Thomas, G. (2013). Education: A very short introduction . Oxford: Oxford University Press. Simply the best contemporary introduction to thinking about schooling and education.

Boud, D., Keogh, R. and Walker, D. (eds.) (1985). Reflection. Turning experience into learning . London: Kogan Page.

Bourdieu, Pierre. (1972|1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. First published in French as Esquisse d’une théorie de la pratique, précédé de trois études d’ethnologie kabyle, (1972).

Brookfield, S. (1984). Adult learners, adult education and the community . Milton Keynes, PA: Open University Press.

Buber, Martin (1947). Between Man and Man. Transl. R. G. Smith. London: Kegan Paul .

Carr, W. and Kemmis, S. (1986). Becoming Critical. Education, knowledge and action research. Lewes: Falmer.

Dewey, J. (1916), Democracy and Education. An introduction to the philosophy of education (1966 edn.). New York: Free Press.

Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think. A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. (Revised edn.), Boston: D. C. Heath.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Collier Books. (Collier edition first published 1963).

Dillon, R. S. (2014). Respect. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). [ http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/respect/ . Retrieved: February 10, 2015].

Ellis, J. W. (1990). Informal education – a Christian perspective.   Tony Jeffs and Mark Smith (eds.)   Using Informal Education. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Emmott, S. (2013). 10 Billion . London: Penguin. [Kindle edition].

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Freire, P. (1994) Pedagogy of Hope. Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed . With notes by Ana Maria Araujo Freire. Translated by Robert R. Barr. New York: Continuum.

Fromm, E. (1979). To Have or To Be . London: Abacus. (First published 1976).

Fromm, E. (1995). The Art of Loving . London: Thorsons. (First published 1957).

Gallagher, M. W. and Lopez, S. J. (eds.) (2018). The Oxford Handbook of Hope . New York: Oxford University Press.

Gopnik, A. (2016). The Gardener and the Carpenter. What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children . London: Random House.

Groody, D. (2007). Globalization, Spirituality and Justice . New York: Orbis Books.

Grundy, S. (1987). Curriculum. Product or praxis . Lewes: Falmer.

Halpern, D. (2010). The hidden wealth of nations . Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Halpin, D. (2003). Hope and Education. The role of the utopian imagination . London: RoutledgeFalmer.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress. Education as the practice of freedom , London: Routledge.

hooks, b. (2003). Teaching Community. A pedagogy of hope. New York: Routledge.

Hodes, A. (1972). Encounter with Martin Buber. London:   Allen Lane/Penguin.

Illeris, K. (2002). The Three Dimensions of Learning. Contemporary learning theory in the tension field between the cognitive, the emotional and the social. Frederiksberg: Roskilde University Press.

Kant, I. (1949). Fundamental principles of the metaphysic of morals (trans.  T. K. Abbott). New York: Liberal Arts Press.

Kaylor, C. (2015). Seven Principles of Catholic Social Teaching. CatholicCulture.org. [ http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=7538#PartV . Retrieved March 21, 2015].

Klein, N. (2014). This Changes Everything. Capitalism vs. the climate . London: Penguin. [Kindle edition].

Liston, D. P. (1980). Love and despair in teaching. Educational Theory . 50(1): 81-102.

MacQuarrie, J. (1978). Christian Hope . Oxford: Mowbray.

Marx, K. (1977). ‘These on Feurrbach’ in D. McLellan (ed.) Karl Marx. Selected writings . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Moltmann, J. (1967). Theology of hope: On the ground and the implications of a Christian eschatology . New York: Harper & Row. Available on-line: http://www.pubtheo.com/page.asp?PID=1036

Moltmann, J. (1971). Hope and planning . New York: Harper & Row.

Montessori, M. (2000). To educate the human potential . Oxford: Clio Press.

Rawls, J. (1972). A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rorty, R. (1999). Philosophy and Social Hope . London: Penguin.

Sciolli, A. and Biller, H. B. (2009). Hope in the Age of Anxiety. A guide to understanding and strengthening our most important virtue. New York: Oxford University Press.

Seabright, P. (2010). The Company of Strangers. A natural history of economic life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Smith, H. and Smith, M. K. (2008). The Art of Helping Others . Being Around, Being There, Being Wise . London: Jessica Kingsley.

Smith, M. K. (2019). Haltung, pedagogy and informal education, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education . [ https://infed.org/mobi/haltung-pedagogy-and-informal-education/ . Retrieved: August 28, 2019].

Smith, M. K. (2012, 2021). ‘What is pedagogy?’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education . [ https://infed.org/mobi/what-is-pedagogy/ . Retrieved February 16, 2021)

Thomas, G. (2013). Education: A very short introduction . Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Kindle Edition].

United Nations General Assembly (1948). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights . New York: United Nations. [ http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ . A ccessed March 14, 2015].

Warnock, M. (1986). The Education of the Emotions. In D. Cooper (ed.) Education, values and the mind. Essays for R. S. Peters . London: Routledge and Keegan Paul.

Williams, B. (2002). Truth & truthfulness: An essay in genealogy . Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Acknowledgements : Picture: Dessiner le futur adulte by Alain Bachellier. Sourced from Flickr and reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence. http://www.flickr.com/photos/alainbachellier/537180464/

The informal-formal education curriculum diagram is reproduced with permission from Ellis, J. W. (1990). Informal education – a Christian perspective. Tony Jeffs and Mark Smith (eds.) Using Informal Education . Buckingham: Open University Press. You can read the full chapter in the informal education archives: http://infed.org/archives/usinginformaleducation/ellis.htm

The process of education diagram was developed by Mark K Smith and was inspired by Grundy 1987. It can be reproduced without asking for specific permission but should be credited using the information in ‘how to cite this piece’ below.

This piece uses some material from Smith (2019) Haltung, pedagogy and informal education and (2021) What is pedagogy? (see the references above).

How to cite this piece : Smith, M. K. (2015, 2021). What is education? A definition and discussion. The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education . [ https://infed.org/mobi/what-is-education-a-definition-and-discussion/ . Retrieved: insert date ].

© Mark K Smith 2015, 2021

Last Updated on June 18, 2021 by infed.org

UCL School of Management

University college london, grace gaywood | 24 january 2021, what does education mean to you.

what does education mean essay

Since it was founded in 1826, UCL has been disrupting the status quo and providing quality education and producing leading research. UCL was the first English university to admit students regardless of race, class or religion, and the first to admit women students on equal terms with men. 

At UCL School of Management, our focus is on creating disruptive research and preparing the next generation of creative managers and influential leaders who are able to apply the latest technological developments as a strategic asset for businesses in the complex, interconnected world of the future. 

What does education mean to you?

On International Day of Education, we asked UCL School of Management staff, students and alumni what ‘education’ means to them and why they believe it is so important. 

“Education is the only defense we have against demagogues, fake news, and echo-chambers gradually pushing us into a dystopian reality” Davide Ravasi, Director of the PhD Programme

“Education, while being enjoyable, helps us broaden our horizons by equipping us with the knowledge necessary to better understand our surroundings as well as succeed in today’s world.” Nada Abi, 3rd Year BSc Management Science student 

“Education plays a critical role in modern times. At the micro level, some scholars believe that the education of an individual, different from schooling, is the understanding, appreciation and fulfilment of his or her own pursuit, which is of intrinsic value to the individual. At the macro level, education takes an essential part in the formation of community, culture, country, and country unions. One question that has arisen from the pandemic, is how to include each voice during the process of social development. Perhaps as educators, we must first listen to students’ voices. Then teachers can progressively reduce their role with the increase of students’ ability for independent research, curriculum development and learning and lastly yet most importantly, to believe in students and in ourselves.” Xinlu (Luna) Zheng Administrative Receptionist

“Education is a crucial stepping stone in life, allowing motivated students to explore an area of interest to help better guide them in the right direction in the world of work. It equips them not only with knowledge of a subject, but also with a variety of communication and professional skills that they can carry with themselves throughout the rest of their lives.” Patryk Sobczak Final Year BSc Infromation Management for Business student

“Education is a window of opportunity for a more fulling life.” Magda David Hercheui Programme Director for MSc Management

“A big part of education is about expanding the human mind - both thinking more creatively and being open to the ideas of others. The concept of ‘no-platforming’ speakers with views that challenge our own worries me greatly. It is alien to the very heart of both education and democracy. The day we stop thinking differently is the day we stop evolving.” Simon Hulme Director of MSc Entrepreneurship

“Education is life - you begin at birth and it never actually stops until you die. And it is how you use everything that you learn that shapes you and your pathways and determines whatever you want from life along the way.” Richard Pettinger Professor of Operations and Technology

Education is the only investment with guaranteed results. Without any risks involved, it’s buying your entrance ticket to the future. Mario Vanhoucke Visiting Senior Teaching Fellow and Honorary Senior Research Associate

what does education mean essay

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What is Education?

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  • Nov 15, 2023

What is Education?

“ The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence .” -Rabindranath Tagore . If we look in the dictionary for the meaning of education, it will say ‘It’s a process of transferring knowledge and skills.’ A process that brings about a positive change and refines the mind with an ability to think and act in a sophisticated manner, is what education actually means.

Dating back to ancient times till today, one constant debate that has the world divided with its opinions is the question of “What is education?’.  Targeted to bring a natural behavioural change within the mind and soul, education helps us differentiate between right and wrong while striving to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

This Blog Includes:

Understanding the meaning, definition of education by different authors, the notion of education in contemporary times.

“ Some of the brightest minds in the country can be found on the last benches of the classroom ”- Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Does it mean passing the school and acquiring a degree with high marks, or is it something else? Also called the ‘passage to progression’, education brings a permanent change in the thinking abilities of a person and makes them able to do certain things while differentiating between what is right and what is wrong. The true essence of education lies in inculcating certain values and information in individuals. Anyone who understands this concept will understand that quality education comes with repeated exposure and not hearing a mere lecture about materialistic topics. This is why Albert Einstein rightly said, “ Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think .”

Also Read: Top Educational Quotes to keep you motivated!

Education’s etymology may be found in the 1530s, when it first appeared in the English language with the meaning “kid rearing, the training of animals.” The Latin word educationem, which meant “upbringing, training,” was the source of the Middle French word education, which gave rise to the English word education.

Many educationists, philosophers, and authors have provided definitions of education. Since education is regarded as the most important activity in any culture, we hear the word frequently in daily life.

Aristotle – Education is the process of training man to fulfil his aim by exercising all the faculties to the fullest extent as a member of society. 

M.J. Langeveld – Education is every interaction that happens every association that occurs between adults with children is a field or a state where the educational work is in progress.

Prof. H. Mahmud Yunus – Education efforts that are deliberately chosen to influence and assist children with the aim of improving knowledge, physical and morals that can gradually deliver the child to the highest goal. In order for the child to live a happy, and all that  dilakukanya (he did) be beneficial to himself and society. 

Socrates – Education means the bringing out of the ideas of universal validity which are latent in the mind of every man.

Big Indonesian Dictionary (1991) – Education is defined as a learning process for the individual to attain knowledge and understanding of the higher specific objects and specific. The knowledge gained formally results in an individual having a pattern of thought and behaviour in accordance with the education they have gained. 

Stella van Petten Henderson – Education is a combination of growth and human development with social legacy. Kohnstamm and Gunning (1995): Education is the formation of conscience. Education is a process of self-formation and self-determination ethically, conformed conscience. 

