School vs. Education. Where are we now?


Timothy Arena

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In today’s society, a significant dichotomy exists between the concepts of schooling and being educated. While it is impossible to think of one without comparing it to the other, both are very opposite ways of approaching life. Malcolm X once said that “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” However, while we spend our lives being schooled, we are missing out on opportunities to be educated. To be educated means more than to simply understand the material learned in school. One who is educated is one who can bring positive contributions to a society and who can adapt to the times. One of the great aspects of American society today is that you can create your own path. By being educated, the possibilities of what one can accomplish become endless. Thus, to let schooling overpower education is only doing injustice to yourself in the long run.

If one was to look back on their time in school, they will most likely admit to finding short cuts, bending the rules, and living with a mindset of “the end justifies the means”. Part of the reason for this unfortunate reality is due to the atmosphere within schools that promotes constant testing with a lack of focus on fully understanding the material. In a way, becoming educated has faded into the background of public schooling while grades continue to grasp the spotlight. Although it is uncertain who is to fault for this pattern, there are definitely many significant factors playing a role. For one, growing up in today’s society, there is a large emphasis on preparing one for whatever comes next on their path of life. For instance, in high school you’re working to put yourself in the best situation to get into different colleges. However, while in college, students are there mainly to prepare themselves to be able to succeed in the real world; often times this translates into getting good grades to find a sufficient job. At no point is one able to live in the moment and take advantage of their learning because everyone is always focused on that “next step”. To the displeasure of many, we live in a society where schooling and education intersect one another and when left to decide which shall prevail, society pushes one towards that of being schooled. Whereas these two motifs should be working in tandem with each other, they contrast sharply which has lead to the decrease in the amount of people who are truly educated.

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Despite this, I am fully aware that being educated can come as a result of being schooled. This might prompt some to ask “why does this debate matter then?” To me, it matters because education should be the constant and “schooling” should be the variable, which is contrary to how we function today. As a student looking to succeed, I am guilty of letting schooling interfere with my education. Even though I have become educated along this process due to my investment in my courses, it hasn’t been my focus. To quote Albert Einstein, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learns in school.” In my mind, no quote better exemplifies the struggle that schools face today. Regardless of all the knowledge that we consume from the fall to the spring, only a miniscule amount is truly retained. In the end, our education can only be measured with what we still know even after we finish our tenure in the classrooms. For someone to be labeled as educated, they must have an in-depth understanding of their surroundings and the world in which they live in. They must be able to interact with others, make logical decisions, and have the capabilities to be successful. In school we are often taught to dial in on the simple facts such as the who and the when. However, this is an insufficient way to educate one because to be frank, students will memorize these details only temporarily. However, when we focus on the why and the how, this often enables us to use more critical thinking skills and make deeper connections; ultimately, this teaches us not only more content but also more skills needed in life. For example, when I did my first real research project in 8th grade, I learned how to budget time, how to find reliable sources and detect bias, and how to formulate an argument. Today, I have zero recollection as to the content of that project but I still remember the skills I learned from it.

Hence why despite their seemingly similar nature, these two concepts of education and schooling are very different. To dive deeper into this topic, I have always found it fascinating how one defines success in school. Whereas teachers will define success as being the mastery of material, students define it as getting A’s on tests and projects. Reasonably so, it is safe to assume that teachers have more of a focus on being truly educated than do that of the average student. While both sides have a justifiable stance, this dilemma is what has caused this question regarding education vs. schooling to be brought up so frequently. As leaders of our learning, we are left to decide what should we value, and ultimately why. It is no secret that the concept of grades can hurt your quality of education which leads us to wonder, why do we let it? Is the passion to get good grades so strong now that it trumps the desire to be educated for the future?

Furthermore, whereas schooling reminds me of core classes, homework, assessments, and obeying instructions, education reminds me of what I gain from everyday life. A lot of people directly correlate a person’s “education” with what college they graduate from. While this clearly is a factor in one’s education, it disregards all other means of education. For instance, I think my parents deserve ample credit for educating me and I’m sure that many others will agree with that. After all, they are the ones who taught me how to behave and the difference between right and wrong. Therefore, while education relates to things such as our classes for sure, it also entails personal experiences, real-world applications, reading books/newspapers/brochures, and other activities like such that will teach one beyond what they can learn in a classroom. In a sense, the extent to which an individual is educated reflects everything that has happened to them in their lifetime. Even when we don’t think we are being educated, we are always seeking more knowledge and strengthening our understanding of our world. However, often times, these types of education are hardly related to math or history. In fact, much of education is learning how to converse with others, how to react to different situations, and the little things that can make one successful.

