- My eBooks
Current song: Loading ...
About Stephen Downes
About Stephen's Web
Subscribe to Newsletters
Privacy and Security Policy
Web - Today's OLDaily
Web - This Week's OLWeekly
Email - Subscribe
RSS - Individual Posts
RSS - Combined version
JSON - OLDaily
Stephen's Web and OLDaily
Half an Hour Blog
Google Plus Page
Huffington Post Blog
National Research Council Canada
Research Topics, Research Wiki, Code
All My Articles
The Purpose of Learning
Would I do it again? Absolutely. The same way? I'm not sure - it would depend on what options are available. I didn't have many choices. I took what I could get. I paid for it with promises and IOUs. And I never did quite finish my PhD. Almost everything the education system stood for, I opposed. And in many ways, I made my own education, spending at least as much time learning outside the formal system as within.
It's ironic that what ultimately led me away from my studies was the experience of standing in front of students, mostly adult and disadvantaged, teaching in northern Alberta. This wasn't planned; I didn't set out to 'do community work' or any such thing; that's a luxury allowed people who had more financial freedom than I. But it was immensely rewarding, not the least because I could see my face among the students in those classes, and I knew exactly what I was trying to provide for them.
It's hard to state what that is without becoming a bit hackneyed, but there's truth in every cliché. With the basic tools of literacy, critical literacy and reasoning skills, combined with a whole dose of self-confidence, these students had at least a chance to make something of their lives, to shape their own futures, to be something more than flotsam in the currents of social change and disorder.
It's no magic pill, and it's altogether too little for both those people who have to struggle out of poverty just to get their foot in the door, and those born out of affluence who have no comprehension of the work required to become a person of strong character and self-determination. Yet in the right meter, and in combination with the right experiences, an education is sufficient to lift a person into a life of self-awareness and reflection. It is the great liberator, and even should an educated person never rise out of poverty, that person will never again be poor.
John Stuart Mill said that the principle of liberty is the right of each person to pursue their own good, in their own way. But he never intended this right to be given only to a nation of sheep, and he understood that the highest principle of liberty was in fact both the right and capacity to actually define one's good, to freely chose one's ambition and purpose in life, and to enact the means and mechanisms to carry it out. Freedom is not merely the absence of restraint, but the right to live meaningfully.
An educated population is probably the least governable, the most likely to rebel, the most stubborn and the most critical. But it is a population capable of the most extraordinary things, because each person strides purposefully forward, and of their own volition, together, they seek a common destiny.
Submitted as my contribution to Purpos/ed
You can preview your comment and continue editing until you are satisfied with it. Comment will not be posted on the Stephen's Web until you have clicked 'Done'.
Your comments always remain your property, but in posting them here
you agree to license under the same terms as this site
(CC By-NC-SA). If your comment is offensive it will
Automated Spam-checking is in effect. If you are a registered user you may submit links and other HTML. Anonymous users cannot post links and will have their content screened - certain words are prohibited and your comment will be analyzed to make sure it makes sense.