John Dewey (1978) – Education is all one with growing; it has no end beyond itself. (Education is everything along with growth; education itself has no final destination behind him).

H.H Horne- In the broadest sense, education is the device by which a social group’s continued existence renews itself and defends its ideas.

Also Read: Masters in Education

Can we really live without having a language to communicate or knowing how the world works around us? No, isn’t it? Merely reading a book and understanding the information does not always mean that you have been educated, unless and until you do not integrate it into your memory and opinions. The process of education which is responsible for the personal, social and economic growth, not just for us but for the nation as well.

Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, Jean Piaget, a Swiss Psychologist and Philosopher defined education as, “The principle goal of education is the schools should be to create men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generation have done.”

Another French novelist and poet, Anatole France said, “ An education is not how much you have committed to memory or even how much you know. It is being able to differentiate between what you know and what you do not .” 

“ There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live .” – John Adams

In a student’s life, Education is nothing but a constant pressure in the current scenario. With the continuous stress of completing the given assignments before the deadline or preparing projects which are really not that useful for us, children and their parents and teachers often tend to forget what is education, the importance of education in life and how to impart education within the minds of the students rather than just making them fill their notebooks like a robot.

Though the education system all over the world has taken a great leap and includes various methods of creative learning for students, the present education system entails a lot of drawbacks. Even with the grading system being introduced to almost every other country, students still chase behind scoring parameters rather than focusing on the essence of learning.

Listed below are a few points which show the weak points of the contemporary education system.

  • Owing to the increasing competition, the students remain under constant stress to not lag behind their peers.
  • More than 90% of the subjects taught to school students are theoretical in nature. Practical learning as a part of every curriculum is the need of the hour.
  • The education system is based only on bookish knowledge and hardly are the students taught about values and what is right and wrong.
  • In the end, scores matter more than knowledge. Moreover, education must not be imparted on the basis of marks or a scoring system but through mapping what the student has essentially learned. 
  • Students are discouraged to experiment and learn on their own from their mistakes. The first and foremost thing every child must be taught is to ask questions and feed their curiosity through continuous scrutiny.

Also Read: Best Education System in the World

Related Articles

Education is the systematic process of transferring knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes in a structured and formalized setting. It is facilitated through teaching, training, or research.

The importance of education can be seen in the context of enhancing personal development, fostering self-confidence, and equipping people to make informed decisions in various aspects of their lives. It’s a pathway to economic opportunities, better health outcomes, a catalyst for innovation and progress, etc.

Moral education is the process of teaching ethical principles and values within the educational sphere. It is aimed at helping people develop a strong moral compass, make ethical decisions, and engage in responsible and compassionate behaviour.

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Principles and Pedagogies in Jewish Education pp 13–21 Cite as

What Is “Education”?

  • Barry Chazan 2  
  • Open Access
  • First Online: 26 October 2021

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3 Citations

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Analytic philosophy of education focuses on clarifying such key terms as: “education”, “aims”, “goals”, “objectives”, “overt curriculum”, “covert curriculum”, “null curriculum”, “pedagogical content knowledge”. The understanding of these and other concepts is critical to enable contemporary education to be regarded as a truly professional domain.

  • Pedagogic content knowledge

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The world of education—like law, medicine, business, and other spheres—has its own unique language. A discussion of this language is important for principals and teachers, parents, and students in order to facilitate a clear understanding of what education is. In this chapter, I analyze and clarify some key terms with a view to promoting a coherent and more precise educational practice.

Three Ways to Analyze the Term “Education”

There are three kinds of definitions of “education” (Scheffler 1960 ). The first type is called the descriptive . It is a statement that proposes to denote or explain the nature of the meaning of the word called “education” by using a variety of words to explain either what the phenomenon is or how the term is to be understood. This type of definition claims to describe precisely how the word denoted as “education” is most prominently used.

The second type of definition of “education” is the programmatic , which comes to advocate for or prescribe a belief of what education should be or should do. A programmatic definition is less preoccupied with what the phenomenon or language of education is and more concerned with promulgating a particular practice of education that is regarded as desirable. Sometimes prescriptive definitions are expressed in short, clipped sentences such as Pink Floyd’s “We don’t need no education” or the title of Jonathan Kozol’s description of education as Death at an Early Age (Kozol 1985 ). Programmatic definitions are ultimately short slogans or deeply felt preaching about the way education should be.

The third type of definition is the stipulative and its purpose is technical and utilitarian. It is basically a linguistic agreement or pact that enables a discussion to proceed smoothly without forcing a person to each time state, “This is what I mean by the term ‘education.’” It is essentially is a linguistic shortcut, in which one person’s explanation of the word “education” is called Version 1; a second person’s explanation is Version 2, and the third interpretation is called Version 3. This is a kind of a shortcut that enables the discussion to precede at a decent pace.

My concern in this chapter is the descriptive mode, namely, the endeavor to arrive at a clear and generally agreed-upon statement of what the word “education” means. My aim is to refer to terms that are generally used in everyday speech and to attempts to search for viable and relevant definitions that reflect as accurately as possible the common language usage of the term. There is a technique that students and some academics use in the attempt to understand the term, namely, to trace it back to its original linguistic roots. There are times when this is helpful, but very often this can be misleading, since the way it once was used does not necessarily help us understand the way it is used today. The contemporary word “education” is sometimes traced to the Latin root educare , which means “to train” or “to mold”. Based on this linguistic root, some people like to argue that training or molding is what education today should be. At the same time, the Latin word educere means “to lead out”, which suggests a totally different understanding of “education” as a process aimed at that freeing the person from the prison of ignorance. Generally, it is my sense that the technique of tracing back to former linguistic roots is more useful for understanding ways in which terms were understood in the past rather than helping us to grasp what they mean today.

Some Contemporary Meanings

Let’s now look at some diverse definitions of “education”. One understanding of the term is the conscious effort to equip the unequipped young with facts, knowledge, and skills that will enable them to function as adults in a specific society. This is often called the socialization model.

A second usage of the word “education” understands it as exposure to, understanding of, and practice in skillsets that a person needs to be able to function in contemporary culture. This notion is sometimes called the acculturation model.

A third notion of education focuses on the development of reflective thinking and feeling abilities so that the young will be able to carve out how they wish to exist. This model is sometimes known as the liberal or person-centered model of education.

A Proposed Definition of “Education”

I have found the discussion of diverse meanings of education to be very fruitful because it helps me see the world through different lenses and, particularly, enables me to think about and consider diverse meanings and practices of the dynamics of education. At the same time, since I believe that education is a practice, and in practice we need some very specific tools and toolkits to help us proceed, I have searched over time for a definition of “education” that I regard as both descriptively and programmatically useful for the educational practitioner. Ultimately, the definition that I regard as the most useful was shaped by Lawrence Cremin, who is regarded as the most distinguished historian of twentieth-century education:

Education is the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, provoke or acquire knowledge, values, attitudes, skills or sensibilities as well as any learning that results from the effort (Cremin, Public Education , p. 27)

This broad-based definition indicates that education is a purposeful activity. The word “education” is reserved for frameworks created with the considered and conscious intent to educate. This definition also understands education as a process and not a place. It is a purposeful activity that can happen within a wide range of frameworks and not only in buildings called schools. Moreover, this intentional activity does not only transmit knowledge, but it also is concerned with values, attitudes, skills, and sensibilities. Education is an activity which takes place in many diverse venues and is intended to develop knowledge, understanding, valuing, growing, caring, and behaving. It can happen “when you sit in your house, and when you go on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy, 6:7). While contemporary societies have denoted schools as the agency responsible for education, in fact, education far transcends the certificates of achievement received from pre-school, elementary, secondary, and collegiate frameworks.

“Aims”, “Goals”, “Objectives”

The concept of education invites the question “Education for what?” What is the purpose of education? While the terms, “aims”, “goals”, and “objectives” of education are sometimes used interchangeably, philosophers of education describe three distinct activities related to “purpose”: Aims, Goals, Objectives = AGO (Noddings 2007 ).

“Aims” refer to the most general ideals, values, or principles, which a person, institution, or society regards as the ultimate desideratum of education. Aims are value statements which designate certain principles or values as the ultimate aspiration. Aims describe both the ideal target of an educational institution as well at its ultimate desired outcomes or achievements. Educational aims ultimately frame the overall direction of an educational system or institution.

“Goals” refer to a second stage, which is derivative from aims and focuses on contents and topics that should be studied so as to enable students to understand and actualize core ideals explicit in aims. Goals translate aims into specific contents or stepping-stones that should be part of the educational process. If one of the aims of twentieth-century American schooling was to teach a set of shared values for its diverse populations in order to socialize them into a core American society, then its goal was to provide them with skillsets such as language, science, and mathematics, which were then regarded as contents critical to enable realization of the larger shared American creed.

The word “objectives” refers to the most practical stage, which is the actual teaching materials—books textbooks, maps, videos, and visual aids—used in the classroom each day, week, and month in a year. These are the infamous “lesson plans” which are an hour by hour mapping out of how teachers will spend every single day in the classroom.

This AGO framework can be a useful structure for analyzing education, from its most abstract goals to its most immediate daily application. Moreover, if implemented properly, it would seem to reflect a useful dynamic from theory to practice. Unfortunately, in reality, what often happens is that aims and goals are skipped over and objectives—daily blueprints, and lesson plans—become the main preoccupation. Because of a multitude of exigencies, the thoughtful paradigm of aims, goals, and objectives is often neglected at the expense of “getting through the day” in practice.

Three Notions of “Curriculum”

An important term in the study of education is “curriculum”, which popularly refers to the overall subjects or contents of schooling. As the field of curriculum studies developed into a rigorous academic area of study in schools of education, broader understandings of the term were to emerge (Pinar et al. 1995 ).

One of the important sophistications in the study of curriculum has been the notion of overt, covert, and null curricula. The “overt curriculum” refers to the clearly stated and enunciated objectives, contents, subjects, topics, books, and resources, which are the official frameworks, and requirements of a school and its teachers. It is the approved and mandated contents that shape a school’s operation.

The “covert” curriculum refers to attitudes, values, and behaviors that characterize the norms of daily life in schools beyond the subjects formally taught in a classroom. The covert curriculum is the unspoken “culture’” shaped by a multitude of forces and factors. What is the décor of the school? What do the halls look like? What type examinations are given? What is the nature of student interaction? The covert curriculum refers to the multiple features of a school culture very much shaped by the lives, habits, and “lingo” of students which have significant impact on the actual rhythm and flow of daily school life.

The “null” curriculum refers to the books, subjects, topics, and artifacts that are consciously and purposefully not part of the school curriculum. This may include partial or no discussion of the history of indigenous populations in the teaching of American history. It includes the list of books, sources, ands ideas that have very consciously not been chosen in the formal curriculum. All education requires selection, and the topics not chosen—and why—are just as important as those that have been chosen. Indeed, there are political, racial, gender, aesthetic, moral, and spiritual issues that significantly shape the overt, covert, and null curriculum of each and every type of schooling.

These three terms alert us to the complicated nature of curriculum development. While there is a popular phrase that refers to an individual “writing a curriculum’”, in fact, curriculum development has become a specialized domain that involves subject matter experts classroom teachers, and educational leadership, and requires extensive deliberation, field testing, revision, and production. It is one of the most exciting and, at the same time most demanding of fields in contemporary education.

Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)

An important dimension of education is what is commonly known as “pedagogy”, which is understood as the methodologies or the ways in which teaching should happen. Footnote 1 This is obviously a critical dimension of education because it is about what educators teach and how students learn—which are the ultimate domain of education. Pedagogy (sometimes called the “science of teaching”) is the assumption that there are universal patterns and procedures in teaching which should constitute an important part of academic teacher training. There were, and there still are, some general courses on pedagogy in university departments of education which reflect the assumption that there is a core set of methodologies generally appropriate for all sorts of teaching. Twentieth-century philosophers in multiple fields of study—for example, physics, mathematics, literature, and economics—began to focus on the notions of “realms of meaning” or “spheres of knowledge”, which led to the general consensus that there is a diversity of pedagogic methodologies that derive from the many different spheres of knowledge. This kind of thinking made it clear that because of the significant differences between science, mathematics, history, literature, and philosophy, there could be no one overall pedagogy appropriate for all subjects; consequently, such courses as “principles of pedagogy” were misleading. In the 1980s, through the innovative work of a group of educators of whom Professor Lee Shulman was a central figure, an important concept was to emerge which has had a profound effect on styles of teaching (Shulman 1986 ). This research led to the term “pedagogical content knowledge” (PCK). PCK refers to the fact that diverse spheres of knowledge utilize diverse methodologies of researching and understanding and therefore require diverse practices of teaching. In other words, the way a teacher teaches the subject depends on the nature of the subject and that all subjects are not the same. Just as it is clear that the ways we teach someone to drive a car or to learn how to swim have their own characteristics, so it is clear that the teaching of mathematics must differ from the teaching of literature, which differs from the teaching of civics, which differs from the teaching of languages. This notion indicates that one must be wary of general principles of “how to teach” and that quality teaching begins with and is related to an understanding of the subject matter being taught. To teach chemistry or physics one has to understand the role of experimentation. In teaching literature, one has to understand the importance of simile, metaphor, plot, and theme. PCK was to have a major impact particularly in the experimental subject areas, although there were also important implications for teaching literature and other areas. At the heart of PCK is the notion that methodology or “what to do” flows from the content one teaches, and the content one teaches ultimately flows from the “why” of education. In other words, education is an integrated dynamic in which the “why” affects the “what” and the “what” affects the “how”.

I learned about the importance of PCK during my travels over the years to all sorts of Jewish schools. One of the most prominent subjects (typically in the early years of elementary school) I observed was the teaching of Genesis Chapter 12 which describes a conversation between God and Abraham in which God makes a covenant—a legal agreement—with Abraham, that if he follows God’s ways, Abraham will be given a certain body of land for himself and for his children in perpetuity. How one teaches this section depends upon how one understands the nature of this ancient source. If this text is a verifiable history book (which was the mode that I observed in so many schools), it will be taught in one way; if this text is not a history book but rather a philosophical or theological work with profound religious, moral, and human messages, it will be taught in a totally different way. These two understandings result in dramatically diverse pedagogies and messages, depending on whether the text in Genesis 12 was presented as an authoritative history or a profound philosophy.

The contemporary language of education includes some key concepts—“schooling”, “aims”, “goals”, “curriculum”, and “pedagogy”—whose meanings are very important to the practice of education in schools and beyond. This conclusion suggests that the fields of education and Jewish education in the twenty-first century are sophisticated domains which call for serious deliberation and study by prospective educators. The educators of our young deserve the same level of training, investment, and rigor that we expect from the doctors who treat our bodies or from the engineers who build the bridges on which we travel. Education in the twenty-first century is a critical sphere that calls for deep reflection, training, and passion.

Adult education specialist Malcolm Knowles suggested that the term “pedagogy” be used to refer to the teaching of children and that the term “andragogy” be used to denote adult learning. (Knowles 2020 ).

Bibliography

Cremin, Lawrence. 1976. Public Education. (Basic Books).

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Knowles, Malcom. 2020. The Adult Learner. (Routledge).

Kozol, Jonathan. 1985. Death at an Early Age. The Classic Indictment of Inner City Education. (Plume Reissue Edition).

Noddings, Nel. 2007. “Aims, Goals, and Objectives” Encounters on Education . Vol 8, Fall, 2007, pp. 7–15.

Pinar, William Reynolds, William, Slattery, Taubman, Peter. 1995. Understanding Curriculum . (Peter Lang).

Scheffler, Israel. 1960. The Language of Education. (Charles C. Thomas).

Shulman, Lee. 1986. “Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching”. Educational Researcher Feb. Vol. 15 No. 2. pp. 4–14.

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Chazan, B. (2022). What Is “Education”?. In: Principles and Pedagogies in Jewish Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-83925-3_3

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what does education mean essay

How to Write Georgetown’s “Educated” Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara and Alexander Oddo in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

What’s Covered:

Understanding what this prompt is asking, answering how georgetown can help, taking a philosophical approach.

The Georgetown’s supplemental essay prompt 4a reads as follows: 

What does it mean to you to be educated? How might Georgetown College help you achieve this aim? (Applicants to the Sciences and Mathematics or the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics should address their chosen course of study.) – 1 page single spaced

In this article, we will discuss what exactly the prompt is asking of you and how to approach your response. If you are applying to Georgetown and are looking for guidance on the other prompts, check out this post on how to write the Georgetown supplemental essays .

In this essay, you can be a little more general than your other Georgetown responses. The prompt does, however, point out specific departments, so, if your intended major falls within those, make sure to answer their question with regards to your major. 

Regardless of the general prompt, your answer should be unique to you. Make sure you’re writing about your motivation for getting an education and for wanting to apply to college, and specifically Georgetown. Your answer to the first question, what does it mean to be educated, should also come from your own opinions. 

Talk about your reasons for wanting to be educated in the first place. Talk about why you are applying to college and more specifically why Georgetown. The school knows they are rigorous and that you are planning to spend 4 years in intense studies, so they want to know what’s motivating you and how Georgetown can help get you there. You can do this by highlighting specific resources and opportunities that Georgetown offers, which we will discuss in the next section. 

With this essay, you should discuss the specifics of why you’ve chosen Georgetown and why an education there would help you. Feel free to name specific classes, professors, or research projects that interest you. Now is your time to highlight the academics at Georgetown and how they align with your intellectual and future career goals. 

One academic feature Georgetown has is its core requirements. These are classes which students have to take in their freshman and sophomore years that cover a wide array of fields from STEM to Theology to English. They cover a lot of different things, and they do this because of core personnel. Georgetown wants its students to have a well-rounded education with knowledge from many different areas. You take these courses while taking classes specific to your major, and then the last two years of college are when you focus on your specialty. This is just one example that you can highlight from the many programs that Georgetown offers. 

You should also keep in mind that it is important to dive deep into the main question about education in your response. For many, an education could just be some knowledge you gain to get access to a career, but this essay is asking for a more philosophical approach. Ask yourself what the purpose of education is and why that would help you on a personal level. Talk about your relationship to learning in general and your attitude towards acquiring new skills and knowledge. 

Georgetown does focus on the core personnel, as mentioned earlier, so they are looking for students who are well-rounded with spikes in particular fields. Even if you plan on majoring in one of the programs they mention in the question, you can still highlight interdisciplinary education. It is a tricky balance, but you know your academic aspirations best, so discuss what feels right to your journey. You could choose to write about a variety of different fields or focus on education within your intended major. 

Overall, try to tell Georgetown why you decided to apply to their college. Bring in the philosophical meaning of education, how this relates to your future, and why Georgetown specifically can help you get there. Remember not to talk about the prestigiousness of the college too much because that can often come off as cliche and is often overused in this type of essay.

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Philosophy of Education

Philosophy of education is the branch of applied or practical philosophy concerned with the nature and aims of education and the philosophical problems arising from educational theory and practice. Because that practice is ubiquitous in and across human societies, its social and individual manifestations so varied, and its influence so profound, the subject is wide-ranging, involving issues in ethics and social/political philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and language, and other areas of philosophy. Because it looks both inward to the parent discipline and outward to educational practice and the social, legal, and institutional contexts in which it takes place, philosophy of education concerns itself with both sides of the traditional theory/practice divide. Its subject matter includes both basic philosophical issues (e.g., the nature of the knowledge worth teaching, the character of educational equality and justice, etc.) and problems concerning specific educational policies and practices (e.g., the desirability of standardized curricula and testing, the social, economic, legal and moral dimensions of specific funding arrangements, the justification of curriculum decisions, etc.). In all this the philosopher of education prizes conceptual clarity, argumentative rigor, the fair-minded consideration of the interests of all involved in or affected by educational efforts and arrangements, and informed and well-reasoned valuation of educational aims and interventions.

Philosophy of education has a long and distinguished history in the Western philosophical tradition, from Socrates’ battles with the sophists to the present day. Many of the most distinguished figures in that tradition incorporated educational concerns into their broader philosophical agendas (Curren 2000, 2018; Rorty 1998). While that history is not the focus here, it is worth noting that the ideals of reasoned inquiry championed by Socrates and his descendants have long informed the view that education should foster in all students, to the extent possible, the disposition to seek reasons and the ability to evaluate them cogently, and to be guided by their evaluations in matters of belief, action and judgment. This view, that education centrally involves the fostering of reason or rationality, has with varying articulations and qualifications been embraced by most of those historical figures; it continues to be defended by contemporary philosophers of education as well (Scheffler 1973 [1989]; Siegel 1988, 1997, 2007, 2017). As with any philosophical thesis it is controversial; some dimensions of the controversy are explored below.

This entry is a selective survey of important contemporary work in Anglophone philosophy of education; it does not treat in detail recent scholarship outside that context.

1. Problems in Delineating the Field

2. analytic philosophy of education and its influence, 3.1 the content of the curriculum and the aims and functions of schooling, 3.2 social, political and moral philosophy, 3.3 social epistemology, virtue epistemology, and the epistemology of education, 3.4 philosophical disputes concerning empirical education research, 4. concluding remarks, other internet resources, related entries.

The inward/outward looking nature of the field of philosophy of education alluded to above makes the task of delineating the field, of giving an over-all picture of the intellectual landscape, somewhat complicated (for a detailed account of this topography, see Phillips 1985, 2010). Suffice it to say that some philosophers, as well as focusing inward on the abstract philosophical issues that concern them, are drawn outwards to discuss or comment on issues that are more commonly regarded as falling within the purview of professional educators, educational researchers, policy-makers and the like. (An example is Michael Scriven, who in his early career was a prominent philosopher of science; later he became a central figure in the development of the field of evaluation of educational and social programs. See Scriven 1991a, 1991b.) At the same time, there are professionals in the educational or closely related spheres who are drawn to discuss one or another of the philosophical issues that they encounter in the course of their work. (An example here is the behaviorist psychologist B.F. Skinner, the central figure in the development of operant conditioning and programmed learning, who in works such as Walden Two (1948) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1972) grappled—albeit controversially—with major philosophical issues that were related to his work.)

What makes the field even more amorphous is the existence of works on educational topics, written by well-regarded philosophers who have made major contributions to their discipline; these educational reflections have little or no philosophical content, illustrating the truth that philosophers do not always write philosophy. However, despite this, works in this genre have often been treated as contributions to philosophy of education. (Examples include John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education [1693] and Bertrand Russell’s rollicking pieces written primarily to raise funds to support a progressive school he ran with his wife. (See Park 1965.)

