Education through the ages, has been prescribed multiple meanings. Plato described it as the ability to feel pleasure and pain at the right moment. Aristotle thought it pertained to the creation of a sound mind in a sound body (balance). Rousseau saw it as the development of the child from within and Dewey viewed it as “the process of living through a continuous reconstruction of experiences.”
From this we can see that education has no fixed meaning and it is forever changing through the course of one’s lifespan. In this essay I will explore the nature and aims of education through the years and its impact in our modern world today.
With the discover of language and the formation of civilization, human beings have sought knowledge about themselves and the world around them.
Sappho, a woman, was among the first to show and prove that females could become just as educated and accomplished as men. She founded a school for girls and was so well respected that parents willingly sent their children to this ‘boarding school’. She sought equal rights for men and women in education, something which was unheard of at the time.
Socrates, of the Socratic Method, taught through Socratic Reasoning. That is, he taught through questioning. Even after you have fixed the position in your mind, question why, inevitably the individual is left with the knowledge that he/she is not all knowing and still has a lot to discover. This however is difficult to acknowledge as most believe themselves to be infallible (Harrison-Barbet, 2001) . This is a concept not much used today, with the advances in technology, there is little or no need to seek answers yourself; google is just a short search away.
Plato a student of Socrates, rationalist, idealist and dualist founded the first university for higher learning. Like his teacher he taught through questioning, argument and dialogue. He was interested in topics such as Mathematics, Philosophy and Science In our society today however, philosophy is not taught at the primary or secondary levels.
Aristotle, a realist and empiricist taught reasoning and thinking. He believed that only through balance could one be truly accomplished. This balance occurred when both leisure and work, mind and body were in harmonyIn todays technological world it is often difficult to balance the two. Those who reason and think seek power and economic growth, while, those that seek leisure often pursue that to the detriment of everything else.
These early educators all believed in the improvement of self, and this aim still holds true today though with a slightly different bent. In days gone by individuals were able to freely direct their energies only to those topics which concerned or interested them. In todays world we have set guidelines or expected paths, which direct activities and needs of any situation. As such individuals find themselves with courses which do not hold their interest. Here we can see two very different aims emerging: social aims vs individual aims.
Society/ state views the individual as a means to an end. The progress of society as a whole is the aim. In order to maintain the welfare of the state or nation, the nation will shape individuals to different tasks to ensure its survival and upward mobility. This can be seen in the training of doctors, educators and law enforcement personnel.
With this view however, individuals are seen only as tools or non- entities. Their needs, desires and interests are ignored, individual development is encouraged only in as much, as it benefits the society as a whole.
The individual seeks to improve self, through critical thinking, ideas and ideals. Man, however, is a social animal and as such this stance hardly seems practical. You can hardly discuss ideas with yourself. As such the individual can only develop completely within society. Social and Individual aims have a symbiotic relationship, society must develop to allow improvement in the individual and the reverse holds true as well.
Education through the years has always dealt with the following basic aims: social justice vs social injustice, national identity, critical thinking, social practices.
• Social justice vs injustice – These deal with the concept of equality or inequality. In our education system in Trinidad, it is believed that certain prestige schools are better than the government managed institutions. This leads to more people seeking admission to these schools. However, these schools have a ‘pruning process’ in which they eliminate individuals based on economic or social standing. Later in trying to join the work force these schools will also have preference, for example, student A attends a prestige school, student B attends a common school, they both score 90%. Student A will be given preference due to the social standing of the institution they attended. Is this justice, is this fair?
• National identity – Education develops a nation’s economy and society; therefore, it is of tremendous importance to develop the education system of any nation. With globalization comes the awareness of different culture and beliefs all over the world. It is important that individuals develop the culture and religious tenets of their birth country so that they may fit into the well-run cog of their society.
• Critical thinking – This is the process by which we think about thinking, or reflect on facts in order to form an opinion. This process was followed by philosophers such as Plato and Socrates in an effort for them to gain better insight and to develop as original thinkers.
• Social practices – Deals with the interactions between adults and children. Through literacy, knowledge is imparted or gained, this duality shows that children learn from adults while adults also learn from them.