I’ve been thinking a lot about education lately. Things like the controversy over Common Core Standards and high stakes testing, my article on education of girls in Kenya, and our own American history studies looking at self-taught geniuses such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas (Lincoln walking miles to borrow books, and Douglass literally risking his life to learn to read)–have had me thinking of the marvel, the importance, and the power of education. I think Mr. Douglass said it best on his address on “Blessings of Liberty and Education”:
“But if man is without education, although with all his latent possibilities attaching to him, he is, but a pitiable object; a giant in body, but a pigmy in intellect, and, at best, but half a man. Without education, he lives within the narrow, dark and grimy walls of ignorance. He is a poor prisoner without hope. The little light that he gets comes to him as through dark corridors and grated windows. The sights and sounds which reach him, so significant and full of meaning to the well-trained mind, are to him of dim and shadowy and uncertain importance. He sees, but does not perceive. He hears, but does not understand. The silent and majestic heavens, fretted with stars, so inspiring and uplifting, so sublime and glorious to the souls of other men, bear no message to him. They suggest to him no idea of the wonderful world in which he lives, or of the harmony of this great universe, and hence impart to him no happiness.
“Education, on the other hand, means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light only by which men can be free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness, and to defeat the very end of their being. They can neither honor themselves nor their Creator. Than this, no greater wrong can be inflicted; and, on the other hand, no greater benefit can be bestowed upon a long benighted people than giving to them, as we are here this day endeavoring to do, the means of useful education. It is aimed to make them both better and more useful in life and to furnish them with increased means of livelihood; to make of them more skilled workmen, more useful mechanics, and better workers in wood, leather, tin and iron.”
“Blessings of Liberty and Education” Frederick Douglas
Compulsory education in our country, as well as the wealth of resources available may lead us to believe that these words don’t apply to us–that we’ve achieved this. Schooling is available for everyone. I don’t think the evidence necessarily bears this out. I’m afraid we’re moving to having the form without the spirit. Which leads me to ask: do our educational methods and systems (public/private/homeschool) emancipate? Do they bring light and liberty? And is schooling the same as education? If not, what is true education, and how do we give it to our children and ourselves?