What do we think is the value of education? What is its purpose?
We tend to think of education, whether formal schooling or informal experience, as “a preparation for life” by the young person involved. That is wrong. Real education should be a continual part of life itself, from birth to death.
Some think the purpose of education is to help you get a “better” job. For them that would mean higher pay or a more interesting job. This is basically a short-term, sometimes selfish, economic point of view.
Some see education as learning the knowledge and skills that are needed to live a normal life in our modern interdependent society. This is a “survival” point of view, without much point beyond the selfish desire of “going along to get along.”
Others see education as valuable because it brings out and develops the talents and abilities latent in every individual. This is more of a “life” point of view that respects and values the individual human being. But, an important question remains – is this for the glory of the individual, or is it for the purpose of better serving your neighbor and your society?
The purpose of formal education can also be seen in a broader and less practical sense. This purpose is to develop and discipline the mind, the understanding, the feelings and values of our individual life within the framework of life in general and the framework of the natural creation that supports this life. An important additional purpose of education is to promote the coordination of mind and hand in useful and creative work. Now we are getting closer to the ultimate goal and benefit of education.
Alexander Pope said, “The proper study of mankind is man.” Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true, and it follows as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” These quotes tell me that we all share the same basic human nature, and we need to know what that is. Knowing who and what you are and what you share with all others should give you the humility to value and respect others as much as you do yourself.
The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote, “Would that God the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us.” Real education will help us to realize this wish.
At this level real education becomes a matter of building positive and constructive human relationships. For true education to take place, your Self must become involved. Mutual trust between students and between student and teacher will make learning a joyful and interesting activity that encourages openness and sharing. But, because of our selfish human nature, trust will sometimes be broken. Then what should we do to restore that trust? The wrong that broke that trust must be openly recognized and sincerely regretted. To heal the broken relationship of trust, forgiving love is needed. Where is this forgiving love going to come from? It must come from the ultimate giver of life, God. You can find a good description of this love of God in 1 Cor. 13. This is the basis of all true education, whether formal or informal.
If you use your learning to serve others, you will be serving God and yourself in the best way.