The Purpose of Education (and why current systems fail)

We do not want to lay down a pattern or type to which men of all sorts are to be made by some means or another approximate. Political and social institutions are to be judged by the good or harm that they do to individuals. Do they preserve self-respect?

The Purpose of Education (and why current systems fail)
Photo by Museums Victoria / Unsplash

The Truth About Education

Our education system is run by administrators, not teachers, and that’s a problem.

The manner in which a community organizes the education of its members is of vital importance when it comes to understanding the health of the community. Unless a society ensures itself a sturdy educational foundation, it dooms itself to intellectual disrepair — and eventual failure.

In the United States, education is an issue frequently discussed within the political sphere. Yet, for all that the mass media uses the word, they never seem to offer real solutions to the problems faced.

The truth is that a few dollars moved around the national budget won’t change anything. We need a fundamental shift in the way we view the purpose of education.

In Bertrand Russell’s essay Political Ideals, he writes the following:

“To begin with, we do not want all men to be alike. We do not want to lay down a pattern or type to which men of all sorts are to be made by some means or another approximate. This is the ideal of the impatient administrator. A bad teacher will aim at imposing his opinion, and turning out a set of pupils all of whom will give the same definite answer on a doubtful point.”

When we consider so much of the modern educational landscape, we find that the principles are ones of uniformity and conformity.

From the standpoint of administrators, this uniform methodology is ideal. It’s practical, right? The whole purpose of education is that it trains up new members of the workforce!

Is that really all an education is for?

Russell goes on to write:

“Political and social institutions [should be] judged by the good or harm that they do to individuals. Do they encourage creativeness rather than possessiveness? Do they embody or promote a spirit of reverence between human beings? Do they preserve self-respect?”

In this, he lays out the basic elements by which all institutions — especially those which control the education of our citizens — are to be judged. The purpose of education is not “to get a good job.” The purpose of education is to become a good human.

Education must not exist for such a thin and facile reason as job potential. Nor must education be solely concentrated on the good of the State, for the State’s interests will always erode the self-worth of the individual.

Instead, education must concentrate on the maximization of an individual’s potential. Specifically, education should help people reach a sense of self-actualization.

Conformity is always easier to teach than individuality. And yet, the outcome of a system that does teach individuality is one which promotes the best attributes of a society.

“Security alone,” Russel writes, “might produce a smug and stationary society.”

“[Security] demands creativeness as its counterpart, in order to keep alive the adventure and interest of life, and the movement toward perpetually new and better things. […] It is not a finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active.”

While some people will always squander their natural resources and opportunities, a far smaller number would be likely to do so — should their natural creativity, reverence for life, and innate self-respect be upheld and fostered.

In such an educational system, the goal would be to create an environment where human flourishing is most likely — regardless of class distinctions or puerile economic gains.

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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