Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What is education?

So what do we mean when we talk about "education"? As an educator and a homeschooling mom, I'm constantly tossing this term around, talking about it and reading about it. But what does it really mean?My Webster's New World Dictionary defines education as "the process of training and developing the knowledge, mind, character, etc., especially by formal schooling; teaching; training." It says that to educate is "to train or develop the knowledge, skill, mind or character." The word "educate" comes from the Latin "educare," meaning "to bring up, rear, or train." But I think the core meaning of the word is the root of "educare," which comes from e- , "out," and ducere, "to lead, draw, bring."So the root meaning of "education," from the Latin, would mean to bring out, lead out, or draw - a person's knowledge, mind, skills, and character. What a job description! And how often we settle for less as educators - just dumping some information on our students and hoping it sticks! My responsibility as an educator, whether in a school or as a homeschooling mom, is to lead my students out of ignorance, to draw out their innate abilities, and to bring out what is best in them. It's an active process, one which requires a real relationship with my students. I can't be really educating if I'm just presenting information - or worse, forcing them to read a chapter or fill out a workbook page! No - I have to be actively involved in the learning process with my students, leading, enticing, providing that "spark" to help them want to learn. And I measure my success in educating my students, not by whether we finish the book or whether they can pass a test on what they've "learned," but by whether they have been trained and developed. Do my students have more knowledge than they did before? (This is the easiest aspect of education to accomplish.) Do they have greater skills? Are their minds more developed, more "drawn out" than they were before? And most challenging of all, have their characters been trained and developed - do they have more character - than they did before we started the process? If I can't answer "yes" to all four of these questions, I haven't really educated my students.When I look at this definition, I realize that many of my teachers didn't really educate me - and that many who would not consider themselves to have been my "teachers" have been deeply involved in my education. My parents, for example, have been my greatest educators; along with them are pastors, youth workers, friends, and some who don't even know me but have educated me through their books and radio programs (Hugh Hewitt being a prime example of these). Just because you don't feel like an educator doesn't mean you aren't involved in the process of educating others. We all can be involved in "leading, drawing out, bringing out" the best in people, training and developing their characters; and we all need to take that responsibility seriously.

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