Those are two different sides of the concept education, and when you think about that, it's obvious that the definition describes activities common to all human beings at all times and of all ages. There's no way to be alive and not to be either imparting knowledge or skill or obtaining knowledge or skill. In fact, the absence of these activities is probably the best definition of death! One of the biggest mistakes people make is associating learning almost exclusively with formal instruction. In reality, when you're vegging out you're learning.
Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
When you're wasting time you're learning. When you're getting up, brushing your teeth, making breakfast, you're learning. If you keep that in mind as you go through life, it'll give you a different perspective on the nature of the activities that you're involved in, because you're always acquiring or imparting some kind of skill or knowledge. There's no way not to be. It's part of who you are.
Americans: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Pith or Myth? Who are we Anyway?
Now, the whole idea of learning and imparting knowledge and skills can only really be appreciated within a broader context, because education is only one part of the overall content of any culture. Other parts include such things as family structure, world view, government, and economy.
To understand any of these parts, you have to understand the nature and goals of the culture that you're talking about. You cannot talk about any one of them in a vacuum.
First you have to understand the culture, and then you have to ask what role education fills in the culture. This is all very abstract, so let me give you some examples. Suppose we're dealing with a hierarchical culture, where everything is stratified and everybody knows their place, the way the vast majority of societies have been for the last 5, years.
What are the goals of such a society?
A key one is the maintenance of its structure. Similarly, there's no way to make sense of medieval philosophy without understanding that one of the functions that it serves is to justify and explain the structure of the society within which it's written. Once you start reading about the great chain of being and how everything has its fixed place in the grand scheme of the universe, you understand that it all fits into that culture.
Another example, quite relevant today, is theocratic societies, which are based on the idea that they are ruled directly by God, and that their function is to be in the service of God. That's something that's alien to most modern secular people. But you cannot understand the religious wars of Europe in the 16 th century if you don't understand how completely important religion was to their lives.
It doesn't make sense otherwise. It just looks like a bunch of people killing each other for no good reason at all.
Life, Liberty. . . and all the rest by Anthony Balducci | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®
But they weren't. They were doing something central to their lives, and everything else was built around that.
There are other different kinds of societies based on other goals. There are societies based on warlike principles where the ideal is to be a warrior. You can't understand Sparta if you don't understand the basis of their culture. So you have to really comprehend what's at the heart of a society's culture before you can talk about education. I'm going to focus on America because that's where we are. We're not talking about education in Saudi Arabia and we're not talking about education in Central Africa.
We're talking about education in America, and in order to understand that we have to understand that America is unique historically in two very fundamental ways. First, America is a conscious creation. The whole non-native American population has no roots here; all came here relatively recently from somewhere else. Think about this. French people trace their roots back to the Gauls. Everybody in Europe has roots. America, by contrast, is the result of people coming over here through a decision to leave their country of origin and go to a completely different location.
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That decision is to make a conscious break from the traditions and the cultures that they and their families were born into. You can't even begin to understand this country if you don't keep that in mind. It's always said that we're a country of immigrants, but that doesn't really convey the full import of our peculiar origins.
What we are is a country of people who consciously decided continuously, to this day! The second unique feature is related to the first. Not only was America settled by people who came here and broke off from their roots individually and consciously, but America as a nation , the United States of America, was a conscious creation of the people who lived in this country in the s.
This was a restatement of who they were, in a manner totally unparalleled in history. As we the people, they deliberately decided to create a nation, and articulated what this new entity is and what its goals are. One of the keys to understanding American culture is understanding what's behind that creation. What were they thinking? What were their goals?
What did they see as the essence of the new American society that they spelled out and passed on to us? In America the beginning point is the individual - every human being's desires and worth and dreams. One of the things people who came over here were doing was saying, "I am going to do something I want, and not something that my culture has programmed me to do. Now, to see how radical that was and it is still radical to this day you have to juxtapose it with what virtually every other nation and culture has done throughout history.
The starting point has always been the reverse: that the nation is the primary important entity, and the individual is there to serve the greater good of the nation, however that nation is conceived. You can see this operating in Europe today. What's keeping the Europeans from creating a United States of Europe? After the Second World War, many farsighted Europeans said, "It's crazy that we're killing each other.
Let's create a United States of Europe so we can have peace and stability. Because Europe, like most of the rest of the world, is still very much caught up in the idea that there is such a thing as nationhood to which you owe your primary allegiance. You are first and foremost there to serve the British or Dutch, or French, or German national culture.
The idea that the individual comes first and that the social structures surrounding the individual are secondary and are there to serve the individual, to help the individual fulfill their needs, is unique in America.
Introduction to a new Declaration of Independence
And it's closely related to the fact that this was a consciously created culture in which individuals made decisions to come here independently. All of this was nicely articulated by our founding fathers as they focused on three fundamental goals for American society: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nobody had ever said this before. The question is, what do each of these mean? We'll look at them one by one. This means that a primary aim of this society is to sustain the individual life of each and every citizen of this country.
That has come to mean that we wish to enable people to live healthily, to live successfully, and to live comfortably, and by comfortably we mean not to suffer and not to die at an early age and not to sacrifice our lives for some abstract goal that has nothing to do with our personal dreams. That concept was never used before so openly in an official document. In fact, in , the states were not even ready to ratify the Constitution unless the first Congress promised immediately to enshrine the concept of liberty in a set of Amendments that came to be called the Bill of Rights.
They wanted no guesswork about what liberty means. It was too important.