What is Education?

I had an interesting dream a few weeks ago. I dreamt that I went to high school. The odd thing was that while I was in the physical body of a high schooler, I had my current mind of a 68-year-old. It was odd as I was attending the school for the first time as a new student, so I didn’t know where or when my classes were held. It was as if I had been taking the classes online and was now transitioning to the real classroom. The other students had been there all along. It was disconcerting being in the new environment but reassuring because I was 68 years old. I wasn’t panicking like a teenager. 

In fact, it was fun because, in my head, I felt I knew more than most of the teachers and administrators because they were so much younger than I was. But I still looked like a teenager, so I couldn’t act haughty. I had all kinds of thoughts about what and how we were learning in high school and, more importantly, why we were learning many things. I distinctly recall thinking through the whole educational approach of our culture during this dream.

It was a lucid dream, and I when woke up, I continued to think with a passion through the purpose and process of education for the next hour. Obviously, I lost some sleep that night but enjoyed the dream and the resulting processing.

I came up with this definition of education: Learning to Comprehend Reality Well.

I word-smithed each word in this definition during my time awake in the middle of the night…

For my time thinking through this, here is what I came up with:

  • Learning is understanding the concepts and incorporating them into one’s life.
  • Comprehending is integrating concepts across cognitive, affective, social, and physical domains.
  • Reality is understood as the material world (cosmos), the experiential world (what we experience with our senses), and micro (quantum mechanics), as well as the immaterial world (spiritual, ethereal, values).
  • Well means in ways that benefit oneself personally as well as their immediate or greater world.

I think it is time to rethink our approach to education.  Are there benefits to the multiplication tables, yes. Is it worth the effort to commit them to memory, maybe? I fully appreciate my ability to think today is rooted in the skills I learned in school, but I am convinced penmanship was not one of them!

I need to continue processing this. By the way, it was much easier to be in high school with the mind of a 68-year-old rather than that of a 16-year-old!  So many of the things that I was concerned about when in high school didn’t produce a bit of concern in my current state of mind. I think this would be true of most of life. The tough experiences of growing up give us a different perspective, called wisdom.






2 responses to “What is Education?”

  1. Thomas C Phillips Avatar
    Thomas C Phillips

    Oh yeah…The Dream…

    …45 years out of undergrad, and I still wake up sweating. Haven’t been to class all term and today’s the Final; can’t find the room, didn’t buy the book, the exam is in a language I can’t understand, don’t have a pencil, slide rule…and every now and again, for excitement add “naked” to the mix…

    I’ve long had a debate with the voices in my head as to whether it’s better to have a large number of “canned, memorized responses” to the problems with which I deal, or to have a sound methodology and frame of reference with which to work through problems. With most work-related problem solving having deadlines or “on the clock,” I find that I don’t have the luxury of being able to work out a “general solution,” I just have to fix the situation at hand.

    How do we teach our kids a methodology in the time frames we have; i.e., the school year, the timed exam, the boss breathing down one’s neck?

    Great column…

  2. Greg Wiens Avatar
    Greg Wiens

    Oh Tom, I laughed and laughed as I have had that dream more times than I could count on my slide rule. For me, it is usually Thermo, but the subject has varied over the years. I am smiling now as I type this…it is actually the only disturbing dream I ever have. Other than a few times I have found myself preaching with no pants on, so I have to stand behind the pulpit and not move. I know there is great symbolism in that!

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