Finally, as indicated earlier, the domain of education is vast, the issues it raises are almost overwhelmingly numerous and are of great complexity, and the social significance of the field is second to none. These features make the phenomena and problems of education of great interest to a wide range of socially-concerned intellectuals, who bring with them their own favored conceptual frameworks—concepts, theories and ideologies, methods of analysis and argumentation, metaphysical and other assumptions, and the like. It is not surprising that scholars who work in this broad genre also find a home in the field of philosophy of education.

As a result of these various factors, the significant intellectual and social trends of the past few centuries, together with the significant developments in philosophy, all have had an impact on the content of arguments and methods of argumentation in philosophy of education—Marxism, psycho-analysis, existentialism, phenomenology, positivism, post-modernism, pragmatism, neo-liberalism, the several waves of feminism, analytic philosophy in both its ordinary language and more formal guises, are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Conceptual analysis, careful assessment of arguments, the rooting out of ambiguity, the drawing of clarifying distinctions—all of which are at least part of the philosophical toolkit—have been respected activities within philosophy from the dawn of the field. No doubt it somewhat over-simplifies the complex path of intellectual history to suggest that what happened in the twentieth century—early on, in the home discipline itself, and with a lag of a decade or more in philosophy of education—is that philosophical analysis came to be viewed by some scholars as being the major philosophical activity (or set of activities), or even as being the only viable or reputable activity. In any case, as they gained prominence and for a time hegemonic influence during the rise of analytic philosophy early in the twentieth century analytic techniques came to dominate philosophy of education in the middle third of that century (Curren, Robertson, & Hager 2003).

The pioneering work in the modern period entirely in an analytic mode was the short monograph by C.D. Hardie, Truth and Fallacy in Educational Theory (1941; reissued in 1962). In his Introduction, Hardie (who had studied with C.D. Broad and I.A. Richards) made it clear that he was putting all his eggs into the ordinary-language-analysis basket:

The Cambridge analytical school, led by Moore, Broad and Wittgenstein, has attempted so to analyse propositions that it will always be apparent whether the disagreement between philosophers is one concerning matters of fact, or is one concerning the use of words, or is, as is frequently the case, a purely emotive one. It is time, I think, that a similar attitude became common in the field of educational theory. (Hardie 1962: xix)

About a decade after the end of the Second World War the floodgates opened and a stream of work in the analytic mode appeared; the following is merely a sample. D. J. O’Connor published An Introduction to Philosophy of Education (1957) in which, among other things, he argued that the word “theory” as it is used in educational contexts is merely a courtesy title, for educational theories are nothing like what bear this title in the natural sciences. Israel Scheffler, who became the paramount philosopher of education in North America, produced a number of important works including The Language of Education (1960), which contained clarifying and influential analyses of definitions (he distinguished reportive, stipulative, and programmatic types) and the logic of slogans (often these are literally meaningless, and, he argued, should be seen as truncated arguments), Conditions of Knowledge (1965), still the best introduction to the epistemological side of philosophy of education, and Reason and Teaching (1973 [1989]), which in a wide-ranging and influential series of essays makes the case for regarding the fostering of rationality/critical thinking as a fundamental educational ideal (cf. Siegel 2016). B. O. Smith and R. H. Ennis edited the volume Language and Concepts in Education (1961); and R.D. Archambault edited Philosophical Analysis and Education (1965), consisting of essays by a number of prominent British writers, most notably R. S. Peters (whose status in Britain paralleled that of Scheffler in the United States), Paul Hirst, and John Wilson. Topics covered in the Archambault volume were typical of those that became the “bread and butter” of analytic philosophy of education (APE) throughout the English-speaking world—education as a process of initiation, liberal education, the nature of knowledge, types of teaching, and instruction versus indoctrination.

Among the most influential products of APE was the analysis developed by Hirst and Peters (1970) and Peters (1973) of the concept of education itself. Using as a touchstone “normal English usage,” it was concluded that a person who has been educated (rather than instructed or indoctrinated) has been (i) changed for the better; (ii) this change has involved the acquisition of knowledge and intellectual skills and the development of understanding; and (iii) the person has come to care for, or be committed to, the domains of knowledge and skill into which he or she has been initiated. The method used by Hirst and Peters comes across clearly in their handling of the analogy with the concept of “reform”, one they sometimes drew upon for expository purposes. A criminal who has been reformed has changed for the better, and has developed a commitment to the new mode of life (if one or other of these conditions does not hold, a speaker of standard English would not say the criminal has been reformed). Clearly the analogy with reform breaks down with respect to the knowledge and understanding conditions. Elsewhere Peters developed the fruitful notion of “education as initiation”.

The concept of indoctrination was also of great interest to analytic philosophers of education, for, it was argued, getting clear about precisely what constitutes indoctrination also would serve to clarify the border that demarcates it from acceptable educational processes. Thus, whether or not an instructional episode was a case of indoctrination was determined by the content taught, the intention of the instructor, the methods of instruction used, the outcomes of the instruction, or by some combination of these. Adherents of the different analyses used the same general type of argument to make their case, namely, appeal to normal and aberrant usage. Unfortunately, ordinary language analysis did not lead to unanimity of opinion about where this border was located, and rival analyses of the concept were put forward (Snook 1972). The danger of restricting analysis to ordinary language (“normal English usage”) was recognized early on by Scheffler, whose preferred view of analysis emphasized

first, its greater sophistication as regards language, and the interpenetration of language and inquiry, second, its attempt to follow the modern example of the sciences in empirical spirit, in rigor, in attention to detail, in respect for alternatives, and in objectivity of method, and third, its use of techniques of symbolic logic brought to full development only in the last fifty years… It is…this union of scientific spirit and logical method applied toward the clarification of basic ideas that characterizes current analytic philosophy [and that ought to characterize analytic philosophy of education]. (Scheffler 1973 [1989: 9–10])

After a period of dominance, for a number of important reasons the influence of APE went into decline. First, there were growing criticisms that the work of analytic philosophers of education had become focused upon minutiae and in the main was bereft of practical import. (It is worth noting that a 1966 article in Time , reprinted in Lucas 1969, had put forward the same criticism of mainstream philosophy.) Second, in the early 1970’s radical students in Britain accused Peters’ brand of linguistic analysis of conservatism, and of tacitly giving support to “traditional values”—they raised the issue of whose English usage was being analyzed?

Third, criticisms of language analysis in mainstream philosophy had been mounting for some time, and finally after a lag of many years were reaching the attention of philosophers of education; there even had been a surprising degree of interest on the part of the general reading public in the United Kingdom as early as 1959, when Gilbert Ryle, editor of the journal Mind , refused to commission a review of Ernest Gellner’s Words and Things (1959)—a detailed and quite acerbic critique of Wittgenstein’s philosophy and its espousal of ordinary language analysis. (Ryle argued that Gellner’s book was too insulting, a view that drew Bertrand Russell into the fray on Gellner’s side—in the daily press, no less; Russell produced a list of insulting remarks drawn from the work of great philosophers of the past. See Mehta 1963.)

Richard Peters had been given warning that all was not well with APE at a conference in Canada in 1966; after delivering a paper on “The aims of education: A conceptual inquiry” that was based on ordinary language analysis, a philosopher in the audience (William Dray) asked Peters “ whose concepts do we analyze?” Dray went on to suggest that different people, and different groups within society, have different concepts of education. Five years before the radical students raised the same issue, Dray pointed to the possibility that what Peters had presented under the guise of a “logical analysis” was nothing but the favored usage of a certain class of persons—a class that Peters happened to identify with (see Peters 1973, where to the editor’s credit the interaction with Dray is reprinted).

Fourth, during the decade of the seventies when these various critiques of analytic philosophy were in the process of eroding its luster, a spate of translations from the Continent stimulated some philosophers of education in Britain and North America to set out in new directions, and to adopt a new style of writing and argumentation. Key works by Gadamer, Foucault and Derrida appeared in English, and these were followed in 1984 by Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition . The classic works of Heidegger and Husserl also found new admirers; and feminist philosophers of education were finding their voices—Maxine Greene published a number of pieces in the 1970s and 1980s, including The Dialectic of Freedom (1988); the influential book by Nel Noddings, Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education , appeared the same year as the work by Lyotard, followed a year later by Jane Roland Martin’s Reclaiming a Conversation . In more recent years all these trends have continued. APE was and is no longer the center of interest, although, as indicated below, it still retains its voice.

3. Areas of Contemporary Activity

As was stressed at the outset, the field of education is huge and contains within it a virtually inexhaustible number of issues that are of philosophical interest. To attempt comprehensive coverage of how philosophers of education have been working within this thicket would be a quixotic task for a large single volume and is out of the question for a solitary encyclopedia entry. Nevertheless, a valiant attempt to give an overview was made in A Companion to the Philosophy of Education (Curren 2003), which contains more than six-hundred pages divided into forty-five chapters each of which surveys a subfield of work. The following random selection of chapter topics gives a sense of the enormous scope of the field: Sex education, special education, science education, aesthetic education, theories of teaching and learning, religious education, knowledge, truth and learning, cultivating reason, the measurement of learning, multicultural education, education and the politics of identity, education and standards of living, motivation and classroom management, feminism, critical theory, postmodernism, romanticism, the purposes of universities, affirmative action in higher education, and professional education. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education (Siegel 2009) contains a similarly broad range of articles on (among other things) the epistemic and moral aims of education, liberal education and its imminent demise, thinking and reasoning, fallibilism and fallibility, indoctrination, authenticity, the development of rationality, Socratic teaching, educating the imagination, caring and empathy in moral education, the limits of moral education, the cultivation of character, values education, curriculum and the value of knowledge, education and democracy, art and education, science education and religious toleration, constructivism and scientific methods, multicultural education, prejudice, authority and the interests of children, and on pragmatist, feminist, and postmodernist approaches to philosophy of education.

Given this enormous range, there is no non-arbitrary way to select a small number of topics for further discussion, nor can the topics that are chosen be pursued in great depth. The choice of those below has been made with an eye to highlighting contemporary work that makes solid contact with and contributes to important discussions in general philosophy and/or the academic educational and educational research communities.

The issue of what should be taught to students at all levels of education—the issue of curriculum content—obviously is a fundamental one, and it is an extraordinarily difficult one with which to grapple. In tackling it, care needs to be taken to distinguish between education and schooling—for although education can occur in schools, so can mis-education, and many other things can take place there that are educationally orthogonal (such as the provision of free or subsidized lunches and the development of social networks); and it also must be recognized that education can occur in the home, in libraries and museums, in churches and clubs, in solitary interaction with the public media, and the like.

In developing a curriculum (whether in a specific subject area, or more broadly as the whole range of offerings in an educational institution or system), a number of difficult decisions need to be made. Issues such as the proper ordering or sequencing of topics in the chosen subject, the time to be allocated to each topic, the lab work or excursions or projects that are appropriate for particular topics, can all be regarded as technical issues best resolved either by educationists who have a depth of experience with the target age group or by experts in the psychology of learning and the like. But there are deeper issues, ones concerning the validity of the justifications that have been given for including/excluding particular subjects or topics in the offerings of formal educational institutions. (Why should evolution or creation “science” be included, or excluded, as a topic within the standard high school subject Biology? Is the justification that is given for teaching Economics in some schools coherent and convincing? Do the justifications for including/excluding materials on birth control, patriotism, the Holocaust or wartime atrocities in the curriculum in some school districts stand up to critical scrutiny?)

