The Aims of Education

Every year, entering first years at the University of Chicago attend the “Aims of Education” address given by one distinguished faculty. Unfortunately, the one I attended in 1997 was not very memorable. Thus, I am going to write my own here (another break from the travel theme).

The aims of education is to create functional, independent members of society, able to think critically, and act responsibly through schooling and life experiences. Attendence in public schools are very optional and not even a prerequisite.

Functional: the ability to balance a checkbook is a vital skill. The ability to count the costs, risks, and benefits of an endeavor is also vital. You learn basic math in a class room. You apply it in the “real” world.

Independent: we prize autonomy and independent people. However, the independence I have in mind is defined more as people who will not take a government handout unless it is absolutely necessary. They require the government to provide the bare necessities: public works, utility, and the common defense.

Able to think critically: in a democracy, the government lies and the press lies. In a totalitarian state, the lies are the same. Go to Myanmar. Go to the People’s Republic of China. Go to Cuba. When was the last time anyone in those countries had an independent thought and not been persecuted? That is the price of freedom of thought.

Act responsibly: to paraphrase, just because there is the freedom speech, it does not justify yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Through schooling: the classroom is very important. Whether you are in a public school, a private school, or home school, this is a good safe place to learn the basic knowledges.

Through experiences: experience is often viewed as negative, the plan B. False. There are plenty of positive experiences with no negative parts, like study abroad, the road trip, and such.

This is the aim of education. We do not make smarter people. We do not make moral people. We do not make successful people. We make prepared people.

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