If you study the history of education, you will notice that the United States’ mainstream public school model is a relatively new invention. Invention? This word catches many people off guard, but the truth is, educational structures and systems are man-made.
A brief history of education
Before the founding of America and in the early colonial days, traditional education implied education through family, church, community, and apprenticeship. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that schools started taking on many educational tasks that were once left to the parent.
Almost every famous philosopher to date has given his or her views on education. The earliest Greek philosophers, such as Socrates (470-399 BC), highly regarded education.
Socrates described education by likening it with his mother’s vocation as a midwife. He said that a midwife’s job is only to help the mother to give birth. He reminds us that the teacher is the mother.
Even more radical was Socrates’ idea that the pupil should conceive the concept. The teacher should only help.
Teachers are not sculptors because students are not blocks of stone. Not only are students already more formed than a marble block, they are not passive like stones.
An examination into the etymology of “education” proves to be a useful and insightful endeavor. There are two Latin roots of the English word education. The first is “educare,” which means to train or to mold. The second is “educere,” which means to lead out. These two root meanings seem very different, but that is where the beauty of education lies.
Errors in modern education’s philosophy
In contemporary debates about education, one of the most common mistakes that people make is that they confuse education with schooling. But the real root of the fierce arguments over education can be traced back to etymology.
The two most common parties choose one of the two Latin roots to defend. One group claims education is designed to preserve and pass down knowledge. This group usually sees education as the shaping of youths in the image of their culture, faith, beliefs, parents, and heritage.
On the other hand, a second group calls for an educational alternative to prepare the new generation for the changes that are to come. The underlying goal is to prepare students to create solutions to problems undiscovered.
Boil down the underlying philosophies even further, and you’ll discover that one group calls for rote memorization and becoming good workers. The other requires questioning, thinking, and creating. Trouble arises when we assume that “schooling” is a solution for both philosophies.
The future of education
Public schools have been the dominating force behind American education over the last few centuries. But in recent years, alternative education has received ever-growing support.
Homeschooling has grown by over 60% in the last decade. Furthermore, public opinion increasingly finds that the public school’s environment is toxic. Influential present-day educators are calling for a change.
Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk claims that public schools kill creativity. And some of the brightest minds of our day are choosing to pull their kids from public school.
Like Elon Musk. The innovative founder of SpaceX, PayPal, and Tesla doesn’t just homeschool his kids – he unschools them. For more info, see Curious Mind Magazine’s article, “Homeschooling is the Best Way to Teach Kids.”
Homeschooling could very easily prove to be the future of education. Homeschoolers, sometimes even unknowingly, recognize the problem of education’s etymology and seek to combine both educare and educere.
The availability and choices for home education are also expanding. Parents who are unable to devote enough time to homeschooling can use a growing number of home school programs, online programs, or alternative schools.
Modern technology, from digital curriculum to online tutoring, facilitates learning in a way that homeschooling’s early pioneers never even dreamed of.
Will this educational alternative become mainstream? Will homeschooling rise above the traditional American public schools? The trends are clear, but the future is never easy to predict.
At the very least, it will be fascinating to watch the ever moving currents beneath the rising tide of school choice and education reform.