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Science / Sociology

The Place of Education

Education is very important in our modern society. We often advocate education for everyone, suggest that everyone gain a university or college degree and are horrified at the idea that someone might have been discriminated against in education. Yet for all that, we often do not think enough about what education is and why it exists. Education is not job-training, nor is it a memorization of knowledge. Education is the process of character building, and the equipping of citizens to pursue their various goods in society.

Education is not merely a process of learning, nor is it a mere accumulation of knowledge. There are some people who continue to learn facts while outside school. There are also people who do not learn nearly as much while inside school. Neither person is well-educated or not well-educated. Of course, there are certain facts that we must know to be well-educated. These facts are not random though. If we took a person who understands every detail about their favorite sports teams, that would not make them a step closer to being well-educated.

Education is not job-training either. To be sure, some jobs require specialized training. Some people do need to attend college if they are to be properly trained as an electrical engineer. Others need to attend university. Doctors and lawyers both require significant training. Yet that training does not make someone well-educated. There are plenty of doctors and lawyers who lack a proper education but can do their job well. That would be impossible if education were the same thing as job training.

Education is the preparation of individuals to pursue their goods in society. Each individual has different goods. Some people are interested in learning, some in creative pursuits and yet others in social pursuits. Each of those interests suggest a different occupation. So education ought to prepare individuals to pursue these goods. Now every individual is also a part of a society. Since our society is democratic, we ought to prepare individuals to properly participate in our democracy. So generalizing to our situation, education prepares individuals to pursue their own pursuits in occupation and participate in Canadian democracy. This requires the building of moral and intellectual virtues, common skills such as reading, writing, math and reasoning, as well as common knowledge. Common knowledge includes the nature of various goods, the history and structure of Canadian democracy, basic scientific and geographic knowledge and the like. Further elucidation of Canadian education requires a knowledge of the particulars of our culture, time and nation.

If we do not prepare individuals to pursue their goods, then they will head out into life without such skills. Some will become criminals, and other obtain employment that is not consistent with their individual goods. This is not to say that a well-functioning society will not have criminals or satisfaction problems, but that such problems will be rare and easily dealt with.

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