Schooling Is Not Education

Schooling Is Not Education

by Mortimer J. Adler

For more than 40 years, a controlling insight in my educational philosophy has been the recognition that no one has ever been ― no one can ever be ― educated in school or college.

That would be the case if our schools and colleges were at their very best, which they certainly are not, and even if the students were among the best and the brightest as well as conscientious in the application of their powers.

The reason is simply that youth itself ― immaturity ― is an insuperable obstacle to becoming educated. Schooling is for the young. Education comes later, usually much later. The very best thing for our schools to do is to prepare the young for continued learning in later life by giving them the skills of learning and the love of it. Our schools and colleges are not doing that now, but that is what they should be doing.

To speak of an educated young person or of a wise young person, rich in the understanding of basic ideas and issues, is as much a contradiction in terms as to speak of a round square. The young can be prepared for education in the years to come, but only mature men and women can become educated, beginning the process in their 40's and 50's and reaching some modicum of genuine insight, sound judgement and practical wisdom after they have turned 60.

This is what no high school or college graduate know or can understand. As a matter of fact, most of their teachers do not seem to know it. In their obsession with covering ground and in the way in which they test or examine their students, they certainly do not act as if they understood that they were only preparing their students for education in later life rather than trying to complete it within the precincts of their institution.

There is, of course, some truth in the ancient insight that awareness of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom. But, remember, it is just the beginning. From there on one has to do something about it. And to...