Take a look at following post by Darrow Miller as he explores some of the differences between school systems and the ultimate goal of education.

After going through what is supposedly the most strenuous and difficult year of high school, I have both strengthened my feelings in some areas while switching sides on others. For example, I am an even larger believer now in the notion of choice within schools. Not only would this shift the focus from being schooled with the same classes and types of assignments every year, but it would also most definitely be a positive incentive for kids to pursue topics that they want to be educated on. If schools had a passionate and fun atmosphere as opposed to the “job-like” feel it possess today, the gap between the two would be narrowed greatly. In the end, people like being educated and people want to be educated. We enjoy consuming information and being able to fit into society whether we admit to it or not. In matter of fact, I am often very intrigued by what we are learning about. However, the major distinction here is that people don’t enjoy schooling. People don’t enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn to go sit in desks for 7 hours. While we all want to be functioning members of a society and be able to succeed in life, schooling is becoming a major roadblock. For example, how can you become passionate about something that you’re dreading every day? In the end, it is impossible for these two ideas of education and schooling to be interchangeable because they have such different meanings.

One way to make people more excited to be educated is to make school more about education. Most times when kids, including myself, are complaining about school, it is because of a crazy workload or many tests. Rarely, if ever, do students complain because they “don’t want to be educated”. Everyone in this country dreams big and as a result, people want to be educated because they know the many benefits. Thus, the desire for education is very lively and in my opinion, based off of my experiences in high school, has only increased as we progress through the school system. What makes this far more complex is defining what the purpose of schools truly is. Many would probably respond confidently that “school’s #1 priority is to educate people”. However, those looking at the bigger picture may find some irony in this. When I walk the halls of my high school everyday, it is clear that this ideal is far from the reality. Similar to how in science we always talk about how structure connects to function, oftentimes purpose relates to actions. Unfortunately, schools’ actions don’t always reflect their purpose. An example of this is how my school day begins at 7:28. How in the world are students supposed to be able to achieve at their highest capacity when they’re waking up to the sound of their third alarm because they were too tired to wake up for the first two? Its questions like these that make me wonder when schools will start to change their methods in order to create a better environment for learning.

To look at this argument from another perspective, the evolution of schooling has had a major impact on the quality of student’s education. In particular, our schooling systems are becoming more technologically advanced and innovative. This has lead to both positive and negative effects indisputably. One way that these new methods of learning have helped education is by increasing student engagement and interest. Thus, because of chromebooks, smart boards, and such, schooling has become an easier place to educate kids. However, there are also unintended consequences as a result of this transition to a technological school environment. In some ways, this from of schooling has actually impeded learning by creating additional distractions and quick access to answers. Unfortunately, this lessened ability to solve problems on our own and immediate instinct to find the easiest way out has been greatly facilitated by the evolution of schooling. Just last week my friend went to check out a book in the library and was met by an army of puzzled faces; I had never heard the library so quiet. Even I wondered what he was doing because in our world today, reading is such a foreign concept to many students. When asked why, I am among the majority who will claim that they don’t have time to read a book for enjoyment because of all the homework. Homework, or busywork, is one of the largest opponents of education; it consumes so much of student’s time they’ll spend almost their entire day at school and doing homework. It’s kind of ironic how schooling has lead to a decreased number of people reading. Reading for pleasure is a great mean of becoming educated and in the big picture, it is important for society to start acknowledge that being educated can and should occur outside of school related classes.

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To conclude, the idea of becoming educated will mean a different thing for everyone. Those searching for the golden answer will never come across it. Those searching to find someone else who shares identical beliefs as them on this subject will not be successful. Every individual is in charge of their own education and how far they chose to take it. Thus, these thoughts represent my life experiences up until now because in the end, the question of schooling versus education is a personal one.

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