31 January 2015

Context Institute: “What is Education for?”

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more “successful” people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.

A second principle comes from the Greek concept of paideia. The goal of education is not mastery of subject matter, but of one’s person. Subject matter is simply the tool. Much as one would use a hammer and chisel to carve a block of marble, one uses ideas and knowledge to forge one’s own personhood. For the most part we labor under a confusion of ends and means, thinking that the goal of education is to stuff all kinds of facts, techniques, methods, and information into the student’s mind, regardless of how and with what effect it will be used. The Greeks knew better.

David Orr

Some powerful ideas in this 15-year old article, but I always get a little skeptical when people start to idealize the past (the only people who have lived sustainably on the planet for any length of time could not read) and treat it as the solution to all of today’s problems. The world is so different than it was two thousand years ago – heck, very different than last century or fifty years ago – that we need to find our own answers, not search for them in a long-past age.

Greek Paideia education

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