The different justifications for particular items of curriculum content that have been put forward by philosophers and others since Plato’s pioneering efforts all draw, explicitly or implicitly, upon the positions that the respective theorists hold about at least three sets of issues.

First, what are the aims and/or functions of education (aims and functions are not necessarily the same)? Many aims have been proposed; a short list includes the production of knowledge and knowledgeable students, the fostering of curiosity and inquisitiveness, the enhancement of understanding, the enlargement of the imagination, the civilizing of students, the fostering of rationality and/or autonomy, and the development in students of care, concern and associated dispositions and attitudes (see Siegel 2007 for a longer list). The justifications offered for all such aims have been controversial, and alternative justifications of a single proposed aim can provoke philosophical controversy. Consider the aim of autonomy. Aristotle asked, what constitutes the good life and/or human flourishing, such that education should foster these (Curren 2013)? These two formulations are related, for it is arguable that our educational institutions should aim to equip individuals to pursue this good life—although this is not obvious, both because it is not clear that there is one conception of the good or flourishing life that is the good or flourishing life for everyone, and it is not clear that this is a question that should be settled in advance rather than determined by students for themselves. Thus, for example, if our view of human flourishing includes the capacity to think and act autonomously, then the case can be made that educational institutions—and their curricula—should aim to prepare, or help to prepare, autonomous individuals. A rival justification of the aim of autonomy, associated with Kant, champions the educational fostering of autonomy not on the basis of its contribution to human flourishing, but rather the obligation to treat students with respect as persons (Scheffler 1973 [1989]; Siegel 1988). Still others urge the fostering of autonomy on the basis of students’ fundamental interests, in ways that draw upon both Aristotelian and Kantian conceptual resources (Brighouse 2005, 2009). It is also possible to reject the fostering of autonomy as an educational aim (Hand 2006).

Assuming that the aim can be justified, how students should be helped to become autonomous or develop a conception of the good life and pursue it is of course not immediately obvious, and much philosophical ink has been spilled on the general question of how best to determine curriculum content. One influential line of argument was developed by Paul Hirst, who argued that knowledge is essential for developing and then pursuing a conception of the good life, and because logical analysis shows, he argued, that there are seven basic forms of knowledge, the case can be made that the function of the curriculum is to introduce students to each of these forms (Hirst 1965; see Phillips 1987: ch. 11). Another, suggested by Scheffler, is that curriculum content should be selected so as “to help the learner attain maximum self-sufficiency as economically as possible.” The relevant sorts of economy include those of resources, teacher effort, student effort, and the generalizability or transfer value of content, while the self-sufficiency in question includes

self-awareness, imaginative weighing of alternative courses of action, understanding of other people’s choices and ways of life, decisiveness without rigidity, emancipation from stereotyped ways of thinking and perceiving…empathy… intuition, criticism and independent judgment. (Scheffler 1973 [1989: 123–5])

Both impose important constraints on the curricular content to be taught.

Second, is it justifiable to treat the curriculum of an educational institution as a vehicle for furthering the socio-political interests and goals of a dominant group, or any particular group, including one’s own; and relatedly, is it justifiable to design the curriculum so that it serves as an instrument of control or of social engineering? In the closing decades of the twentieth century there were numerous discussions of curriculum theory, particularly from Marxist and postmodern perspectives, that offered the sobering analysis that in many educational systems, including those in Western democracies, the curriculum did indeed reflect and serve the interests of powerful cultural elites. What to do about this situation (if it is indeed the situation of contemporary educational institutions) is far from clear and is the focus of much work at the interface of philosophy of education and social/political philosophy, some of which is discussed in the next section. A closely related question is this: ought educational institutions be designed to further pre-determined social ends, or rather to enable students to competently evaluate all such ends? Scheffler argued that we should opt for the latter: we must

surrender the idea of shaping or molding the mind of the pupil. The function of education…is rather to liberate the mind, strengthen its critical powers, [and] inform it with knowledge and the capacity for independent inquiry. (Scheffler 1973 [1989: 139])

Third, should educational programs at the elementary and secondary levels be made up of a number of disparate offerings, so that individuals with different interests and abilities and affinities for learning can pursue curricula that are suitable? Or should every student pursue the same curriculum as far as each is able?—a curriculum, it should be noted, that in past cases nearly always was based on the needs or interests of those students who were academically inclined or were destined for elite social roles. Mortimer Adler and others in the late twentieth century sometimes used the aphorism “the best education for the best is the best education for all.”

The thinking here can be explicated in terms of the analogy of an out-of-control virulent disease, for which there is only one type of medicine available; taking a large dose of this medicine is extremely beneficial, and the hope is that taking only a little—while less effective—is better than taking none at all. Medically, this is dubious, while the educational version—forcing students to work, until they exit the system, on topics that do not interest them and for which they have no facility or motivation—has even less merit. (For a critique of Adler and his Paideia Proposal , see Noddings 2015.) It is interesting to compare the modern “one curriculum track for all” position with Plato’s system outlined in the Republic , according to which all students—and importantly this included girls—set out on the same course of study. Over time, as they moved up the educational ladder it would become obvious that some had reached the limit imposed upon them by nature, and they would be directed off into appropriate social roles in which they would find fulfillment, for their abilities would match the demands of these roles. Those who continued on with their education would eventually become members of the ruling class of Guardians.

The publication of John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice in 1971 was the most notable event in the history of political philosophy over the last century. The book spurred a period of ferment in political philosophy that included, among other things, new research on educationally fundamental themes. The principles of justice in educational distribution have perhaps been the dominant theme in this literature, and Rawls’s influence on its development has been pervasive.

Rawls’s theory of justice made so-called “fair equality of opportunity” one of its constitutive principles. Fair equality of opportunity entailed that the distribution of education would not put the children of those who currently occupied coveted social positions at any competitive advantage over other, equally talented and motivated children seeking the qualifications for those positions (Rawls 1971: 72–75). Its purpose was to prevent socio-economic differences from hardening into social castes that were perpetuated across generations. One obvious criticism of fair equality of opportunity is that it does not prohibit an educational distribution that lavished resources on the most talented children while offering minimal opportunities to others. So long as untalented students from wealthy families were assigned opportunities no better than those available to their untalented peers among the poor, no breach of the principle would occur. Even the most moderate egalitarians might find such a distributive regime to be intuitively repugnant.

Repugnance might be mitigated somewhat by the ways in which the overall structure of Rawls’s conception of justice protects the interests of those who fare badly in educational competition. All citizens must enjoy the same basic liberties, and equal liberty always has moral priority over equal opportunity: the former can never be compromised to advance the latter. Further, inequality in the distribution of income and wealth are permitted only to the degree that it serves the interests of the least advantaged group in society. But even with these qualifications, fair equality of opportunity is arguably less than really fair to anyone. The fact that their education should secure ends other than access to the most selective social positions—ends such as artistic appreciation, the kind of self-knowledge that humanistic study can furnish, or civic virtue—is deemed irrelevant according to Rawls’s principle. But surely it is relevant, given that a principle of educational justice must be responsive to the full range of educationally important goods.

Suppose we revise our account of the goods included in educational distribution so that aesthetic appreciation, say, and the necessary understanding and virtue for conscientious citizenship count for just as much as job-related skills. An interesting implication of doing so is that the rationale for requiring equality under any just distribution becomes decreasingly clear. That is because job-related skills are positional whereas the other educational goods are not (Hollis 1982). If you and I both aspire to a career in business management for which we are equally qualified, any increase in your job-related skills is a corresponding disadvantage to me unless I can catch up. Positional goods have a competitive structure by definition, though the ends of civic or aesthetic education do not fit that structure. If you and I aspire to be good citizens and are equal in civic understanding and virtue, an advance in your civic education is no disadvantage to me. On the contrary, it is easier to be a good citizen the better other citizens learn to be. At the very least, so far as non-positional goods figure in our conception of what counts as a good education, the moral stakes of inequality are thereby lowered.

In fact, an emerging alternative to fair equality of opportunity is a principle that stipulates some benchmark of adequacy in achievement or opportunity as the relevant standard of distribution. But it is misleading to represent this as a contrast between egalitarian and sufficientarian conceptions. Philosophically serious interpretations of adequacy derive from the ideal of equal citizenship (Satz 2007; Anderson 2007). Then again, fair equality of opportunity in Rawls’s theory is derived from a more fundamental ideal of equality among citizens. This was arguably true in A Theory of Justice but it is certainly true in his later work (Dworkin 1977: 150–183; Rawls 1993). So, both Rawls’s principle and the emerging alternative share an egalitarian foundation. The debate between adherents of equal opportunity and those misnamed as sufficientarians is certainly not over (e.g., Brighouse & Swift 2009; Jacobs 2010; Warnick 2015). Further progress will likely hinge on explicating the most compelling conception of the egalitarian foundation from which distributive principles are to be inferred. Another Rawls-inspired alternative is that a “prioritarian” distribution of achievement or opportunity might turn out to be the best principle we can come up with—i.e., one that favors the interests of the least advantaged students (Schouten 2012).

The publication of Rawls’s Political Liberalism in 1993 signaled a decisive turning point in his thinking about justice. In his earlier book, the theory of justice had been presented as if it were universally valid. But Rawls had come to think that any theory of justice presented as such was open to reasonable rejection. A more circumspect approach to justification would seek grounds for justice as fairness in an overlapping consensus between the many reasonable values and doctrines that thrive in a democratic political culture. Rawls argued that such a culture is informed by a shared ideal of free and equal citizenship that provided a new, distinctively democratic framework for justifying a conception of justice. The shift to political liberalism involved little revision on Rawls’s part to the content of the principles he favored. But the salience it gave to questions about citizenship in the fabric of liberal political theory had important educational implications. How was the ideal of free and equal citizenship to be instantiated in education in a way that accommodated the range of reasonable values and doctrines encompassed in an overlapping consensus? Political Liberalism has inspired a range of answers to that question (cf. Callan 1997; Clayton 2006; Bull 2008).

Other philosophers besides Rawls in the 1990s took up a cluster of questions about civic education, and not always from a liberal perspective. Alasdair Macintyre’s After Virtue (1984) strongly influenced the development of communitarian political theory which, as its very name might suggest, argued that the cultivation of community could preempt many of the problems with conflicting individual rights at the core of liberalism. As a full-standing alternative to liberalism, communitarianism might have little to recommend it. But it was a spur for liberal philosophers to think about how communities could be built and sustained to support the more familiar projects of liberal politics (e.g., Strike 2010). Furthermore, its arguments often converged with those advanced by feminist exponents of the ethic of care (Noddings 1984; Gilligan 1982). Noddings’ work is particularly notable because she inferred a cogent and radical agenda for the reform of schools from her conception of care (Noddings 1992).

