Chronicle: The Purpose of Education
The importance of education in the fight against bigotry has long been part of American philosophy and thought.
American philosopher Ralph Emerson discusses the nature of classroom environments and student-teacher relationships in his essay, “Educationwhich delves into how students challenge bigotry and authoritative teaching. According to Emerson, when a student “stops you in your speech, yells you’re wrong, and corrects you, hug him!”
Emerson illustrates the importance of keeping an open mind in the classroom and being able to challenge teachers when they are wrong, as it is an important process in a student’s education to refute something their authorities tell them. What the author meant here is that when a student believes what their teacher is saying is wrong and reports it, the teacher should be happy that their student is challenging bigotry. This is exemplified in Emerson’s recommendation, where he details how a teacher should hug students who prove them wrong and celebrate those who challenge authority.
The purpose of education is examined by James Baldwin, an American author, in his speech, “A conversation with teachers,where he explicitly states that the purpose of education is to create the ability to make one’s own decisions and to “decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not”, among other things.
In other words, the ability to think for yourself without external control. The message that Baldwin illustrates to his audience is particularly important given the emergence of the civil rights movement in America, at a time when education taught students racist and bigoted concepts and implanted the ideas of justified racial inequality in the minds of young adolescents.
David Foster Wallace is a bestselling American author who, in his keynote address, “It’s water“, supports the claim that the purpose of education is to teach you to think, rather than “to fill you with knowledge”. He argues that a lack of understanding of the points of view of others contributes to dogmatism, a “blind certainty,” as he puts it.The reasoning behind this is due to the lack of an education that teaches you to think and see the world from other perspectives.
Its general message about what the effect of education should be on a student can be summed up in a few sentences. Wallace, through his own personal experiences, discovered that education really teaches you to “have just a bit of critical awareness about myself and my certainties” He warns the public that they will most likely have the same experiences as him. As one of the most influential writers of the past 20 years, Wallace’s opinions are important to consider.
Moreover, Wallace attacks self-centeredness, indicating that human nature is defined by an individual’s needs and desires, which often results in bigoted and arrogant beliefs surrounding one’s own life experiences. Wallace argues that the “world as you experience it is right there in front of YOU”, illustrating how humans naturally place themselves at the center of all their experiences, which contributes to their sectarian beliefs and leads to the “blind trust” Wallace opposes. on guard.
In a politically divided nation, education is a key factor in countering the bigotry of authoritative figures, like the politicians who run this country. In the United States, election data has illustrated the chasm between educated and uneducated voters: People with college degrees tend to vote Democratic while people without college education tend to vote Republican, according to Pew Research Center.
The ideas of respected philosophers, such as Emerson, Wallace and Baldwin, support the claim that the purpose of education is to teach students to keep an open mind and avoid bigotry. Of course, many people, including parents who believe that high academic achievement in the form of high grades is the primary goal of education, would argue that education is more about improving one’s academic options and, therefore, his future career. However, such a focus on grades and performative academic achievement cultivates a culture in which students will attempt to achieve the highest possible grade rather than actually learning.
Unfortunately, high grades are not always directly related to how much a student knows in a certain subject, as there are other ways to get high grades besides getting good test scores or without even learning the material thoroughly. In fact, in a few of my courses, students often have additional credit opportunities that may or may not have something to do with the subject.
Examples of such extra credit options include grading papers, attending after-school meetings, or just showing up to a certain club that relates to the subject. Students often learn very little, if any, from these extra credit opportunities, but it helps their grades. If they do this enough times, students can earn an A in a subject simply by grinding out extra credit opportunities without learning the subject thoroughly.
As a result, such an education would produce a student who learns the best way to increase their grades without worrying about learning the subject, which could prove detrimental to their college education or career. This notion is further supported by William Deresiewicz in his article, “The Downsides of an Elite Education“, where he believes that “[students] are products of a system that rarely asks them to think of anything bigger than the next mission.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it goes back to the repetitive and overwhelming nature of education, where students are more likely to spend more time and effort doing quick and easy tasks to increase their grades. a few percent, rather than spending that time and effort learning in-depth material and knowledge as well as wrestling with the complex concepts of complex problems.
When it becomes a habit, all the student learns from education is how to find the quickest and easiest way to “pass” rather than studying the actual subjects they were sent to school to learn. Ironically, this gives students skills that will set them up for failure later in adult life, because in the real world there are no shortcuts and extra credits for learning, knowledge and the effort needed to do a good job.
Thus, instead of education being merely for prestige or economic ends, it should prepare students to be aware, informed and engaged citizens of a society, who will combat all the corrosive effects of bigotry.
While the goal of education is to train students to refute bigotry, this skill often transcends the classroom and also influences students and young adults in their personal lives.
The ability to keep an open mind is an important life skill, especially in a time when social and mainstream media is filled with misleading and dangerous misinformation. Some of this misinformation even leads to the death of individuals and enslaves the minds of millions of emotionally-driven, bigoted people who lack a decent education. They also refuse to expand their mental boundaries to recognize rational facts or even the perspectives of others.