Saturday, March 7, 2009

Defintion Of Education

The definition of education in common usage, that education is merely the delivery of knowledge, skills and information from teachers to students, is inadequate to capture what is really important about being and becoming educated.
The proper definition of education is the process of becoming an educated person.
Being an educated person means you have access to optimal states of mind regardless of the situation you are in.
You are able to perceive accurately, think clearly and act effectively to achieve self-selected goals and aspirations.
Education is a process of cognitive cartography, mapping your experiences and finding a variety of reliable routes to optimal states when you find yourself in non-optimal states.
The idea that the definition of education is the delivery of knowledge, skills and information from teachers to students is misguided.
While this definition of education is partly true it is grossly inadequate and is probably the fundamental source of the vast tragedy of “accountability” which treats arbitrarily inadequate results on irrelevant tests as proof that some school communities need to be punished.
The logic of “accountability” in this instance is taken to be a literal “accounting” of units of knowledge and information through highly orchestrated student performances of test taking skills.
This is that same kind of literalism that causes absurd behavior in religious communities, too. (At least, in education the fundamentalists are only fiscally killing their enemies and not literally.)
Two Problems With the Traditional Definition of Education as Delivery
There are two problems with this definition of education.
First, the definition of education using the delivery metaphor is too often taken to be literally true.
Knowledge, skills, and information, as we mean these terms in the field of education, are not literal units.
In computer science and telecommunications they deal with literal units of information in the form of electrical pulses that can be observed in a variety of ways.
In education we are dealing with entire realms and fields of both worldly phenomena and uniquely human narratives that have no literal, physical existence.
We use the term “unit” as a convenient way to organize our thoughts about a complex set of phenomena that is utterly incomprehensible without this metaphor.
What we know from the findings of cognitive and neuro-sciences is that even science and mathematics use metaphors to develop ideas about complex and otherwise incomprehensible phenomena.
If even our deepest scientific and mathematical understandings of the physical, literal world are based on metaphors, then it is neither surprising nor unusual to use metaphors in our defintion of education. (see Philosophy in the Flesh, Lakoff & Johnson, Basic Books 1999, and Lakoff & Nunez, Where Mathematics Comes From, Basic Books 2000)
But it is a problem to take a metaphor literally.
What we learn from this insight into how we understand the world is that our understandings of anything complex, especially something as vastly complex as education, are based on metaphors and the challenge is to figure out which of the metaphors are most useful for creating the right outcomes.
The second problem with this definition of education is that it is pathetically inadequate for describing what is most important about both the process of becoming, and the results of being, an educated person.
Whenever I have pushed people to really delve into what they mean when they talk about a person being educated they quickly abandon the notion that educated people have a greater quantity of information or that they have the traditional evidence of instructional bookkeeping like diplomas, degrees, certificates, etc.
Education is Free With This Definition
The wonderful irony of real education is that it is essentially free.
My definition of education is the mapping of access to optimal states of mind.
The result is an educated person, a person who is able to perceive accurately, think clearly, and act effectively on self-selected goals and aspirations.
The process of becoming educated requires a practice of persistent disillusionment, a consistent method for having an on-going dialog between the world and your mind to constantly revise your concepts of what is really going on.
There are three roles that we all play in our own and other people’s education, the learning agent, the learning catalyst, and the learning context.
Our moral responsibility as educators is to align the bio-, psycho-, communo-, socio- and eco-spheres as best we can to assist our students (and ourselves) with this on-going mapping project.
Everything about this process has been available to human kind as long as we have been human.
Only recently have we become aware that this is true.
There is not a single technology high or low that is necessary to accomplish this, but just about every technology both high and low can help us educate ourselves and everyone of our students, if we use them with the right attitude.

1 comment:

  1. You forgot to give me credit as the author of this piece. Here's the original source

    Thanks for spreading the word, next time please note the original author.

    Don Berg

    Free E-book