Friday, January 25, 2019

The Value Of True Education

Experience is the difference between maturity and immaturity, adulthood and childhood. Education is the process by which we get from one to the other. What is the value of education? It is the value of experience. It is what gives us the tools to live autonomously, independently. Education is what provides us with the mechanisms by which we are able to rely more on ourselves and less on others. Experiences can be negative or positive. Education is the cumulative result of those positive and negative experiences. Education is what provides us the knowledge by which we can avoid negative experiences and seek out positive experiences in the future.

True education is the development of the character. It is the training and molding of a person into one of moral firmness. It facilitates a commitment to ethics. It trains a person to stand for what is right and what is good. It teaches them to make choices that are for the good of others not solely for self. True education teaches teamwork and self-sacrifice. It teaches patience, kindness, goodness and self control. It teaches the person to have faith in God, hope for the future, and love for other people and animals.

"True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come." (Ellen White, Education, 13.1)

Formal education is the attempt to manipulate the process of learning. It's goal is to guide the experiences of a person on their journey from childhood to adulthood. At times it has fallen short of this goal. In some cases it has become primarily focused on transmitting knowledge, for this it does well. Sometimes it has forgotten true education. But knowledge is not useful if a person does not know how to properly apply it. Only experience can teach this. This is sometimes called wisdom. Judgement, discernment, and insight about how best to apply knowledge in each unique circumstance is crucial to maturity and therefore to adulthood.

Sometimes formal education is missing the purpose of true education. Development of character is vital along with the dissemination of knowledge. Character without knowledge will enable a person to go and acquire knowledge on their own. Knowledge without character is dangerous. There is a single word that aptly describes these kind of person -- arrogant.

It is important that those in the business of educating grasp the importance of true education. It needs to be central to every lesson they teach. To whom does this apply? Teachers, parents, mentors, pastors, and role-models. It applies to everyone who does not live alone on an island.

How is true education conducted? By providing experience. By allowing students of all ages to have many kinds of experiences in various circumstances. These experiences then provide the opportunity to teach wisdom and discernment. They afford the chance to convey knowledge and instruct on ethics. Real-life experiences are key. This is what develops strong character. Providing opportunities for students of all ages to bear responsibility is at the root of real-life experiences. Allowing students to work in teams provides invaluable opportunities for social interaction and development of interpersonal skills. Students need a combination of structured and unstructured learning. Play is the most important means of learning for students under the age of 12. It remains important throughout adolescence but gradually shifts from the primary means of learning to a means of leisure.

Jean Piaget broke childhood development into 4 stages. There are four main types of play based on these stages. Exploratory play is the primary method children 0-2 explore and learn about the world. Through exploring sensation and movement the develop a body scheme and learn about the world around them. They learn by concrete action and reaction. In this stage play is primarily with caregiver. From 2-4 they learn through symbolic play. They learn that objects are permanent even when not seen. They learn to associate ideas and feelings with objects. They begin to use and understand symbols such as language. They begin to participate in parallel play meaning they play alongside other children but their play is not primarily interactive.

Next is creative play from 4-7. It is characterized by engagement in social play and involves higher levels of cognitive processing. It develops sensory, motor, coordination and others skills that are important for school and work. Children play in peer groups. The last stage from 7-12 is dominated by game play. Social interaction is in full bloom and kids are able to play games with rules. Children show interest in competition and friends become important validators for play items and performance.

True education will seek to develop character in the appropriate manner at each stage. It begins with very concrete lessons and methods and gradually progresses along with the child's development. By age 12 students are ready for more abstract thinking. This is where they can begin to take on responsibility. They can understand the value of caring for others. True education will help them to leave selfish interests in childhood. It will point them towards God as the ultimate source of wisdom and morality. The instructor of true education will help the student realize that no matter their beliefs they will not gain perfection in this life but that they should never cease striving for it. He or she will teach them that their true value is not in their accomplishments nor in their character, but in their simple existence.

True education must happen in every sphere of a child's life. It must happen at home, in the classroom, and in the extracurricular program. Most importantly it must happen in the church. No setting is inappropriate for true education to take place. Certainly the most appropriate setting is outside. The great outdoors is no respecter of persons. Therefore it treats all equally. This is the best place for the development of character and of fortitude. It is here that the Maker provided ready lessons for true education. It is here that the instructor can draw upon these ready made lessons to teach wisdom, to mold the character. Jesus demonstrated this repeatedly in his object lessons. He used every day objects to illustrate principles of ethics and morals. He drew upon the things of nature to illustrate what good character looks like. It is a time tested method for practicing true education.

The lessons of nature are true and genuine experience. They are not contrived. In the formal classroom lessons can seem forced or phony. This is why the formal classroom requires supplemental real world experience. The classroom is often devoid of real-world responsibility or pressures. And thus it is best coupled with more realistic experiences. If more teachers would become instructors in true education, they would seek opportunities to add real-world experiences to their curriculum. Even more than are now common. No value can be placed on the teaching of true education. Every teacher, parent, mentor, pastor and role-model must seek to implement this into their educational practices whether formal or informal.

Written by David F. Garner