Friday, 10 October 2014


Education is a privilege. A good education, like good health care, safe streets, freedom to trade (and certain other freedoms), are of such enormous importance to quality of life that a society which does not have these things is considered seriously deficient by those of us who do enjoy them.

I shall say it again- Education is a privilege. You wouldn't think that to see the way it's treated by large numbers of children, their parents, their teachers and the governments that control much of it, but it is. It is an enormous privilege because it allows you a great deal of freedom to work in more varied and more lucrative fields, and to choose where you do it, to think and understand, to enjoy art more fully and appreciate the world and man's place in it more deeply, to particpate more widely in civic life, to have power over others if that's what butters your parsnips, and generally you are more likely to be and feel free (for some value of free) if you have a good education.

The basic value of education is simply to be able to make a living, and it was for that reason that churches and charities began to educate the children of the poor (well, there were other reasons, too). And it was largely for this reason that governments began to offer basic education to everyone. Other motivations came quickly into play, too, other advantages were discovered by those who controlled and administered education, and even by the subjects (or should that be the objects) of it.

Where there are sufficient resources to entertain the young for longer than is necessary to provide the basic tools for bootstrapping themselves into the world, it is natrural to try to offer the pleasure of learning, at least the chance to discover it, and some of the tools for understanding the world more deeply and enjoying it more. This is also a privilege which I would like to see everyone given the chance to have. So, in theory, would our governments, administrators and teachers, because they say it frequently, but they don't know how to make it happen.

It is impossible to know exactly what knowledge, skills, training, cultural background and analytical ability anyone might need or want or be able to take advantage of. The basics must be offered early, and and made attractive. It is much easier for people to work out what they need to learn when they value learning and associate it with a better future.

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