Educational Means & Ends

So difficult and profound is the nature of education, and so uncertain its results, since education has to do with the nature of the way people think more than what they know or what they can do, that it is not surprising that the goal of education is replaced by something else. Using history to ponder the complexities of social causation is replaced by learning the chronicles and traditions of a nation so as to implant patriotism; using math to learn how to think abstractly and logically is replaced by the mastery of times tables and algorithms. More dramatically, learning is itself replaced as a goal of education, its time taken up with the variety of services that are useful to the population that attends school, such as how to drive an automobile or protect against pregnancy. Schools can therefore become schools in name only, even though they are regulated by state education departments rather than by some other agency. That is what happens when schools serve non-educational functions for reasons of convenience, such as providing vaccinations for all students, free lunches for poor children, or day care for seriously disabled children, or warnings about not to talk to strangers. These are health and safety programs, not educational programs, even if it is also the case that children who get glasses may see the blackboard better and so learn more. Many social services make it easier to educate students, and there is no reason why these services should not be provided in schools, given that children of school age can be found there en masse, but social services are not the same thing as education itself.

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