Schooling is easy. Education is hard. Schooling takes place in a school, when a classroom, teacher, and kids are provided, usually at tax payer expense. Education, aka learning, may take place anywhere, but only if the learner is interested and excited either by the teacher or the subject matter, or, best of all, by both.
Schooling and education are not the same thing, but, unfortunately the distinction between them is rarely if ever made. And instead the one word education is regularly used to include both, resulting in an absolute confusion accompanied by a plethora of opposing opinions among educators, and educational writers, regarding what steps might be taken to improve — what? well the schools.
Because schooling, as opposed to education is easy, that is what we spend most of our time tinkering with. And in fact reforming “education,” that is really schooling, has become an inevitable and unending process, no less certain than death and taxes.
Furthermore, whereas schooling has an infinite number of variations or forms, education has only two, like an electric light bulb. It’s either on or off, or by means of a dimmer, the talent, the ability of the learner, somewhere in between.
Schooling, and in particular what takes up so much of our time and money, the place, the physical environment of the school, can be made almost perfect, as say in Kansas City, when, subject to a earlier court ruling, the school leaders had to agree that by the mid 90s they would have made the changes necessary in order to considerably improve the educational outcomes for the kids.
As ordered by the courts improvements were made. There was no doubt about that. Large amounts of new money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal.
To read more about all this go here, from where the above description was taken.
But did more learning (education) take place? The conclusion, now some ten years later, is that no, it didn’t, and still isn’t. But, at least, one might ask, as a result of this experience, has the constituency for throwing more money at the schools been seriously weakened, if not done away with?
No, not at all. For, in fact, under the current surplus spending plan of the President, some $100 billion has now been set aside, targeted for the schools. And never once during the discussion of this plan as far as I know, was the distinction made between schooling and education. For our representatives in the Congress the two are the same.
Educators, more famous than I, and certainly more well read, have made the distinction I’m referring to. Although in the case of one of them, the Chicago philosopher and Great Books proponent, Mortimer Adler, the distinction he makes is a bit different from mine.
Adler distinguishes between schooling which is for kids, and education which is for grown-ups. Schooling for him is a kind of training. Forget about getting the kids to think for themselves while in school. It mostly doesn’t happen.
I conclude this entry with Adler’s own words in response to his interviewer when he makes clear the difference between kids and adults in regard to education, and what is possible and not possible for the ones and the others. How many educational reformers have read Adler? From their words about the subject I’d say few if any.
(Go here to read the entire interview.)
Weismann: I have heard you say that schooling is not education. This is at least a very provocative statement, particularly today when all over America parents are screaming about the poor education their children are receiving in schools. Please explain and help us to understand what you mean by that statement?
ADLER: I am going to begin my answer with an even more provocative statement, or should I say “fact,” and that is “only adults can be educated.” So before I answer your question, we must first discuss “adult education.” Let me explain. The word “education” has come to have so restricted a connotation that it is misleading. When most people think of education, they tend to think of the development of their children, not of their own development; they think of learning in school, not outside of school. A serious result of this is that the phrase “adult education” is generally misunderstood. Because we think of education as something done primarily with the young and in school, “adult education” comes to be a queer kind of thing, some-thing which you usually think of, if you think of it at all, as for the other person, not yourself.In years of thinking and working in the field of education, the insight that I am going to try to communicate to you is one which is basic to the whole theory of education. It not only changes our conception of what should go on in the schools, and what should be done with children, but it also changes our conception of what each adult must do for himself to sustain his own life of learning.
I can hardly remember what I used to think when I had the mistaken notion that the schools were the most important part of the educational process; for now I think exactly the reverse. I am now convinced that it is adult education which is the substantial and major part of the educational process — the part for which all the rest is at best — and it is at its best only when it is — a preparation.
WEISMANN: We know only too well that words can be mischievous and treacherous. Those of us who are engaged in adult education have been thinking for some time of how to avoid using the words “adult education,” because in the minds of the general public they have such an unfortunate connotation. How can we correct this misconception?
ADLER: You are quite correct about words, and if by issuing an edict, I could get everybody to use words the way I would like them to, I would try to set up the following usage: use “schooling” to signify the development and training of the young; and “education” (without the word “adult” attached to it) to signify the learning done by mature men and women. Then we could say that after schooling, real education, not adult education, begins. This is my main point.
WEISMANN: From my own long experience I am sadly aware of the misconceptions in the minds of almost everybody which prevents this basic proposition from being understood. Would you indicate for us the major misconceptions that must be rectified.
ADLER: Most of us, and most professional educators, hold a false view of schooling. It consists in the notion that it is the aim or purpose of the schools — and I use the word “schools” to include all levels of institutional education from the kindergarten to the college and university — to turn out educated men and women, their education completed or finished when they are awarded a degree or diploma. Nothing could be more absurd or preposterous. This means that young people — children of twenty or twenty-two — are to be regarded as educated men and women. We all know, and no one can deny, that no child — in school or at the moment of graduation — is an educated person.
WEISMANN: Yet it seems this is the apparent aim of the whole school system — to give a complete education. At least this is the current conception which governs the construction of the curriculum and the conduct or administration of the school system; it is also the conception of most parents who send their children to schools and colleges.
ADLER: That is correct. This error about education being completed in school is widespread…