“…look for the explanation of the system of education in the national ideal as revealed in its religion, art, social customs and form of government… The school, originally organized as an instrumentality of the Church, is needed to re-enforce the other institutions… It is in this study of the civilization as a whole that we learn to comprehend the organization of the schools of the country.”
School has immense religious roots. Public school is a government institution whose role is to dispense the knowledge necessary to exist in a society. The ability to communicate – to speak and, eventually, to read and write is the foundation of scholarship or learning. Some of the first schools taught Latin through biblical scripture. Before state-wide Latin schooling or the invention of printing, Monks and monasteries played a great role in preserving knowledge by transcribing (rewriting) books by hand. The very first book made on a printing press is the Bible and, to this day, it is the most read book in the world.
So – where does this leave you?
Why do you go to school?
When you are born into this society, your first job, is school. Despite its origins, schooling is now detached from its religious roots. The early years of modern school still focus on basic skills such as interpersonal communication and literacy. This lays a foundation for later education geared towards gaining the knowledge and skills needed to create value and establish a livelihood. Here we must define livelihood and value to continue.
When a person is born they do not have an external perspective of their society. They do not know whether the place they live is good or bad, they just exist within it. Regardless of the society you are born into, to establish a livelihood a human being must satisfy basic biological needs such as food, water and shelter. In modern society, it is nearly impossible to get by without other people – somebody farms your food, drives it to the market and sorts and sells it. In order to live and satisfy your needs you must exchange value with the people around you.
Entire books can be written on the definition of value but let us study it through example: you fix your friend’s computer and, in exchange, she lets you pick her berry trees. In this way both people receive something useful and enjoyable from the interaction together. In a more modern and detached scenario, you exchange money for goods and, in this way, money is the measure of value.
School can prepare you to establish a livelihood and make value but if you understand what you are given you can do so much more. The literature and history you learn in school are the foundation from which you can learn about alternative histories and viewpoints. The science and mathematics you are taught are the foundation behind every invention that has allowed our societies and technologies to advance as far as they have.
“If you go back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic—being able to talk to people over long distances, to transmit images, flying, accessing vast amounts of data like an oracle. These are all things that would have been considered magic a few hundred years ago. So engineering is, for all intents and purposes, magic, and who wouldn’t want to be a magician?”
Through education, you gain the means to understand and eventually change the society you live in. School can provide part of that education but the first thing you must do is to get through your early challenges and understand school’s purpose in your life.
What kind of value will you bring to the world?
What kind of a livelihood will you make?
Is there a difference between school and education and, if so, what is it?
How can you use the opportunity of school to build your future?
Despite referencing only primarily public schools, the information above applies to most private schools as they tend to teach to the same curriculum as public education.
The history of education in this article is heavily generalized. The degree of government or religious control varied greatly from society to society (e.g. China vs. Europe vs. India). For further reading, see the references.
- A history of education, by F. V. N. Painter by Painter, F. V. N. (Franklin Verzelius Newton), 1852-1931. Published 1886
- “The Medieval world thought of grammar as a foundation from which all forms of scholarship should originate.”
- The very first printed book was the bible