One persistent controversy in citizenship theory has been about whether patriotism is correctly deemed a virtue, given our obligations to those who are not our fellow citizens in an increasingly interdependent world and the sordid history of xenophobia with which modern nation states are associated. The controversy is partly about what we should teach in our schools and is commonly discussed by philosophers in that context (Galston 1991; Ben-Porath 2006; Callan 2006; Miller 2007; Curren & Dorn 2018). The controversy is related to a deeper and more pervasive question about how morally or intellectually taxing the best conception of our citizenship should be. The more taxing it is, the more constraining its derivative conception of civic education will be. Contemporary political philosophers offer divergent arguments about these matters. For example, Gutmann and Thompson claim that citizens of diverse democracies need to “understand the diverse ways of life of their fellow citizens” (Gutmann & Thompson 1996: 66). The need arises from the obligation of reciprocity which they (like Rawls) believe to be integral to citizenship. Because I must seek to cooperate with others politically on terms that make sense from their moral perspective as well as my own, I must be ready to enter that perspective imaginatively so as to grasp its distinctive content. Many such perspectives prosper in liberal democracies, and so the task of reciprocal understanding is necessarily onerous. Still, our actions qua deliberative citizen must be grounded in such reciprocity if political cooperation on terms acceptable to us as (diversely) morally motivated citizens is to be possible at all. This is tantamount to an imperative to think autonomously inside the role of citizen because I cannot close-mindedly resist critical consideration of moral views alien to my own without flouting my responsibilities as a deliberative citizen.

Civic education does not exhaust the domain of moral education, even though the more robust conceptions of equal citizenship have far-reaching implications for just relations in civil society and the family. The study of moral education has traditionally taken its bearings from normative ethics rather than political philosophy, and this is largely true of work undertaken in recent decades. The major development here has been the revival of virtue ethics as an alternative to the deontological and consequentialist theories that dominated discussion for much of the twentieth century.

The defining idea of virtue ethics is that our criterion of moral right and wrong must derive from a conception of how the ideally virtuous agent would distinguish between the two. Virtue ethics is thus an alternative to both consequentialism and deontology which locate the relevant criterion in producing good consequences or meeting the requirements of moral duty respectively. The debate about the comparative merits of these theories is not resolved, but from an educational perspective that may be less important than it has sometimes seemed to antagonists in the debate. To be sure, adjudicating between rival theories in normative ethics might shed light on how best to construe the process of moral education, and philosophical reflection on the process might help us to adjudicate between the theories. There has been extensive work on habituation and virtue, largely inspired by Aristotle (Burnyeat 1980; Peters 1981). But whether this does anything to establish the superiority of virtue ethics over its competitors is far from obvious. Other aspects of moral education—in particular, the paired processes of role-modelling and identification—deserve much more scrutiny than they have received (Audi 2017; Kristjánsson 2015, 2017).

Related to the issues concerning the aims and functions of education and schooling rehearsed above are those involving the specifically epistemic aims of education and attendant issues treated by social and virtue epistemologists. (The papers collected in Kotzee 2013 and Baehr 2016 highlight the current and growing interactions among social epistemologists, virtue epistemologists, and philosophers of education.)

There is, first, a lively debate concerning putative epistemic aims. Alvin Goldman argues that truth (or knowledge understood in the “weak” sense of true belief) is the fundamental epistemic aim of education (Goldman 1999). Others, including the majority of historically significant philosophers of education, hold that critical thinking or rationality and rational belief (or knowledge in the “strong” sense that includes justification) is the basic epistemic educational aim (Bailin & Siegel 2003; Scheffler 1965, 1973 [1989]; Siegel 1988, 1997, 2005, 2017). Catherine Z. Elgin (1999a,b) and Duncan Pritchard (2013, 2016; Carter & Pritchard 2017) have independently urged that understanding is the basic aim. Pritchard’s view combines understanding with intellectual virtue ; Jason Baehr (2011) systematically defends the fostering of the intellectual virtues as the fundamental epistemic aim of education. This cluster of views continues to engender ongoing discussion and debate. (Its complex literature is collected in Carter and Kotzee 2015, summarized in Siegel 2018, and helpfully analyzed in Watson 2016.)

A further controversy concerns the places of testimony and trust in the classroom: In what circumstances if any ought students to trust their teachers’ pronouncements, and why? Here the epistemology of education is informed by social epistemology, specifically the epistemology of testimony; the familiar reductionism/anti-reductionism controversy there is applicable to students and teachers. Anti-reductionists, who regard testimony as a basic source of justification, may with equanimity approve of students’ taking their teachers’ word at face value and believing what they say; reductionists may balk. Does teacher testimony itself constitute good reason for student belief?

The correct answer here seems clearly enough to be “it depends”. For very young children who have yet to acquire or develop the ability to subject teacher declarations to critical scrutiny, there seems to be little alternative to accepting what their teachers tell them. For older and more cognitively sophisticated students there seem to be more options: they can assess them for plausibility, compare them with other opinions, assess the teachers’ proffered reasons, subject them to independent evaluation, etc. Regarding “the teacher says that p ” as itself a good reason to believe it appears moreover to contravene the widely shared conviction that an important educational aim is helping students to become able to evaluate candidate beliefs for themselves and believe accordingly. That said, all sides agree that sometimes believers, including students, have good reasons simply to trust what others tell them. There is thus more work to do here by both social epistemologists and philosophers of education (for further discussion see Goldberg 2013; Siegel 2005, 2018).

A further cluster of questions, of long-standing interest to philosophers of education, concerns indoctrination : How if at all does it differ from legitimate teaching? Is it inevitable, and if so is it not always necessarily bad? First, what is it? As we saw earlier, extant analyses focus on the aims or intentions of the indoctrinator, the methods employed, or the content transmitted. If the indoctrination is successful, all have the result that students/victims either don’t, won’t, or can’t subject the indoctrinated material to proper epistemic evaluation. In this way it produces both belief that is evidentially unsupported or contravened and uncritical dispositions to believe. It might seem obvious that indoctrination, so understood, is educationally undesirable. But it equally seems that very young children, at least, have no alternative but to believe sans evidence; they have yet to acquire the dispositions to seek and evaluate evidence, or the abilities to recognize evidence or evaluate it. Thus we seem driven to the views that indoctrination is both unavoidable and yet bad and to be avoided. It is not obvious how this conundrum is best handled. One option is to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable indoctrination. Another is to distinguish between indoctrination (which is always bad) and non-indoctrinating belief inculcation, the latter being such that students are taught some things without reasons (the alphabet, the numbers, how to read and count, etc.), but in such a way that critical evaluation of all such material (and everything else) is prized and fostered (Siegel 1988: ch. 5). In the end the distinctions required by the two options might be extensionally equivalent (Siegel 2018).

Education, it is generally granted, fosters belief : in the typical propositional case, Smith teaches Jones that p , and if all goes well Jones learns it and comes to believe it. Education also has the task of fostering open-mindedness and an appreciation of our fallibility : All the theorists mentioned thus far, especially those in the critical thinking and intellectual virtue camps, urge their importance. But these two might seem at odds. If Jones (fully) believes that p , can she also be open-minded about it? Can she believe, for example, that earthquakes are caused by the movements of tectonic plates, while also believing that perhaps they aren’t? This cluster of italicized notions requires careful handling; it is helpfully discussed by Jonathan Adler (2002, 2003), who recommends regarding the latter two as meta-attitudes concerning one’s first-order beliefs rather than lessened degrees of belief or commitments to those beliefs.

Other traditional epistemological worries that impinge upon the epistemology of education concern (a) absolutism , pluralism and relativism with respect to knowledge, truth and justification as these relate to what is taught, (b) the character and status of group epistemologies and the prospects for understanding such epistemic goods “universalistically” in the face of “particularist” challenges, (c) the relation between “knowledge-how” and “knowledge-that” and their respective places in the curriculum, (d) concerns raised by multiculturalism and the inclusion/exclusion of marginalized perspectives in curriculum content and the classroom, and (e) further issues concerning teaching and learning. (There is more here than can be briefly summarized; for more references and systematic treatment cf. Bailin & Siegel 2003; Carter & Kotzee 2015; Cleverley & Phillips 1986; Robertson 2009; Siegel 2004, 2017; and Watson 2016.)

The educational research enterprise has been criticized for a century or more by politicians, policymakers, administrators, curriculum developers, teachers, philosophers of education, and by researchers themselves—but the criticisms have been contradictory. Charges of being “too ivory tower and theory-oriented” are found alongside “too focused on practice and too atheoretical”; but in light of the views of John Dewey and William James that the function of theory is to guide intelligent practice and problem-solving, it is becoming more fashionable to hold that the “theory v. practice” dichotomy is a false one. (For an illuminating account of the historical development of educational research and its tribulations, see Lagemann 2000.)

A similar trend can be discerned with respect to the long warfare between two rival groups of research methods—on one hand quantitative/statistical approaches to research, and on the other hand the qualitative/ethnographic family. (The choice of labels here is not entirely risk-free, for they have been contested; furthermore the first approach is quite often associated with “experimental” studies, and the latter with “case studies”, but this is an over-simplification.) For several decades these two rival methodological camps were treated by researchers and a few philosophers of education as being rival paradigms (Kuhn’s ideas, albeit in a very loose form, have been influential in the field of educational research), and the dispute between them was commonly referred to as “the paradigm wars”. In essence the issue at stake was epistemological: members of the quantitative/experimental camp believed that only their methods could lead to well-warranted knowledge claims, especially about the causal factors at play in educational phenomena, and on the whole they regarded qualitative methods as lacking in rigor; on the other hand the adherents of qualitative/ethnographic approaches held that the other camp was too “positivistic” and was operating with an inadequate view of causation in human affairs—one that ignored the role of motives and reasons, possession of relevant background knowledge, awareness of cultural norms, and the like. Few if any commentators in the “paradigm wars” suggested that there was anything prohibiting the use of both approaches in the one research program—provided that if both were used, they were used only sequentially or in parallel, for they were underwritten by different epistemologies and hence could not be blended together. But recently the trend has been towards rapprochement, towards the view that the two methodological families are, in fact, compatible and are not at all like paradigms in the Kuhnian sense(s) of the term; the melding of the two approaches is often called “mixed methods research”, and it is growing in popularity. (For more detailed discussion of these “wars” see Howe 2003 and Phillips 2009.)

The most lively contemporary debates about education research, however, were set in motion around the turn of the millennium when the US Federal Government moved in the direction of funding only rigorously scientific educational research—the kind that could establish causal factors which could then guide the development of practically effective policies. (It was held that such a causal knowledge base was available for medical decision-making.) The definition of “rigorously scientific”, however, was decided by politicians and not by the research community, and it was given in terms of the use of a specific research method—the net effect being that the only research projects to receive Federal funding were those that carried out randomized controlled experiments or field trials (RFTs). It has become common over the last decade to refer to the RFT as the “gold standard” methodology.

The National Research Council (NRC)—an arm of the US National Academies of Science—issued a report, influenced by postpostivistic philosophy of science (NRC 2002), that argued that this criterion was far too narrow. Numerous essays have appeared subsequently that point out how the “gold standard” account of scientific rigor distorts the history of science, how the complex nature of the relation between evidence and policy-making has been distorted and made to appear overly simple (for instance the role of value-judgments in linking empirical findings to policy directives is often overlooked), and qualitative researchers have insisted upon the scientific nature of their work. Nevertheless, and possibly because it tried to be balanced and supported the use of RFTs in some research contexts, the NRC report has been the subject of symposia in four journals, where it has been supported by a few and attacked from a variety of philosophical fronts: Its authors were positivists, they erroneously believed that educational inquiry could be value neutral and that it could ignore the ways in which the exercise of power constrains the research process, they misunderstood the nature of educational phenomena, and so on. This cluster of issues continues to be debated by educational researchers and by philosophers of education and of science, and often involves basic topics in philosophy of science: the constitution of warranting evidence, the nature of theories and of confirmation and explanation, etc. Nancy Cartwright’s important recent work on causation, evidence, and evidence-based policy adds layers of both philosophical sophistication and real world practical analysis to the central issues just discussed (Cartwright & Hardie 2012, Cartwright 2013; cf. Kvernbekk 2015 for an overview of the controversies regarding evidence in the education and philosophy of education literatures).

