The Value of Education
By: Stephen Rifkin - Nov 16, 2014
“No one coming out of the water from an island can tell us anything but why they left.” S. Rifkin (from Steps to Waking)
I don’t think we can tailor education. There are too many people who need it. Most people who get it seem to do ok. There aren’t enough teachers to dish it out. They aren’t artists. They aren’t shrinks. And even artists and shrinks don’t know what they’re doing, really, nor put into words their language of intuition. Ask them.
Many people claim we’re uneducated, or stupid, yet they watch movies and TV, follow Facebook, espouse theories and get depressed. Education is not the problem. Our hunger for distraction is the salient and indispensable feature of modern culture. It is the better mousetrap on which our economy depends.
So corruption of education is the hallmark of our culture. We have become the novelty and stimuli upon which we depend. We plague ourselves. We distract and promote ourselves.
People who make money are successful. They are sometimes well educated, and sometimes not, but they are smart. They are smart enough to be successful in the way most of us value success. They have as much of everything as we can imagine. Or so we, and especially the young among us, imagine and think. So youngsters seek success. They value the most obvious, and shallowest— the stars among us.
It is important that everyone who goes to school learn rights. It is the inalienable right of everyone in a democracy to have the right to vote, to be free of hindrance to that right. No poll tax, no voter ID! It is the right of everyone to breathe clean air and drink clean water, for these sustain life. It is the right of everyone to be free of tainted food and ruinous products. It is the right of every student to learn how to read and to write, and to be presented with outstanding models. Call it rhetoric. It is to be a required subject. It is the right and obligation of every student to learn a foreign language, for he or she is a citizen of the world. Another language gives the student perspective on his or her own language, and without language, there is no thought. There is no truth, nor is there falsehood, without words. It is the right of every student to be exposed to art, for art too is a language— one that speaks to us when the others fail.
It isn’t class size or individualized learning that makes learning possible, but the need of each generation for the next makes learning necessary and permits our path through the wilderness. Words and language permit utterance in the dark.
The purpose of education is to give the student a way to make learning a lifelong possibility, and it is the basis of good citizenship.