Ben Wood Johnson

Examining the Purpose of Education

The Case for a Holistic Approach

Education: What is it for? Of course, determining the purpose of education is an interesting subject of inquiry. Over the years, many people have debated this concept. But very few people have been able to provide tangible (or perhaps satisfactory) answers about the concept. Certainly, there are a few exceptions worthy of acknowledgement.

In recent memory, well-known thinkers from various fields of study have examined the concept of education in depth. Their approaches have principally centered on the purpose of education. For the most part, however, they have explored the subject from a theoretical lens. As a result, many of these thinkers have not laid down the intellectual foundation, which might explain the necessity for education in society, particularly in terms of who needs it, who should provide it, and who would benefit from it.

Here, we could take two major approaches to the question posed on the outset of this post. That is, we could look at the concept of education from a theoretical standpoint. But we could examine this concept from a practical lens as well.

Education: Theory and Practice

When it comes to the theory and practice of education, two major philosophers come to mind. Here, I am referring to prominent theorists such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Dewey. Each has a different approach to the concept itself. But grasping their approach is fundamental in order to understand the way education is structured in most modern social settings. Let us explore further.

On the surface, Jean-Jacques Rousseau seems more concerned with the theoretical (if not the philosophical) aspect of education. His works clearly establishes a relationship between the individual and the educational process itself. Upon reconciling the two, only then could we speak of civilization.

Education as a Savior

From Rousseau’s vantage point, the man must be rescued from himself. Education is a bridge between the wild and the mild. But it is a necessary passage from the wild and into the mild. Education offers a pathway to the individual so that he could extirpate himself from one world and into another.

According to Rousseau, the individual could mutate from being a savage man and into a gentle man. Only then, the man would be malleable enough to be a part of society. Thus, education, according to Rousseau, is the key that opens the doors of civilization.

John Dewey, on the other hand, has espoused a different approach. Dewey appears to have embraced a more pragmatic slant to education. He seems interested in the practical nature of the concept itself.

For example, in many of his works, Dewey delineated the practicality of education in society. For the sake of brevity, I will not examine these positions here. Instead, let us explore the mode or the mechanisms of education. The next installment will do just that.

Ben Wood Johnson, Ph.D.

Ben Wood Johnson, Ph.D.

President/CEO at BWEC, LLC.
Dr. Johnson is an author, educator, and philosopher. He is a multidisciplinary scholar. He writes about Philosophy, Legal Theory, Public/Foreign Policy, Education, Politics, Ethics, Race, and Crime. Dr. Johnson graduated from Penn State and Villanova University. He is fluent in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian. Dr. Johnson enjoys reading, poetry, painting, and music.
Ben Wood Johnson, Ph.D.

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