the soul of a good education

Recently I've had the opportunity to witness public schooling in practice, and it's led me to think more deeply about what I truly value in the education process. I'll never really be an unschooler at heart. I believe in giving young people the gift of witnessing, and participating in, the Great Conversation of the ages, through a liberal education. (I also believe that other cultures and civilisations have their own conversations and ways of being, beyond book learning, and these should be incorporated as much as possible into an education as well.)

Teodor Axentowicz

When increasingly these days public schools are setting aside classic literature in favour of studying pop culture, movies, and modern novels, I personally think we're heading into worrying times. Surely young people who haven't been exposed to great ideas and deep thoughts, to lyrical representations and the profoundities of the soul, are less likely to become wise and thoughtful guardians of the planet or the civilisation.

 Carl Vilhelm Hols√łe

I understand schools want to keep subjects relevant and interesting to youth. But if we cast aside the contemplations of those great minds who came before us, for the sake of self-referential jargon, we lose the ability to look beyond the present - back in time, forward into possible futures, and deep down into our own souls and the souls of other living things. We also diminish the potential of our youth. Who knows what will interest them, when made available to them? Instead of dismissing classic poetry because it will be "boring", surely teachers could find innovative ways to teach it? Or else challenge the media-driven inclinations of young minds and open them to new (old) ways of learning and thinking by simply reading a poem aloud, without illustration, and then discussing it?

 William Oliver II

I also know schools want to set students up to succeed. But there is the danger that, in doing so, they may create people who have a strong belief in their own intellectual ability but not the thorough education to back it up. Arrogant, ignorant people, through no fault of their own. (There's also the growing problem of universities finding students are arriving on their doorstep with an inadequate preparation for tertiary study.)

Alexei Alexeivich Harlamoff

Young minds need challenging if they are to grow and become layered and take flight. I'm unsure how anyone could become a brilliant author, philosopher, or politican by studying little more than soap opera tv shows and Young Adult novels (two subjects on the public high school English curriculum in my country.) I may be wrong. But it seems to my old-fashioned mind that, although a skillful teacher can use just about any material to excite careful thinking in a student, the student's thinking isn't all that is important. We certainly want generations who can come up with their own ideas and see things in new, interesting ways. But we also want generations who store within their minds and hearts the beautiful wisdom our race has developed over the centuries. For example, we surely hope that our doctors hold memories of poetry and philosophy lessons, so that they can consider our souls while treating our bodies.

 Emily Bobovnikoff

Of course, young people are in high school for longer than ever before. Five years here now to obtain University Entrance, whereas it was only four back in my day. And my grandparents left school at fourteen. Teachers no doubt strive constantly to keep their students interested and engaged. But are we solving an immediate problem at the expense of our culture's future?

I don't know. I'm sure large numbers of excellent public high schools exist. I certainly know teachers work incredibly hard to do the right thing by their students. Maybe a more relaxed, modern, hip approach to education really is the way to go. But then, I'm biased. I looked at the public education system almost twenty years ago and chose to homeschool.


  1. "Young minds need challenging if they are to grow and become layered and take flight. "
    yes, young minds need this as do i at times ;-)
    I only had a few teachers my entire life who seemed to be striving to keep us, as students interested, so sad.

  2. you are not wrong or biased...

    public education in my country is a disaster. it is failing the kids, and it is thus failing all of us. a narrow bandwidth of standardized test related material is (badly) taught, while all depth, meaning, vitality, creativity is gone. arts? music? un-funded and squashed into corners. ethics? philosophy? history? geography? literature? poetry? civics? ecology? anthropology? one looks in vain for them in any meaningful way. universities lament that first year students can't write (often literally, can't print legibly, or read and write cursive script at all, as well as cannot compose written material at a college level), can't read with decent comprehension, can't analyze, have no insight, have no grasp of human history or global perspective, don't want to do anything if it isn't "fun" or else "job relevant"...

    our soul-less, materialistic, unsustainable culture is producing education that reflects its own emptiness. it is at our peril that we ignore this.

  3. I agree. I still can't believe that they have taken poetry and Shakespeare out of the GCSE syllabus. There is a huge emphasis on contemporary writing often at the expense of the classics. Surely there should be more balance.