Education is Different from Knowledge.

My mother used to walk ‘across the fields’, in all weathers to go to school at 5 years of age early in the 20th century. Granddad couldn’t read or write. I think Grandma could, but as I only knew both of them briefly I am not sure. I was aware though that Granddad knew so much: about nature, the weather, the birds and animals, and farming.

They lived a simple country life with their large (13) family but seemed to me to be perfectly contented. I remember too, comparatively recently, coming across an article commenting on the purpose of universities. Not that I had given the subject much thought other than to think that they were simply a third level education system.

That may well be a function that they perform but it is not the purpose for which they were originally established which was to provide research facilities and, for that, some academic types would first be required.

That of course required funding, and what better way to get funding than to offer to teach at the same time. The teachers could do research while at the same time teaching students, with the added bonus of being able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of the students to assist with the research.

What’s more, they could use the better students, those who were progressing towards doctorates, to do most of the actual research. Under the guidance of the professors of course.

So just what is a tertiary education? Or even what is education itself?
Nobody can ever hope to know everything there is to know about a single subject. If they think that they can, they are surely deluded.

What they can do is learn how to go about finding out what they need to know, where such information is to be found, and know how to assemble and use it when they find it.

My rather old fashioned grumpy mathematics teacher didn’t try to do
any more than instil into my head the very basics of all geometry – the
Euclidian Theorems. They are the nucleus of geometry and all you need to know as a starting point. Master those and you’re away. And so it is with algebra. And, not surprisingly, so it is with just about everything.

You need to grasp the basics and the rest will follow if and when required.
Education therefore, is different from knowledge. A good education equips you with the means to follow up on whatever you want to do in life.
Knowledge (often broadly referred to as general knowledge) may or may not be helpful later; but it doesn’t come from just what your teacher tells you. It is accumulated from many sources, such as reading, listening and just doing and watching everyday things.

But surely something has gone severely wrong when we get the spectre of young children, uneducated (but only through lack of time), parroting things told to them by their teachers. The teachers surely are usurping the role of parents in matters that are not their business. Teachers should be educating our young people and teaching them the methods of finding things out for themselves, how to work things out for themselves and above all, how to think things through for themselves.

Even just how to think, as opposed to simply accepting what is put in front of them. Importantly our children should have drilled into them the benefits of having a good work ethic (and perhaps how it isn’t at all smart to deride people who do have one).

Sadly, and it really is sad, most of today’s teachers do not appreciate what they are doing to our young. They haven’t seen the system working as it should because it has been broken for much more than a generation. It would be nice to see some brave teachers take a stand. But who is going to do that at the risk of misguided odium from their peers? Peers who simply find it easier to let their union tell them how their job should be done and what they should be doing, when that socialist attitude simply drags everyone down to a lower denominator.

Many years ago I happened to see the texts of exam papers for what used to be called Matriculation which was an early version of the University Entrance Examination. I have no doubt that many, if not most, of those at university today would struggle to pass.

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