What’s missing in education?

Education is supposed to prepare individuals for life.  Originally, education was about learning to read and write.  It was about providing the basic skills that are needed to advance ourselves in the world.  Education has evolved since then to more in-depth knowledge.  Many children and parents wonder how quadratic equations, Christ imagery, and the French Revolution could possibly relate to their everyday lives.  

As the world has become more and more diverse, the available career choices have expanded from farming and hunting to a variety of different options.  Vocation skill training has come along to bridge the perceived gap between education and life preparation that seemingly developed.  Whether vocation skill training, in the place of general knowledge, is a benefit to the individual in the long run and society in general is yet to be seen.  

From the general knowledge taught in higher education is the concept of a “well-rounded” individual has evolved.  In reality, “well-roundedness” is the ability to think abstractly.  There truly isn’t much benefit to knowing the details of the French Revolution other than perhaps for a round of Jeopardy, but with such knowledge, parallels are drawn with the real world.  These parallels are not in the form of witnessing a victim fighting back from a mugger and relating that to the French Revolution.  The understanding of the French Revolution and all other revolutions create an abstract and theoretical vision of the consistency of a revolution, and the parallel is drawn to that abstraction.  The same applies for the pythagorean theorem, and all other forms of “well-rounded” knowledge.  These parallels prove invaluable over the course of an individuals life.  

Despite the need for this theoretical thought process in our lives, vocational training is equally important for that segment of the population that is critically dependant on immediate income.  This development in education is important but should be used on an as needed basis and only after the foundation of theory has been set.  As an example of what not to do, my high school had auto-shop and machinery as electives.  At the age of just 14 or 15, these individuals were already being given vocational skills at the expense of theory, ultimately pigeon holing them into a certain life.  

Through all these years, there is still one critical aspect of life that is being neglected in education.  If education was designed to prepare the individual for life, then it has failed to incorporate philosophy and, by continuation, religion.  I feel the reason is that an extensive study of philosophy is the perceived disconnect between philosophy and everyday life.  If the French Revolution lays a theoretical foundation, then how could the Republic, The New Atlantis, or Spinoza’s Ethics not do the same?  

Ultimately, societal life itself has shown us why this is needed.  While everyone knows that teenagers go through a depression, is this depression not philosophical in nature?  This depression ultimately leads to the independant philosophical thought found in college, which vocational learners typically miss out on.  But this independant discovery is usually unsophisticated and repeats the discoveries of philosophers two thousand plus years ago.  The so-called mid-life crisis is another example of a depression that ultimately hits most of society in some form.  All such negative thought processes are a result of the gap in knowledge that philosophy and religion have tried to fill for centuries.  They are a search for the “meaning and method of life” which has always been the focus of philosophy.  We say that “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.”  The same is true for philosophy.  

With a detailed knowledge and understanding given at a young age, all future thought could be built on that foundation.  Considering, how large a percentage of society has gone through these searches for meaning, it is hard for me to understand how education has gone so long without filling the gap.  In the Republic, Plato’s ideal society is led by philosophers, and the leaders of society are given philosophical training.  I believe this training is as fundamental to life preparation as any other and should not be denied to any.  

I for one, wish that my education had included a detailed philosophical study.  I probably would have written these articles fifteen years ago and would be that much further along in my journey.

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