What is Education?

And Why is Education Important?

Usually when we think of education, we just imagine going to school. School is where you learn things, so therefore that is what education is, and the matter exits our minds as quickly as it came. Well, I want to explain to you why a classical education can transform your whole idea of education, but to find out why this is so, let us first find out what education really is and what is its purpose?

Education is the acquiring of a body of knowledge, and its purpose is either to liberate or to enslave. We also want education to make us virtuous, but in order for that to happen, acquiring virtue must be part of the education. You’re probably wondering what I mean by that? Knowledge is not always a good thing, and knowing too much about things that should be left unspoken can cause disastrous consequences, but also knowing just a little can make you feel empowered, and yet, if you don’t have virtue along with that knowledge, you become a fool. Wisdom requires virtue, especially humility, not just knowledge. As Shakespeare says, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

Education should be about acquiring knowledge in order to think for yourself, gain the skills for a profession or trade, become an entrepreneur, or to cultivate and train the mind, but most importantly to grow in virtue because knowledge without virtue is a recipe for arrogance. The problem is most “education” today enslaves because it is not education at all, in so far as children are not acquiring knowledge through memorization, are not being challenged to achieve more than the lowest standard possible, and are left (as adults) with an arrogant sense that they know something about anything while they really know nothing at all. They have no knowledge, and no virtue, hence the enslaved mind.

Today, public school (and most private school) is where you go to take tests and forget afterwards everything you think you learned. I know that many people, if not most, struggle with this issue out of school from what I have read. I also know this to be true because of my own experience going into university. I was a straight-A public school student who took four years of advanced math and science in high school, but never had to study for a test or even read the textbook in order to get those grades. When I got into my sophomore year of college I started getting Cs on some tests, because I still did not study or read (thinking I could achieve the same thing I had in high school and freshman year of college). I was so upset; my pride had been busted and I didn’t have the virtue to admit it so I deceived myself into thinking I didn’t like my major, nursing, and dropped out of college mid-semester.

First, you may wonder how I got the As without any effort. I think it is because the material was so unchallenging and undemanding of my abilities that it only appeared like I was a great student. I know many people who also struggled at my school, but they were the ones usually called slackers—you can’t expect to get good grades if you don’t even do the work.

Secondly, with all that non-effort, is it any wonder that, by the time I went to teach my own children, the only things I could remember were a few math formulas from algebra and geometry, the personal pronoun list from eighth grade, and the colors of the rainbow song I learned in kindergarten?! I even had to think about basic math facts because I was so used to using a calculator, yet math was my favorite subject and I got As through calculus! I felt like I had “lost” all the knowledge that I supposedly acquired, but in reality, I never truly learned anything at all.

So, let’s go back to that definition of education: the acquiring of a body of knowledge with the purpose to either liberate or enslave. People who receive an education like I did are enslaved to the immoral culture, big business, and big government. They (myself included) did not learn enough to think for themselves and are easily led into error or fallacy by false advertising, propaganda, or politics. This enslavement is most definitely purposeful and is probably the whole reason for the attack on education starting in the early 1900s. Thankfully, I was able to break free of the enslavement by (first getting rid of cable television, then) learning alongside my children as I give them a classical education.

So, now that we have an understanding of why education as such is important, next I will give a very brief overview of why public school fails.

First, as we already mentioned, public school is all about teaching for the test. They’ve got to get the kids to pass the test, so only important test material is covered in the classroom. And because funding is based on how well the children do on the test, they omit all other material, considered a time-waster. Also, the teaching ideology is mostly a one-and-done approach: cover the material in the lesson, minimize review and never go back to it once you’ve taken the test. I will cover why this is so horrible in my upcoming article on memorization.

Second, when most people think of education (elementary to high school, before college) they think of math, science, and “English”. As mentioned before, the other subjects get pushed aside as unimportant and unnecessary. Which, consequently, is why the standardized tests only cover these subjects, and the SAT only covers math and English.

English as a subject usually encompasses grammar, writing, and literature. For myself, I remember very distinctly learning grammar only in eighth grade (even though elementary school used to be called grammar school!).

