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Education is Learning, not Teaching

Education is Learning, not Teaching

31 January, 2016

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”
— Oscar Wilde

To begin with, traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us. Most of what is taught in classroom settings is forgotten, and much or what is remembered is irrelevant.

Admittedly, in most schools, memorization is mistaken for learning. Furthermore, even young children are aware of the fact that most of what is expected of them in school can better be done by computers, recording machines, cameras, and so on. They are treated as poor surrogates for such machines and instruments. Why should children — or adults, for that matter — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?

Methods of Learning

Teaching is only one of the many ways different ways of learning. We learn a great deal on our own, in independent study or play. We learn a great deal interacting with others informally. We learn a great deal by doing, through trial and error. Long before there were schools as we know them, there was apprenticeship — learning how to do something by trying it under the guidance of one who knows how. For example, one can learn more architecture by having to design and build one’s own house than by taking any number of courses on the subject. When physicians are asked whether they learned more in classes or during their internship, without exception, they answer, “Internship.”

The objective of education is learning, not teaching.

In keeping with all historic attempts to revolutionize the social order, the elite leaders who formulated the strategy, and those who implemented it, perverted the language, using terms that had attracted a great deal of respect in new ways that turned their meanings upside down, but helped make the new order palatable to a public that didn’t quite catch on. Every word — teacher, student, school, discipline, and so on — took on meanings diametrically opposed to what they had originally meant.

Today, there are two worlds that use the word education with opposite meanings: one world consists of the schools and colleges (and even graduate schools) of our education complex, in which standardization prevails. In that world, an industrial training mega-structure strives to turn out identical replicas of a product called “people educated for the twenty-first century”; the second is the world of information, knowledge, and wisdom, in which the real population of the world resides when not incarcerated in schools. In that world, learning takes place like it always did, and teaching consists of imparting one’s wisdom, among other things, to voluntary listeners.