When I refer to education, what I’m talking about is more than just what schools do. That is just one part of it. I’m expanding education to include how a culture, a society, or a country educates the newer generations on the culture itself. Schools, as we know them now, teach reading, writing, arithmetic, history and science. In universities we learn logic, philosophy, etc. How a society educates its young not only defines its identity but also the way it defines itself for the future. If a society recognizes the importance of education to its existence, then it will make sure to place education high on its list of priorities. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the United States. Other priorities have been distractions, and this has robbed several generations, of an education that should be worthy of free society, and a country like ours.
I have always been more of a pro-process education vs. content education thinker, and have felt that the first and foremost goal of schooling should be focusing everything on teaching the child the skills to teach himself. It is not at the expense of the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s simply filtering everything through that goal.
The learning centers we have are the parents (family), the schools, religion, and later the external world (without supervision). The parents give us our first glimpse of the world and our first impressions of it. The schools begin the socialization process along side the religion which presumably deals with spiritual and ethical values. Then we are grown up, and expected to go out into the “external world” and not only survive, but be contributing members as well. This is where it’s determined whether a society has been successful or not in teaching its younger generations.
What parents can do is initially set the stage and create the best possible foundation for the child to enter the society via the school system. They can first instill that all-important perception that the world is a trust-able place (and also identify the parameters of that trust). They can also encourage curiosity, imagination, and the ability to observe what is going on around them, assess risk all of which will enable the child to make better choices.
All these things are positive things but the one that is most important is instilling in children the gradual ability to be independent of their parents. The parents should want their children to grow to be independent, so they can feel comfortable that their children will survive and do well when they are no longer around.
Schools can do other things too. They introduce the child to his first social group situation. But they can also include skills like anger management and further the development of risk assessment as part of the child’s growing cognitive abilities. They have the potential for greater cultural education, skills such as logic and ethics in addition to the basic reading, writing, arithmetic skills, at a much earlier age than is now considered possible through schooling.
Religion or Spiritual institutions, can also teach morality, ethics and things related to the spirit.
One subset to all this is Sex Education. What happens in real life is that the parents are split about wanting the schools to teach it, at least within certain parameters. Religion doesn’t really teach anything about sex except to abstain until marriage. When the schools attempt to teach it, the parents get more ambivalent about what the parameters should be, while religion insists that the schools should only be involved in teaching abstinence. So my conclusion is that the parents should be the ones who have the ultimate responsibility, and should put aside their embarrassment and discuss it with their children, or else they will learn it from the external world without any supervision.
The US government should put education high on the priority list, because if they don’t, future generations will not be able to compete with those that have been educated in other countries and are more equipped to compete in the world market. My approach is simple: focus more on education, because the future survival of our culture depends on it.