18 June 2009

What's the Goal of Education?

I think that, generally, two goals come to mind when people think, "what is the goal of education?" The first may be, to learn all the information that everyone needs to know to have a general, well-informed kind of life (such as mathematical skills, writing, spelling, computer literacy, facts of world and national history, basics of the sciences... things 'everyone' knows.). The second goal is something along the lines of "I'm getting a dental degree" or "I'm studying to be an architect" or the learning of information to accomplish a task or specialty.

Other kinds of goals that we should keep in mind is the ability to learn things, the lifestyle of always learning something new, the mindset that learning new things- be it information or a skill- is a fun and valuable way to spend our time.

Have you ever asked, or do you remember being asked questions like these:

--Why does your teacher want you to do this/learn this?
--Why/How will this assignment help you in life?

What is usually the answer? Depending on the age of the child, it may be "I dunno" or "Because she said" or, worst of all, "It's on the test."

We want our kids to know how to learn things, but we want them to enjoy learning for learning's sake. But, possibly most importantly, I want them to know how to buckle down and learn things when it's difficult. I want them to learn that most learning comes from hard work, and that hard work isn't a bad thing. I want them to feel the satisfaction that comes from using, and challenging, their brain.

When we were receiving our Russian language training at the military language school (ready for a mouthful?) the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center, Monterey, California (even a mouthful when it's an acronym: D.L.I., F.L.C., Monterey, CA!) we were taught HOW to learn. They said to us, in their thick Russian accents, "Maybe you have done some college. Maybe you went through officer school. And you struggled. But after you are done with your training here, you will know how to learn. If you go back to graduate school, it will be different. You will say, what is different? And it will have been that you learned how to learn, here."

How does this help us when we educate our own kids? Well, we need to remember to tell them when we use things that they are learning, so they will see that it is useful and timeless. We need to tell them, or let them hear firsthand, about their uncle's learning a new skill at his job, about his daddy learning how to use new software, about our own learning in Bible class or their Chemistry lessons! We need to be firm when the only worth of a lesson is that it trains them to learn the process of recording information, or other valuable tasks. Because these are crucial tasks related to learning itself.

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