One of the overlooked luxuries of the modern times is that all first-worlders pay lip service to the value of an education: Our cities are filled with schools and colleges and specialty education, our poor are offered “free” education, many businesses prioritize training and have benefits and prioritizations for employees who further their education, and public libraries and arts buildings are common.
Sadly, lip service is not all they pay: The US public schools require an enormous amount every year, which means that the taxpayers pay it even though about ten percent of them choose to spend even more money to receive a private education. I have experienced the four primary types of education available in the current market—traditional homeschooling, public schooling, traditional private schooling, and classical private schooling. My general insight from this hybrid experience as teacher, student, and now parent is that there are very few people in education who understand the purpose of education at all, so the few who accomplish it do so either by accident or the almost-brutish intuition that comes naturally, and is often waved aside by highhanded educational jargon.
Modern education’s history is extremely well-documented, with modern public schools having been designed to produce bureaucratic drones and factory workers that would keep the great wheels of increasingly distanced and specialized economies turning. The vast majority of private schools fail to depart from this model, only being slightly more efficient in their education, or offering more interesting electives or a safer environment. Classical education is a reversion to the earlier hopes of mass-producing good citizens to participate in the modern polis. Homeschooling of various stripes is mostly about organic learning and jumping through State-mandated hoops and getting kids free from these programs so that their minds and mental energies do not have to suffer through their most expansive period fitting into one mold or another. Vocational schooling I have not experienced, but it too is an older model that was not stamped out by the inauguration of public schools; truly the trades will continue on eternally. These systems will remain almost exclusively in these metrics; their formats might vary slightly but they will have great difficulty deviating from the foundations on which they are set.
So what is the point of education? Is it to create good citizens that can sustain a stable and safe monocultural Democratic Republic? Is it to prop up the great gears of industry and trade? Is it to bypass the greedy hands of the aristocracy and prevent us from falling into slavery of mind or hand? Is it to gain the skills to build things and be productive on our own?
Education today all misses the point, though the Classical model gets closest to the mark—being based upon the giants that have dominated Western thought for millenia, as opposed to the belaborings of disturbed Industrial-Age thinkers, it is no surprise. The point of education is not the absorption of facts and figures; perhaps at one point this was vital, but all State-required math and science and history and language skills are accessible through the internet at a whim now in the Information Age. It is not as though we are teaching strong long-term memory skills anyway! Facts can be found more easily than ever, and while it is good to be able to double-check the calculator now and then the focus on the processed facts comes at the expense of two fundamental needs for a person to become educated.
First, the person must come to know their inner self, and what is common to all mankind. They must know where they have come from, the history of their people and the land in which they live, their animal passions and the wave pool of emotion, their physical limitations, and their skills. They must know who they are to take their place and to acknowledge the place that others will take around them as valid. Much of this is learned in spite of schools, which stringently separate age groups and deny putting the old and young together with a strange sort of fear that their petri dish of little drones will be corrupted with exposure to actual knowledge of their personal power.
Second, the person must come to know Disorder. This is the ultimate enemy that all good and all good work comes against. The instinctive spiritual leaning of a child toward Order and away from Disorder is obvious from a baby’s first cry at discomfort; moving this urge from a self-serving attitude outward to encompass all the universe around the person is key to preventing problems, finding solutions that actually solve the problems they will face, and make them able to work with others to mutual benefit instead of the violent side of competition that self-centeredness breeds.
Much has been said about schooling, and the bottom line is that our modern methods are such incredible failures at producing an educated student: After our highest education Socialism is thought to be noble and effective by many despite its abject and devastating real world examples, and literally sending a child out to pasture to be Unschooled deliberately is advancing them through the hoops and standardized tests faster by the end of the process, with sixteen and seventeen-year-old Unschoolers regularly meeting eager acceptance at the collegiate level well before their peers are ready and able to readjust to the complex world outside their rigidly-controlled “fact playpens.” The closest two options available now—apprenticeship or trade and vocational schools, and the Classical model—are simply reversions to the past. Surely there is a way to move forward and take advantage of the information available in a better way! Ultimately, our world is in a state of cultural and technological shock that has us all spinning; historically, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears will flow before we stabilize enough to find the right path all together.
I will put a stopper in the cornucopia of my thoughts today, and point out that there cannot be a better teacher than experiencing the real world; all educational attempts are efforts to distill out that essence and accelerate the process of learning from reality. I pulled the two fundamental needs above straight from a Chinese philosopher born centuries ago, and the “school of hard knocks” has been recognized as a true place by colleges and professional organizations alike. Education must show us the real world, and extremely quickly and accurately if it is to beat the perfect accuracy of true experience by artificially removing the learner from it. That there can be a system that fits all sizes is still up for debate at all, despite a hundred years of attempting to make it so. In this modern age, the professionals we most trust have taken for granted the value of education in marrying their efforts to outdated platforms and methods, and most of the efforts to advance this area of human experience are attempts to shore up these platforms instead of moving forward.
We have forgotten our purpose in doing the task, and simply are trying to carry on the traditions of the past, Chesterton’s famous “democracy of the dead.” Just as in all tasks, carrying on in the way we are going instead of understanding the purpose and setting our feet deliberately from the first principles will only make us lost and waste much effort and time.
Education is vital. Do not let any teacher fool you by substituting what he does for the real thing; remember what it is and what the goal of your learning is. This is something worth fighting for, whether it is one against a hundred or ten against ten thousand.