Education is one of those institutions that is so ubiquitous in modern society that one rarely thinks to question what its purpose might be, why it exists at all, what the world might be like without it. These questions, however, are of dire importance, and the less we think about them, the more likely our systems of education are to stray from utility into irrelevance.
Education stems from a variety of sources. Many Native American societies used it to teach their young valuable lessons learned in their lives and the lives of their ancestors that those children might avoid repeating mistakes of the past. The Pilgrims were part of a widespread tradition that used it primarily to instruct children in the values and precepts of their religion. Our Founding Fathers desired to create an informed and productive citizenry that would steer our democracy in the right direction. Many would purport that our modern system of public schooling is simply a form of social control, the true motivation of the nineteenth-century legislators who created it.
While there may be value in all of these and still other perspectives, my own viewpoint aligns closest with that of the Native Americans. Albert Camus summarized the crux of this purpose most succinctly in his 1947 novel The Plague: “The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” The world is an astoundingly complex place filled with an astounding variety of people and creatures, but the knowledge and understanding which our predecessors hand down to us, assuming we are receptive to it, allow us to reach greater success and perhaps even greater contentment than they ever could.
Of course any philosophy of education which credits Camus is likely to be a bit on the abstract side, but my perspective has at least one very real and tangible consequence: in this day and age, the abundant knowledge and understandings we receive from those who came before us are absolutely necessary to get into a good college, find a good job, and make a good living. For many, this is the more important “purpose of education.” I remain hesitant to place such a high value on something that is so essentially material, but it is hard not to mention it.
The role of the student in education is to be both open and committed to learning and mastery. Learning never ends, and the student should view his education in these terms. The student must be aware of the benefits education has for him. In an ideal world, this is enough to keep him focused on his learning and on mastery of skills and content. In the real world, there are many distractions and gaps steering him in the wrong direction.
The role of the teacher is to guide the student toward learning and mastery, as well as to prioritize and organize learning in a way that is most beneficial. It is true that many of the best students scarcely need a teacher. History abounds with examples of men and women like Abraham Lincoln who rose to the pinnacle of human intellect and capability more or less without any need for a teacher. Unfortunately, these people are the exception by far. Most of us do need guidance, and that is why people like me have a job. Again, in an ideal world, this would be where the teacher’s role would end, but, as mentioned above, many students find themselves distracted from their learning by a variety of factors or even impaired by gaps in background knowledge and skills. It then becomes the role of the teacher also to incentivize education itself and to intervene in order to close those gaps and bring every student to a high level of achievement.
The teacher’s role does not end in the classroom. Especially considering the true purpose of education is staving off ignorance and thereby ameliorating social intercourse, a teacher must be on twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. A teacher must model good citizenship that his students can learn by example. In order to do so, a teacher must be an active and benevolent participant in his community. Thus, students can witness the value of education by witnessing it firsthand from a person with whom they have an actual relationship.
Oberlin College - BA, Comparative Literature & Creative Writing (minor in French)
Marian University (Indiana) - MAT, Secondary Education, Special Education, English as a New Language
AP US History
High School English
High School Geography
SAT Subject Test in French
SAT Subject Test in French with Listening
SAT Subject Tests Prep
Study Skills and Organization
What is your teaching philosophy?
Students learn when they are engaged. Find the hook, and sink it in. Everything else will follow.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Break the ice, assess the student's proficiency and needs, and make a plan.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Cultivate habits of independent study. Never do the work for the student. Guide the student through it.