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Culture / History

Education and the Good

This post is part of the series Education?

In the first post in this series, I claimed that education was preparing someone to pursue their good. I also offered several arguments for that conclusion. Before any serious arguments can be made, two things need to be clarified. We need to know what ” preparation” is and what ” their good” is. The good of someone comes in three parts: the work they are best suited for, the particular good of how to live in their society and the general good of how to live as a human being.

Normally we do not separate these goods this way. So I am not advocating separating these goods all of the time in actual educational practice. Instead, we must separate these goods so that we can analyze them. This analysis should be treated as explaining what in involved in education what people must be taught.

The first good is the general good of how to live as a human being. Some human beings have lived well without reading, writing or math. They have learned how to hunt and fish instead. They have very few subjects in common with our education. Nonetheless, there are some things we have in common. We must all learn to reason correctly. We must also learn to practice and mature in virtue: both intellectual and moral. Finally, we must all learn to pursue happiness. That is the good of all human beings.

The second good is the more particular good of how to live in our society. This should be as particular as necessary. So if we are in Ontario, Canada, then we should learn about Ontario’ s laws. Generally, this includes learning about our history, laws and society. Since we live in a society that writes, we also need to learn reading, writing and math. We need to learn these things so that we understand the society that we live in and we can live within it well.

The third and final good is preparing for the work that we are best suited to do. We determine such things by examining interests and abilities. There are cases in which a person will claim to be interested in acting or sports playing when that is not their true interest. So some discernment in necessary and must be taught to children. However, a student who is strongly interested in art should not be discouraged for economic reasons. At the same time, the same student should not be given only one way to express their art without regard for economic or societal realities. This preparation is why we should have choices in school.

Apart from these three categories, there is no remaining subject left to be taught. All subjects are covered in some way or other. All of these categories are also necessary and obviously so. The next issue then, is how much education in these things is required in order to prepare students. That will remain for a further post.

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