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The Art of Education: Part 1 of 4

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The Art of Education: Part 1 of 4

By Linda Dobson

ChangeAhead education

Let's explore.

This is the first in a four-part series on what education really is, and how families may provide true education for their children.

You say you think today’s education system is failing? You must be talking about declining academic test scores or violence or illiteracy, then. That way it is failing. But look a little closer. That’s not the real business of education.

William Torrey Harris, our U.S. Commissioner of Education at the turn of the  century,  had  a  goal:  “Substantial  education,  which,  scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.” That is, Mr. Harris sought to place all individuals under a general principle, setting one standard for all.

Ever since, the business of public education has been to modify natural, individual expression into a socially acceptable sameness. On this score, today’s schools are more successful than ever.

“But,” you say, “I went through all of that and I’m OK.” How OK any of us are is a judgment call. If you look to the proliferation of self-help books and classes, or the growth of psychology-related services in this country, I’d say most of us realize that something’s wrong, even if we can’t pinpoint exactly what it is. For our children’s sake, we’d better figure it out soon. For our children’s sake, we’d better take a look at what we call education.

What Does Education Mean?

Take a moment and ask yourself, “What does it mean to educate?” Jot down your thoughts on paper until you’ve covered all the bases. Does it mean learning basic skills to become a literate person? Being successful in the future? Learning a little about a lot of things? Or a lot about a few things? Wealth? Happiness? Possessions? All of the above?

In The Britannica World Language Dictionary, you find definitions that most likely correspond with your current way of thinking. “To develop or train the mind…,” “To train for some special purpose,” “To provide schooling for,” etc. We’re even told to look for synonyms under teach.

If we look closer, we see the verb educate came from the Latin educatus, from educare,  meaning “to bring up.”  We’re then  referred to the  word educere, described under “educe.”

This says educere came from ex-out + ducere-lead. To lead out. Mmm, just the opposite of “to put in,” or what we commonly consider the business of education. Could it be that from the very starting line we’re going off track, pursuing a false definition that leads to a false goal and, therefore, false success? Maybe the public education system is succeeding so well with its covert business because we’ve been too  lazy to investigate for ourselves the purpose, the meaning, the wisdom of true education. Well, no more. Let’s explore.

The Factory Model of School Education

When we unquestioningly accept the false definition of education, we need measurable, sustainable goals, just as a business does. (It might help if you think of a  manufacturing business, or factory, here.) “Johnny  must absorb the 3,589 facts as scheduled for third grade consumption within the next ten months.” The process is predetermined, like making a Big Mac: one portion of math, followed by a plop of science, add a squirt of values training, throw on a handful of extracurricular activities. Johnny, parents and teacher enter a frantic race against time so that the 3,589th fact is in place just in time for the test that will measure whether or not he reached the finish line. To reach the finish line – with every element of the burger in its proper place – is what counts.

The business  of public  education  must, at all times, be  manageable. Coordinating the activities of hundreds or thousands of kids requires a place for everyone, and everyone in his place. Subjects must remain within the boundaries of their titles, neatly separated like the peas and mashed potatoes in a TV dinner tray. While this does not help a child gain understanding of any particular information’s relationship to life, it does ease the strain on management. The peas can be counted, and the mashed potatoes will look the same today as they did five years ago. It may not taste good, it may lack nutrition, but by golly we’re sure everybody’s getting the same meal.

The Art of EducationThis series is adapted from The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self by Linda Dobson. The classic homeschooling book is now available in e-Book format at the link for just $4.99.

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