As stressed earlier, it is impossible to do justice to the whole field of philosophy of education in a single encyclopedia entry. Different countries around the world have their own intellectual traditions and their own ways of institutionalizing philosophy of education in the academic universe, and no discussion of any of this appears in the present essay. But even in the Anglo-American world there is such a diversity of approaches that any author attempting to produce a synoptic account will quickly run into the borders of his or her competence. Clearly this has happened in the present case.

Fortunately, in the last thirty years or so resources have become available that significantly alleviate these problems. There has been a flood of encyclopedia entries, both on the field as a whole and also on many specific topics not well-covered in the present essay (see, as a sample, Burbules 1994; Chambliss 1996b; Curren 1998, 2018; Phillips 1985, 2010; Siegel 2007; Smeyers 1994), two “Encyclopedias” (Chambliss 1996a; Phillips 2014), a “Guide” (Blake, Smeyers, Smith, & Standish 2003), a “Companion” (Curren 2003), two “Handbooks” (Siegel 2009; Bailey, Barrow, Carr, & McCarthy 2010), a comprehensive anthology (Curren 2007), a dictionary of key concepts in the field (Winch & Gingell 1999), and a good textbook or two (Carr 2003; Noddings 2015). In addition there are numerous volumes both of reprinted selections and of specially commissioned essays on specific topics, some of which were given short shrift here (for another sampling see A. Rorty 1998, Stone 1994), and several international journals, including Theory and Research in Education , Journal of Philosophy of Education , Educational Theory , Studies in Philosophy and Education , and Educational Philosophy and Theory . Thus there is more than enough material available to keep the interested reader busy.

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autonomy: personal | Dewey, John | feminist philosophy, interventions: ethics | feminist philosophy, interventions: liberal feminism | feminist philosophy, interventions: political philosophy | feminist philosophy, topics: perspectives on autonomy | feminist philosophy, topics: perspectives on disability | Foucault, Michel | Gadamer, Hans-Georg | liberalism | Locke, John | Lyotard, Jean François | -->ordinary language --> | Plato | postmodernism | Rawls, John | rights: of children | Rousseau, Jean Jacques

Acknowledgments

The authors and editors would like to thank Randall Curren for sending a number of constructive suggestions for the Summer 2018 update of this entry.

Copyright © 2018 by Harvey Siegel D.C. Phillips Eamonn Callan

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  • Essay: What is an Education?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word “education” is: “The systematic instruction, schooling or training is given to the young in preparation for the work of life; by extension, similar instruction or training obtained in adult age. Also, the whole course of scholastic instruction which a person has received.

Often with limiting words denoting the nature of the predominant subject of the instruction or kind of life it prepares, as classical, legal, medical, technical, commercial, art education.” Although this is an accurate description of what an actual education may be, there is a great deal more to the process of becoming educated than the actual instruction and schooling one may receive.

If you asked a person in high school or college exactly why he is in school his response would probably have something to do with “getting an education.” Is that really why he is there? The next question you may ask is “what are you going to do with your education?” The response would undoubtedly include something about “getting a good job” or perhaps “to make a lot of money.” Most of the people in the United States have been brainwashed to think that unless one has at least a high school diploma there is no future anywhere for him.

This is completely untrue. There is no guarantee that getting a high school “education” is going to get you anywhere. A student may spend eight years between high school and college getting an “education.” He can graduate from college with A’s in every class, but still, this “education” means nothing. For example, suppose this “Straight A” student goes for a job interview. Obviously one of the first things to be looked at is the college diploma. Good grades, which by today’s standards are an indication of an educated individual, are usually very helpful in getting a good job.

But alone, good grades are a completely unfair indication of how a person will perform under the pressures of the real world. Instead of looking at a person’s grades during a job interview and deciding whether that person is eligible for a particular position, why not try something realistic? To determine a particular person’s “education” why not allow the individual to apply what he knows to his position in the workplace. This is the true test of what an education is. The application of knowledge acquired is a much better determinant of true education than whether or not a person got an A in Wood Shop or World History.

A good percentage of people in the United States graduated from high school. A smaller percentage of people graduated from college. Are these graduates educated? Knowing when the Civil War began does not make a person “educated.” Where is the real-world application of this fact? For someone who is a History major, it may prove to be an invaluable nugget of information.

For others, it will not do them a bit of good anywhere in a lifetime. A high school diploma or a college degree does not necessarily mean that an individual has an understanding of the real world. What it does mean, in fact, is that the holder of the degree or certificate has an understanding of the facts learned in school. Is being able to regurgitate information verbatim considered an education?  By the above definition, yes. It will give you a high school diploma.  But that does not really help a person in life. There is a lot more to it than that.

Take for example a high school English class. Every high school student has learned that when writing a list of things, everything in the list should be separated by a comma. This is true even before the words “or” and “and.” Now, take the aforementioned definition of the word “education.” You may notice that there is no comma after the word “schooling.” This is inconsistent with what is taught in high school. This missing comma, however, is intentional. The definition was copied exactly out of the Dictionary.

From what was learned in high school English classes there should be a comma after the word “schooling.” Being able to recognize this missing comma is a good example of education; taking what was learned in high school or college and applying it to a real-life situation can often prove to be extremely useful. The application of understood knowledge is much more of an education than is the meaningless regurgitation of dates, facts, authors, and other skills.

Take another definition provided for “education” in the Oxford English Dictionary: “The process of ‘bringing up’ (young persons); the manner in which a person has been ‘brought up’ with reference to a social situation, kind of manners and habits acquired, calling or employment prepared for, etc.” This definition seems to make more sense. High school and college are not absolutely necessary in becoming educated. The skills acquired while being “brought up” can often prove much more useful in real life than can twenty years of gaining knowledge in a high school or college situation.

Education for most people should begin outside of the classroom. What is learned in school should not be considered an education? A better word one should consider is knowledge, or perhaps knowledge of information. Knowledge is gained in school. And knowledge is not an education in itself. Once a person can take his nuggets of information and apply them to everyday things then that person can consider himself educated. Until then, a high school or college education is as good as a book of facts. It is useful if you need to know something but worthless unless the information within is relative to the situation.

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What Education Means to Me

Admin January 31, 2012 Uncategorized 3 Comments

Hi everyone! It’s me –  Sharmila Rawat –  again. I study in grade eight at Montessori House High School. In today’s blog I’m going to share something about “What Education Means to Me”.

Sharmila, author of today's blog post.

Sharmila, author of today's blog post.

As we all know, education is important in our life. Education is the only thing that helps us to differentiate what is wrong and what is right. Without education we can’t do what we want or we can’t reach our destination. Education helps us in each and every field of our life.

To me education is the gateway to success. Success can be achieved when people have knowledge, skills and attitude. All these things can be gained only with the help of education. I believe that education is the only way which shows us many ways to lead and utilize our life properly. No person in the world with education is neglected.

It is the third eye of the person, because when we gain education, we get to know about things in the world without even seeing them. For example: I have not visited America but because of education I know what is found there, what’s the shape and size of it, what kind of country it is and so on. Education is non-other than material to enrich our knowledge and wisdom which helps us to develop our ideas and concept. Every human have feelings, thoughts, questions and different ideas within them.

Our eight children who are enrolled in higher education.

Our eight children who are enrolled in higher education.

Education helps us to explore our own thoughts and ideas and makes it able to express it in different forms. So for me education is like a medium through which I can interact with different people and share our ideas. It is also the door to our destiny.        

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i loved it hope you get more encuraging blogs

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Education important in everyone life. Because education is the only way which helps us in many ways to lead and utilize our life.Education benefits in achieving a colleges degree. It shapes the lives of people.

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Love your blog post. I will use it as a speech to a student that just failed the 7th grade.

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Essay on Importance of Education for Students

500 words essay on importance of education.

To say Education is important is an understatement. Education is a weapon to improve one’s life. It is probably the most important tool to change one’s life. Education for a child begins at home. It is a lifelong process that ends with death. Education certainly determines the quality of an individual’s life. Education improves one’s knowledge, skills and develops the personality and attitude. Most noteworthy, Education affects the chances of employment for people. A highly educated individual is probably very likely to get a good job. In this essay on importance of education, we will tell you about the value of education in life and society.

essay on importance of education

Importance of Education in Life

First of all, Education teaches the ability to read and write. Reading and writing is the first step in Education. Most information is done by writing. Hence, the lack of writing skill means missing out on a lot of information. Consequently, Education makes people literate.

Above all, Education is extremely important for employment. It certainly is a great opportunity to make a decent living. This is due to the skills of a high paying job that Education provides. Uneducated people are probably at a huge disadvantage when it comes to jobs. It seems like many poor people improve their lives with the help of Education.

what does education mean essay

Better Communication is yet another role in Education. Education improves and refines the speech of a person. Furthermore, individuals also improve other means of communication with Education.

Education makes an individual a better user of technology. Education certainly provides the technical skills necessary for using technology . Hence, without Education, it would probably be difficult to handle modern machines.

People become more mature with the help of Education. Sophistication enters the life of educated people. Above all, Education teaches the value of discipline to individuals. Educated people also realize the value of time much more. To educated people, time is equal to money.

Finally, Educations enables individuals to express their views efficiently. Educated individuals can explain their opinions in a clear manner. Hence, educated people are quite likely to convince people to their point of view.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Importance of Education in Society

First of all, Education helps in spreading knowledge in society. This is perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Education. There is a quick propagation of knowledge in an educated society. Furthermore, there is a transfer of knowledge from generation to another by Education.

Education helps in the development and innovation of technology. Most noteworthy, the more the education, the more technology will spread. Important developments in war equipment, medicine , computers, take place due to Education.

Education is a ray of light in the darkness. It certainly is a hope for a good life. Education is a basic right of every Human on this Planet. To deny this right is evil. Uneducated youth is the worst thing for Humanity. Above all, the governments of all countries must ensure to spread Education.

FAQs on Essay on Importance of Education

Q.1 How Education helps in Employment?

A.1 Education helps in Employment by providing necessary skills. These skills are important for doing a high paying job.

Q.2 Mention one way in Education helps a society?

A.2 Education helps society by spreading knowledge. This certainly is one excellent contribution to Education.

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Black History Month: What is it and why is it important?

Black History Month - A visitor at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories. Image:  Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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This article was originally published in February 2021 and has been updated .

  • A continued engagement with history is vital as it helps give context for the present.
  • Black History Month is an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement.
  • This year's theme is African Americans and the Arts.

February is Black History Month. This month-long observance in the US and Canada is a chance to celebrate Black achievement and provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change. Here's what to know about Black History Month and how to celebrate it this year:

Have you read?

Black history month: key events in a decade of black lives matter, here are 4 ways businesses can celebrate black history month, how did black history month begin.

Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history." This historian helped establish the field of African American studies and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History , aimed to encourage " people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the Black experience ".

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” ― Carter G. Woodson

His organization was later renamed the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and is currently the oldest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.

Why is Black History Month in February?

