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Thoughts on education: Historical perspective or pearls before swine?

December 4, 2010

This draft has been sitting and waiting patiently for me to finalize it and I think I needed to give it time to change the original, decidedly more bitter, voice of the recent past.  I have found it difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when the surroundings are so ridiculously off kilter.
Quite by accident, I embarked on an odyssey through the strange and unsettling inner workings of the school district  which has me questioning the wisdom of remaining within the confines of the public school system.  It is hard to stay focused on the truth in the midst of so much dishonesty and it has been a challenge to speak up when there are so many personal or professional risks in doing so.  Eventually, however, we find it necessary to speak up to defend what is dear to us, even if plenty of people don’t bother to hear us.   I’m pretty sure the swine are at the troughs, and not reading this but here goes:
I believe in what I am doing, I believe in teachers and students and their families but I do not believe in the systems that we have in place.  I have little faith in the leaders who have been designated to guide us, nor am I convinced that their intentions are wholly altruistic.  It’s interesting to note how many other people from other times and places have expressed thoughts on the topic of education which seem to reflect many of my own perspectives on current problems.  (I’m not sure what that says about the history and future of how we progress.)  I’ve included lifespans or birth dates of individuals quoted, as a nod to providing additional historical context.

On Values and Purposes of Education

Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself. John Dewey  (1859-1952)

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. Will Durant (1885-1981)

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895)

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.  Anatole France (1844-1924)

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Thoughts On Education Regarding Equity, Democracy and Other Stuff That (We Say) Matters

It may then fairly be inferred, that, till society be differently constituted, much cannot be expected from education.  Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)

I don’t think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.  Wilma Mankiller (1945-2010)

Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.  Edward Everett (1794-1865)

He who opens a school door, closes a prison. Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail.  What you gain at one end you lose at the other.  It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail.  It won’t fatten the dog.  Mark Twain (1835-1910)

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC)

Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age? Erich Fromm (1900-1980)

Thoughts on  Educational Best Practices

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. John Dewey (1859-1952)

I entered the classroom with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer…education as the practice of freedom…. education that connects the will to know with the will to become. Learning is a place where paradise can be created.  bell hooks (b. 1952)

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.  Sir William Haley (1901-1987)

What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge and not knowledge in pursuit of the child. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.  W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world. Maria Montessori (1870–1952)

Counsels and Cautions on Education and Educational Systems

But for the children of the poorest people we’re stripping the curriculum, removing the arts and music, and drilling the children into useful labor. We’re not valuing a child for the time in which she actually is a child. Jonathan Kozol (b. 1936)

The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.  Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.  John Cotton Dana (1956-1929)

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. Mark Twain (1835-1910)

The modern world belongs to the half-educated, a rather difficult class, because they do not realize how little they know. William R. Inge (1913-1973)

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.  Anne Sullivan (1866-1936)

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.  Marian Wright Edelman (b. 1939)

Last, but certainly not least:

On School Boards, and Certain Knuckle Heads*

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.  Mark Twain (yep, still 1835-1910)
*If you serve on a school board and are a sincere individual, truly interested in your constituents, and willing to examine and understand the complex issues of your district, I appreciate and applaud you for your hard work;  If you do not fit the above description or perhaps serve on the board for purely political or personal gains then, by all means, ignore this caveat, it doesn’t apply to you.
 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2010 5:37 pm

    What a treasure trove of education quotations. Thanks for this.

  2. December 4, 2010 7:15 pm

    These quotes only show how ignorant those who now control education really are.

  3. Frederika permalink
    December 4, 2010 7:19 pm

    I find meaningful quotations like these to be extremely provocative, moving, and informative. For years I have kept all kinds of quotes that I find. I used to keep them on scraps of paper. I will need to locate and update my collection and then get them all on the computer. Thank you for compiling these.

  4. mariasallee permalink*
    December 5, 2010 6:26 am

    Thanks to all of you for your comments, I am glad you enjoyed it. It was fun (if labor intensive) to compile the quotes but I could have included many more. It would be easy to do a series of these…

  5. December 5, 2010 1:59 pm

    Well done. If only we could get the swine away from their trough long enough to listen…

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