Why Education?


From a TED Conversation

Question: What is the purpose of education? The most important question in the education revolution

Spring responds:

We are a functioning society with rules and requirements to keep things working. Most of us have to know the rules and follow the regulations because of reality. If everyone at a stop sign goes at once, no one gets anywhere but maybe a hospital, after the wreckage is cleared.

We teach our kids the basic legal, cultural and criminal rules of the road in school, or how to read well enough to learn them for themselves. Hopefully we prepare them to be functional, surviving and contributing adults able to take care of themselves, thus not a burden on others, and capable at least of understanding what this society will not permit without serious consequences, like jail, fines or even the death penalty in some states.

We hope they will contribute to our general well being, but expect them to at least not negatively impact others.

If someone doesn’t know what is required of them to be allowed in society, we have failed them as a culture. Normally we don’t feel right about punishing those who do not know what is expected of them or cannot think or behave themselves because of mental or emotional differences that may prevent them from getting along among us. Often we discover and can then attempt to overcome limitations while they are in school.

Schools and societies are imperfect attempts to make life workable in the times we live in for as many of us as possible.

Integrating newcomers into one nation

One reason for part of our public education system is to teach our history and political system to persons who want to become citizens. Since its founding, America has had many immigrants from all different cultures, and in order to keep the peace and hopefully integrate newcomers into one nation, we use education.

A major part of the developing legislation aimed at allowing us to absorb millions of illegal immigrants is their meeting certain educational goals. We do not want to break into separate competing cultures with different languages, work rules, and no real connections. The lack of a common history, language and legal system has lead to turf wars and chaos in the past, which most of us want to avoid.

The Tree of Knowledge

The Bible says we ate from the tree of knowledge and will learn everything, become as gods, immortal and all knowing. But it says nothing pro or con about evolution, yet many people are outraged by schools teaching what Darwin observed. Didn’t God make creatures able to change as needed to survive? You see it every day. You do it.

You eat fruit in summer, when it’s there, and eat roots like potatoes in winter, when you can’t get fruit. You may even can fruit, adapting it for later use as jam. You wear coats in winter and cotton in summer. You adapt.

Poor Darwin. All he did was look at animals on some islands, notice that their different sizes and shapes depended on what plants or nectars or seeds they ate, and try to explain the differences. People are so mean to him!

Change is reality. Birds understand it. They don’t complain about having to go south for winter. They adapted long ago.

The Bible says we were cast out of a garden into the wilderness, a high price to pay for knowledge. Try to enjoy the benefits. We do not live by one interpretation of the Bible. Read it for yourself instead of listening to someone (your priest or preacher) try to tell you what it says and you’ll be amazed at the rules about thinking and belief that are not in there.

If you’ve started wearing sunscreen, that’s an adaptation to less ozone. Animals don’t have sunscreen. Ones that are too sensitive to sun go blind, die early, don’t have as many young. The next generation is less sensitive to sun because the ones who had the most babies are least hurt by sun exposure.

That’s evolution. It’s not dangerous or fanatical or anti-religion. Like grass greening up in summer, it’s just reality.

But don’t we need to educate people to what they could learn? If someone doesn’t know the possibilities of knowledge or life, how can they make an educated choice about what they want or need to know? How can they know what might thrill or fascinate or fulfill them, should they be in a culture and position to explore. How can you know that chemistry is your lifelong joy if no one and no organization ever introduces you to it?

Photo credit: from paintings by Spring Bright

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