February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery. Woodson also understood that members of the Black community already celebrated the births of Douglass and Lincoln and sought to build on existing traditions. "He was asking the public to extend their study of Black history, not to create a new tradition", as the ASALH explained on its website.

How did Black History Month become a national month of celebration?

By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the civil-rights movement and a growing awareness of Black identity, Negro History Week was celebrated by mayors in cities across the country. Eventually, the event evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month. In his speech, President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

Since his administration, every American president has recognized Black History Month and its mission. But it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that many in the country began to observe it formally. The law aimed to make all Americans "aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity".

Why is Black History Month celebrated?

Initially, Black History Month was a way of teaching students and young people about Black and African-Americans' contributions. Such stories had been largely forgotten and were a neglected part of the national narrative.

Now, it's seen as a celebration of those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements. In the US, the month-long spotlight during February is an opportunity for people to engage with Black histories, go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlight Black leaders and accomplishments.

What is this year's Black History Month theme?

Every year, a theme is chosen by the ASALH, the group originally founded by Woodson. This year's theme, African Americans and the Arts .

"In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount," the website says.

Is Black History Month celebrated anywhere else?

In Canada, they celebrate it in February. In countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Ireland, they celebrate it in October. In Canada, African-Canadian parliament member Jean Augustine motioned for Black History Month in 1995 to bring awareness to Black Canadians' work.

When the UK started celebrating Black History Month in 1987, it focused on Black American history. Over time there has been more attention on Black British history. Now it is dedicated to honouring African people's contributions to the country. Its UK mission statement is: "Dig deeper, look closer, think bigger".

Why is Black History Month important?

For many modern Black millennials, the month-long celebration for Black History Month offers an opportunity to reimagine what possibilities lie ahead. But for many, the forces that drove Woodson nearly a century ago are more relevant than ever. As Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director of the Smithsonian Institution said at the opening of the Washington D.C.'s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honouring our struggle and ancestors by remembering".

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EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence in the EU will be regulated by the AI Act, the world’s first comprehensive AI law. Find out how it will protect you.

A man faces a computer generated figure with programming language in the background

As part of its digital strategy , the EU wants to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better conditions for the development and use of this innovative technology. AI can create many benefits , such as better healthcare; safer and cleaner transport; more efficient manufacturing; and cheaper and more sustainable energy.

In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world’s first rules on AI.

Learn more about what artificial intelligence is and how it is used

What Parliament wants in AI legislation

Parliament’s priority is to make sure that AI systems used in the EU are safe, transparent, traceable, non-discriminatory and environmentally friendly. AI systems should be overseen by people, rather than by automation, to prevent harmful outcomes.

Parliament also wants to establish a technology-neutral, uniform definition for AI that could be applied to future AI systems.

Learn more about Parliament’s work on AI and its vision for AI’s future

AI Act: different rules for different risk levels

The new rules establish obligations for providers and users depending on the level of risk from artificial intelligence. While many AI systems pose minimal risk, they need to be assessed.

Unacceptable risk

Unacceptable risk AI systems are systems considered a threat to people and will be banned. They include:

  • Cognitive behavioural manipulation of people or specific vulnerable groups: for example voice-activated toys that encourage dangerous behaviour in children
  • Social scoring: classifying people based on behaviour, socio-economic status or personal characteristics
  • Biometric identification and categorisation of people
  • Real-time and remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition

Some exceptions may be allowed for law enforcement purposes. “Real-time” remote biometric identification systems will be allowed in a limited number of serious cases, while “post” remote biometric identification systems, where identification occurs after a significant delay, will be allowed to prosecute serious crimes and only after court approval.

AI systems that negatively affect safety or fundamental rights will be considered high risk and will be divided into two categories:

1) AI systems that are used in products falling under the EU’s product safety legislation . This includes toys, aviation, cars, medical devices and lifts.

2) AI systems falling into specific areas that will have to be registered in an EU database:

  • Management and operation of critical infrastructure
  • Education and vocational training
  • Employment, worker management and access to self-employment
  • Access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits
  • Law enforcement
  • Migration, asylum and border control management
  • Assistance in legal interpretation and application of the law.

All high-risk AI systems will be assessed before being put on the market and also throughout their lifecycle.

General purpose and generative AI

Generative AI, like ChatGPT, would have to comply with transparency requirements:

  • Disclosing that the content was generated by AI
  • Designing the model to prevent it from generating illegal content
  • Publishing summaries of copyrighted data used for training

High-impact general-purpose AI models that might pose systemic risk, such as the more advanced AI model GPT-4, would have to undergo thorough evaluations and any serious incidents would have to be reported to the European Commission.

Limited risk

Limited risk AI systems should comply with minimal transparency requirements that would allow users to make informed decisions. After interacting with the applications, the user can then decide whether they want to continue using it. Users should be made aware when they are interacting with AI. This includes AI systems that generate or manipulate image, audio or video content, for example deepfakes.

On December 9 2023, Parliament reached a provisional agreement with the Council on the AI act . The agreed text will now have to be formally adopted by both Parliament and Council to become EU law. Before all MEPs have their say on the agreement, Parliament’s internal market and civil liberties committees will vote on it.

More on the EU’s digital measures

  • Cryptocurrency dangers and the benefits of EU legislation
  • Fighting cybercrime: new EU cybersecurity laws explained
  • Boosting data sharing in the EU: what are the benefits?
  • EU Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act
  • Five ways the European Parliament wants to protect online gamers
  • Artificial Intelligence Act

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COMMENTS

  1. What Is Education? Insights from the World's Greatest Minds

    Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, physicist. It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought ...

  2. 4 Core Purposes of Education, According to Sir Ken Robinson

    Edutopia What is education for? As it happens, people differ sharply on this question. It is what is known as an "essentially contested concept." Like "democracy" and "justice," "education" means different things to different people.

  3. Essay writing guide on what education means to me

    An education by definition is "the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life." This essay will impart upon my readers my opinion of what education means to me.

  4. What Does Education Mean to You: Empowerment Through Knowledge

    Get Custom Essay Table of contents What does education mean to you? Education is a journey that shapes not only our minds but also our lives. It is a lifelong pursuit that opens doors, broadens horizons, and empowers individuals to reach their fullest potential.

  5. What is education? A definition and discussion

    Education is the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning and change undertaken in the belief that we all should have the chance to share in life. Mark K Smith explores the meaning of education and suggests it is a process of being with others and inviting truth and possibility.

  6. Education

    education, discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various nonformal and informal means of socialization (e.g., rural development projects and education through parent-child relationships). (Read Arne Duncan's Britannica essay on "Education: The Great Equalizer.")

  7. What does Education mean to you?

    What does education mean to you? On International Day of Education, we asked UCL School of Management staff, students and alumni what 'education' means to them and why they believe it is so important. "Education is the only defense we have against demagogues, fake news, and echo-chambers gradually pushing us into a dystopian reality"

  8. What is Education: Understanding its True Meaning

    Education's etymology may be found in the 1530s, when it first appeared in the English language with the meaning "kid rearing, the training of animals." The Latin word educationem, which meant "upbringing, training," was the source of the Middle French word education, which gave rise to the English word education.

  9. Education

    Education is a wide phenomenon that applies to all age groups and covers formal education (top row) as well as non-formal and informal education (bottom row). Education is the transmission of knowledge, skills, and character traits and comes in many forms. Formal education happens in a complex institutional framework, like public schools.

  10. What Is "Education"?

    Education is the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, provoke or acquire knowledge, values, attitudes, skills or sensibilities as well as any learning that results from the effort (Cremin, Public Education, p. 27) This broad-based definition indicates that education is a purposeful activity.

  11. Why Is Education Important?

    Education is the process where an individual acquires or imparts basic knowledge to another. It is also where a person: develops skills essential to daily living, learns social norms, develops judgment and reasoning, and learns how to discern right from wrong.

  12. Essay on Education for School Students and Children

    500+ Words Essay on Education. Education is an important tool which is very useful in everybody's life. Education is what differentiates us from other living beings on earth. It makes man the smartest creature on earth. It empowers humans and gets them ready to face challenges of life efficiently. With that being said, education still remains ...

  13. Definition of Education Essay

    It is defined as: 1. The act or process of educating or being educated. 2. The knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process. 3. A program of instruction of a specified kind or level. 4. The field of study that is concerned with the pedagogy of teaching and learning, according to the American Heritage dictionary.

  14. How to Write Georgetown's "Educated" Essay

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  15. Philosophy of Education

    Philosophy of education is the branch of applied or practical philosophy concerned with the nature and aims of education and the philosophical problems arising from educational theory and practice. Because that practice is ubiquitous in and across human societies, its social and individual manifestations so varied, and its influence so profound ...

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    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the definitions of the word "education" is: "The systematic instruction, schooling or training is given to the young in preparation for the work of life; by extension, similar instruction or training obtained in adult age.

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    Education is about teaching and learning for improving skills and knowledge. Education also means helping people to do, to learn and encouraging them to think what they learn. Education can give people knowledge of society, country, the world and many things else.

  18. What Does Education Mean To You Essay

    What Does Education Mean To You Essay 996 Words4 Pages Herbert Spencer once said, "The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action." What is the ultimate goal of education? For me, I think that being able to apply things learned in school into practical situations is the goal of having a good education. Being practical in life is hard.

  19. What Education Means to Me

    Education is the only thing that helps us to differentiate what is wrong and what is right. Without education we can't do what we want or we can't reach our destination. Education helps us in each and every field of our life. To me education is the gateway to success. Success can be achieved when people have knowledge, skills and attitude.

  20. Essay on Importance of Education in Life and Society (500+ Words)

    Education is a weapon to improve one's life. It is probably the most important tool to change one's life. Education for a child begins at home. It is a lifelong process that ends with death. Education certainly determines the quality of an individual's life. Education improves one's knowledge, skills and develops the personality and ...

  21. What Does Education Mean?

    What does education mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is "the action or process of teaching someone.". However, our education system does not reflect that type of definition. Education is a process it is never ending. Teaching is both an art and science. It requires the one doing the teaching to have a strong or a ...

  22. Education Essay: Definition Of Education

    DISCUSSION 2.1 Definition of education Education is a conscious and well planned effort to create an atmosphere of learning actively developing it is potential to have spiritual power religious, selfhating, personality, intelligence, noble character and skill it needs, society nation and state ( UU No.20 Tahun 2003) Education is helping people t...

  23. What Does Education Mean To Me Essay

    852 Words 4 Pages Open Document Analyze This Draft What Does Education Mean To Me Essay View Writing Issues File Edit Tools Settings Filter Results Name: Instructor: Course: Date: What Education Means To Me Since my early childhood, education seemed like a "heavy" and utterly "serious" matter that my parents always talked about with regard to me.

  24. Black History Month: What is it and why do we need it?

    February was chosen by Woodson for the week-long observance as it coincides with the birthdates of both former US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery. Woodson also understood that members of the Black community already celebrated the births of Douglass and Lincoln and sought to build on existing traditions.

  25. Artificial Intelligence In Education: Teachers' Opinions On AI In The

    In response to the growing presence of AI in education, organizations like the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and UNESCO have called for a transparent, human-centered approach to the use of ...

  26. EU AI Act: first regulation on artificial intelligence

    In April 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU regulatory framework for AI. It says that AI systems that can be used in different applications are analysed and classified according to the risk they pose to users. The different risk levels will mean more or less regulation. Once approved, these will be the world's first rules on AI.