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Saturday, 28 May 2011

How Does Education Happen?

This is a continuation of the previous installment.  There we discussed the principles of education.  Now we will examine how education happens.  First of all, education happens naturally.  All creatures learn in order to survive.  But if we want to just stick to human beings and we want to consider education beyond merely eating and moving, we must deal with more advanced education.  Education happens any time there is something new introduced to a person's world.  Immediately the person, or student, for we are all students, tries to understand and categorize the new phenomenon.  In order to do that, he or she examines it.  We could say, they "learn" it. 

If you transfer this to a classroom, students are constantly introduced to new things - ideas, histories, methods of communication, and representations.  If the students are permitted to explore the new concept, to understand it in a way which is meaningful to themselves, then they will have learned it.  That is the basis of education.  This requires a flexible system since the understanding of the teacher may be quite different from the understanding of the student.  They have different frameworks.  Teachers should guide and be there to correct misinterpretations - when something is assumed that is not true or might be distorted.  They are a repository of knowledge to answer questions about the new concept.  This is how education happens.  

Is this how schools function?  I will leave that up to the reader to judge. 

Friday, 20 May 2011

Education and schooling

You must understand that in my reality education and schooling are two completely different things.  One can get an education without going to school and one can go to school but never get an education.  An education can be about the entire person or it can be in a specific discipline or field.  You can get an education in the art of tapestry or you can get an "education" in the classical education sense.  An education implies the learning of new ideas or skills - a growth of the individual in whatever direction.  Schooling is the process of attending a structured process which is meant to transfer information or knowledge.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  An education can be found in schools.  However, they are not mutually dependent.  It is possible to make it all the way through school, even get a diploma or degree, and receive little in the way of education.

The purpose of this blog is to explore the principles of education.  If we have time and energy, we might also investigate the ways in which schools can actually deliver an education, but for now, that is for another day.

Defining the "principles of education" is a lofty task to undertake.  Fortunately this is my own blog so I can define terms any way I like.  However, if I wish to convince others of the correctness of my perspective I must adhere to some sort of structure and rules.  So we will start with definitions that we, perhaps, can all agree on.  "Principles" in this blog will mean essential ideas and concepts that underlie the terms that we are discussing.  The principles of education are those basic assumptions or underpinnings upon which we rest the idea of education. 

Always best to start at the very foundation.  Education is about growth.  Whether we view the mind as a "tabula rasa" of Lockian philosophy or an unformed glob of potential, education is about letting that mind grow.  Children are natural learning creatures.  They can't help it.  They are always learning.  I often hear adults wonder at the speed at which children pick things up, whether it be a foreign language or a new technology.  If you consider where they started at birth and how far they have come by age 5 or 6, is it really that amazing that they learn things so quickly?  They need to.  They are preprogrammed to learn quickly in order to survive. 

When do they stop learning?  The answer is - never.  But they can slow down.  Just as children run everywhere and adults most often walk.  Over time if the muscles are not used they stiffen and become harder to use.  So a brain that is not exercised becomes more rigid.  Some people never stop learning.  They are the lucky ones, or more accurately, the well educated ones.  They have never lost the thrill of learning.  So education is about growth, the growing and stretching of the mind.  It can happen anywhere, in school or not.

Next chapter:  How does education happen?