The other grades consisted of reading stories written for literature textbooks. My best guess is that we read a total of five works of literature from 8th-12th grade, and none before. Most of those were modern novels, except for Great Expectations and Romeo and Juliet, both of which I did not understand. (FYI to modern educators: the subject “Literature” should consist of actually studying good works of literature in order to comprehend what the author is trying to teach us!) To “ensure comprehension”, we usually were given multiple-choice or true/false questions on tests which were reviewed before hand, so you just needed to memorize the answers already given.

Writing generally meant having us journal about our summer vacation or how we felt about a topic with no actual rhetoric or persuasive writing skills taught even in my college English classes. Basically, “writing skills” meant learning that an essay includes an introduction, body, and closing paragraphs, and from here we’re told, “you can write anything!”

With math, I saw a lot of children left behind, because they didn’t understand what they were being taught and were too shy or proud to ask, or there was not enough time to dwell on the topic before moving on. Math can be complicated, if not almost impossible, when someone struggles with the basic math facts and concepts and is not given supplemental help, and is then left behind as the class moves on without them understanding. So many children graduate without any math skills past basic arithmetic.

Now, some may argue that this is necessary due to the challenges of having multiple different levels of ability of children in the same classroom, but I am sure that the abilities from the least to the greatest in a specific classroom cannot be as drastically different as they were in the one-room school house of ages past. Therefore, I say it is absolutely possible for one teacher to be teaching multiple students who are at multiple different levels.

In science, we learned nothing about identifying nature, such as birds, trees, bugs, flowers, or even whether the clouds, pressure, and humidity suggest it will rain soon, so we are left in the dark about things even our illiterate ancestors knew (as evidenced in those great works of literature I mentioned).

The only backyard birds I could properly identify before I had children were a mourning dove and cardinal (but to be fair, I thought all red birds were cardinals!). I couldn’t identify a single type of tree, bug, or flower (beyond tulips and store-bought roses). I did know something about tornadoes and thunderstorms, though, but that was because I became personally interested in them after seeing Twister; I learned nothing about it in school.

What I want to stop and stress here is the importance of education in the home regardless of where or how the children go to school. Many problems with the public school could be alleviated by parents filling in the gaps at home, but most parents think that since they send their children off to school, they don’t have to do anything anymore.

Educating your children is the number one duty of parents, even if you send them to a school. The abnegation of parenthood and its duties today is the reason for the downfall in society, but that discussion is for another day.

Now, having said all that, some will think that if they just homeschool, all those problems will disappear. To that I reply, homeschooling is without a doubt a better education than public school and most private schools. The testing results prove that, but therein lies the biggest problem: everything is always referred back to public school as the standard. (The same is done with breastfeeding, eating organic food, and not vaccinating. The standard is always the abnormal, in this case formula feeding, eating conventional processed foods, and vaccination.)

No studies look at homeschooling as the standard, nor any particular type of homeschooling, in order to see how any one type of homeschooling philosophy or curriculum fairs against another, let alone how badly public school fails. Instead it’s just stated that “test scores will be higher” if you homeschool.

So, if you homeschool, anything will be better than public school, but if you want to give your child the best education, here is why a classical education is the acme of all education (which topic will be discussed in greater depth in the next article).

My website is named Fundamentally Classical to accentuate the necessity of the classics being the foundation to a great education. The fundamentals of an education are its basic pillars, so for the Classical Education, Greek and Latin: languages, literature, history, and philosophy are the foundation of the education. As mentioned before, an education must also be about acquiring virtue and there is no better way to learn diligence and humility than in a challenging education from some of the greatest minds in history: the ancient Greeks and Romans, who understood the importance of truth, goodness and beauty in speech and writing.

This is part of the “Core Four”, a series of four articles written to explain the scope and content of this website, why it is called Fundamentally Classical, and why you should homeschool your children classically.

  1. What is Education? (you’re here!)
  2. What is Classical Education?
  3. Why Study Latin and Greek?
  4. Why is Memory Work Necessary?

Love your children: give them the education they deserve, one that challenges them to rise to the standards of old—a Fundamentally Classical education.

4 responses to “What is Education?”

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