Education: A Definition – Revisited

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Albert Einstein famously said that “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” and it’s hard to disagree with him.
Education seems clearly geared towards a common purpose and it isn’t learning; it’s not even about preparing you for future jobs. It’s about streamlining you into the system; making sure you toe the line. What the system fails to recognise, or just plain ignores, is that we all develop at our own rates and we all have our own personal bests. I should not have to compete with Joe over there because Joe is better at Maths than I am. Fuck Joe. I’m a better thinker than him and I have my own goals to achieve. But school isn’t about education at all; we get a biased slice of flat and uninteresting pie served to us with favourable notions being placed on the Maths and Sciences.
Ever wondered why philosophy isn’t on the syllabus for young children? How would it be if people started to think at a young age? That’d fuck up the system right? Loads of people questioning why we allow this shit to continue, profligately consuming our way through life and littering the earth with our mentally retarded peon spawn. Because we don’t think do we? We regurgitate, we spew. Most of the players, those who go along with the system, and here I’m talking about those who get great results, get the top jobs at top institutions and drive flashy cars that we’re all supposed to covet, most of those people have fuck all knowledge about the world. These individuals, while they are perfectly adept at regurgitating facts and figures, know very little about themselves and find it difficult to expound upon their beliefs about the world. These people conform to an educational system which inherently reinforces the current schema (a literary theory proposed by Guy Cook). Schema is basically a big pack of information in your head that constitutes how you see the world and this can be influenced and confirmed by the world around us:

“…supplying simplified and prototypical clusters of knowledge on situations, objects, events, persons. Serving the purpose of cognitive economy, schemata enable perceivers to select those portions of existing knowledge and to develop those expectations that normally provide smoother and shorter paths towards the successful processing of incoming social stimuli. A common theme running through all the schema research is that people remember information that confirms their schemata and forget information that disconfirms them”, (Fiske and Taylor 1984: 1621).

This kind of learning implies conformity to a meme not exploration of the intellect. Effectively our educational system is there to create a series of well-worn schemata for children at school. Be good, toe the line, get one up on your neighbour, brightest is best, divergence will be punished. Then when life continues the schema is constantly reinforced in advertising, the media, work, public announcements, gala luncheons and council meetings, friends, parents, children and every other working member of the system. Anyone who acts or expresses a difference of opinion is laughed at and mocked or else harshly derided and socially punished for their discretion.
Here’s a common piece of historical schema: Americans believe that Columbus discovered America. This is something taught to every child in the states. It seems that the idea being promoted in patriotic young Americans is that nothing can have possibly existed before the civilised European world discovered it; like there weren’t already people living there before!
We are never asked to critically engage with the syllabus or “refresh” (that is to say change) our schemata. We are not encouraged to take an active role in our own learning; to decide what we want to learn and the values we wish to uphold after careful study of the different alternatives. School is merely an outpost of the new world order, to “get them while they are young” and make the state the real family (Watch Alan Russo’s interesting take on this subject here).
To Summarise: While Aristotle says “There is no innate knowledge”, referring to the idea that everything that could have been thought of probably has been somewhere by someone, this does not mean that you can’t produce an original outlook on the world. School is not your education. Education does not finish when you leave school it has only just started, believe me. For some interesting alternative sources of education why not check out the Real Education section of this site. Keep Thinking Differently guys….

1. http://www.scribd.com/doc/18186783/25/%E2%80%98Schema-refreshment%E2%80%99-versus-%E2%80%98schema-reinforcement%E2%80%99

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