What Is Education?

Posted on August 3, 2011 by


I have observed a marked difference between the way professional educators view education and the way homeschoolers, of all stripes, view education. Laying aside for the moment the obvious issues of government control and indoctrination, I decided to just look up the definitions of two words. The first is learning, and the second is education.

Webster’s Dictionary defines learning as to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience. Another dictionary I used defined learning as to gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery of through experience or study. A common thread in both of these definitions is the word “experience”. The second dictionary uses the words “comprehension” and “mastery.”

The definition that I found for education is even more telling. Education is defined as 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. Reasoning and judgment? Preparing oneself intellectually for mature life? This is a tall order and is the job most parents understand as one of their primary functions. Any completed education that doesn’t produce a mature and rational adult capable of sound judgment is an education that has failed, diploma or not.

The education system that we have in place in most industrialized countries, public education, has totally disregarded the role of experience in learning, and mastery of any subject that one isn’t naturally gifted in is considered nothing more than a pipe dream. Besides, there isn’t the time for teachers to encourage their students to master anything besides the standardized tests they have to take in the spring. I think most people would agree, including professional educators, that our high school graduates are emerging from the school system less mature, more irresponsible, and totally unprepared for adult life. And it seems to be getting worse with each passing year. What’s worse, the average college graduate emerges, some having spent as much as $100,000 for their degree, still unsure of what he or she wants to be when they grow up.

This, in my opinion, is where homeschooling shines. Done well, a student gets to experience real learning through real experiences, not just snippets of information in a textbook and from tests that give the illusion of learning where none has taken place. Students get to explore individual interests, master their God-given talents, interact with mature adults from all walks of life daily and emerge truly educated: prepared intellectually and emotionally for mature life. It is not possible to acquire a real education solely by sitting in a desk. It just isn’t. Instruction is part of the process, yes, but only part and not even the most important part. I know this because I have taught myself to do many things with no formal instruction. I learned through trial and error. Through experience. Cooking is one thing area which springs immediately to mind.

Of course, as a mom with kids in public schools, I’m not saying it’s impossible for kids to emerge from school prepared to face life. I am saying that the average student isn’t prepared because most parents have a wrong idea of what education is and have abdicated their responsibility at home, trusting the job in its totality to the schools. But can I be honest? I’m thinking the job is probably going to be much easier with my homeschooled set than it is with my current young adult set.

What we have here is a disconnect. Not based on the true definition of education and learning, but based on politics and ideology. Sadly, just about everything in this country has come down to politics, ideology, and winners and losers in the political arena. Even our kids’ education, or lack thereof as the case may be.

Much like the words gay, hip, cool, or bad may or may not mean what they used to when you hear them, so it is apparently in the case of education. In this case, however, the early returns are in and the results aren’t good.

Posted in: Education