Another dot in the blogosphere?

Education is freeing

Posted on: October 29, 2014

A few weeks ago, Agatha Tan wrote an open letter to her school principal to highlight gender stereotypes she felt were needlessly perpetuated by a school vendor.

The debate is old and I will not add to it. I am just glad that Agatha’s action opened the floodgate to an issue that would otherwise have been swept under the carpet.

But there was a comment in a Facebook conversation that troubled me.


To provide a bit more context, the comment was in support of the vendor instead of Agatha. What disturbed me was that it was a conversation among teacher educators, teachers, and their associates.

It showed a lack of understanding of the fundamental purpose of schooling and education. The two are not synonymous.

At its core, schooling is about enculturation and therefore about the constraining, limiting, and controlling. There is a purpose and place for this in larger society, but that is not all school is for.

School can be a gateway to a larger education. Education starts before school and continues after it. An education can also happen independently of school. If we do enough, education can and should happen in school.

Education is about unshackling us from general ignorance and specific prejudices. It is about gradually gaining freedom from one’s own biases and learning to take the perspectives of others.

From a cognitivist perspective, being educated might be about seeing the structure and connections of concepts in someone else’s mind.

From a constructivist perspective, having an education is about continually negotiating meaning with others so that what you know is broader, wiser, and more open.

From a connectivist perspective, an education is dependent on the relationships and links you have with a variety of people and resources. The greater the quantity, quality, and variety of associations, the more educated you are.

Whatever your perspective, being educated is not just knowing the semantic differences between being schooled and being educated. It is about how your education shapes your philosophy and mindset.

If teachers or instructors do not know the differences, they might not have read deeply enough about this fundamental issue.

If they refuse to see the differences, they are ignoring the need to change, to admit they were wrong, or simply to learn.

In the case of Agatha, a student has valuable lessons on the method of communication, the power of social media, the mindset of youth, and a fundamental issue in our society.

If we are schooled, we will act in one or a very limited number of ways. If we choose to be educated, we will be open to a variety of actions and we will find those that free us from bias and baggage.

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