The True Purpose of Education
I have never made “straight A’s.” I am not a model student. I have never been invited to honors night or been selected as “Student of the Year.”
But I love to learn, and I have a passion for knowledge. For me, learning is an experience, not a chore. I am eager to learn about the happenings of the past, and how they shaped the present. I am eager to learn about Steinbeck and Faulkner, and how they captured the human experience. I am eager to learn about the mysteries of pi, the miracle of the human body, and the language of ancient Rome.
But few people are impressed by a passion for learning. Colleges today reward what they perceive as a “perfect” student: “straight A’s” and mild mannered, balanced in every class. Many of those rewarded are the ones who sit mindlessly in class, paying careful attention to the every word of the teacher, digesting knowledge without understanding what it means to humanity as a whole. I believe the educational system should be reformed to reward those who have a true passion and talent for learning, so that everyone can take more from their education.
Unfortunately, I have seen this idea ignored throughout most of high school. This occurred in my Latin class, when, after three years of Latin study, we had finally begun reading our first classic poem. This poem, a work of Ovid, was our introduction to the Western world’s classical past. Soon after we began translating, one student interrupted the teacher to ask what was on the class quiz the next day. That student had never made anything below a 90 in any class. But she did not care about the opportunity to learn about the ancient playwrights and their contributions to society. Her goal was to make a good grade, a good college, and hopefully a good career.
But is that the purpose of school? Is it no more than a task to be completed? Is it a race to a finish line that approaches so quickly we do not remember running at all?
It should not be. School should be a chance for every student to learn who they really are; it is an opportunity for growth; it is an opportunity for every person to better themselves through the pursuit and understanding of knowledge.
Irish playwright William Butler Yeats once said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” I will continue to follow my curiosity and interest for knowledge, even if it distracts from a perfect college resume. The history of humankind and the mysteries of nature are to be appreciated and understood, and by doing that, every student can have a more fulfilling educational experience. A true desire to discover and develop is worth more than any college acceptance letter. And that desire is the greatest teacher we have.
This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.