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The Purpose of Education

the following is an excerpt from the course Instead of Schooling

“The goal of real education is to bring us to a place where we take full responsibility for our own lives.”

John Taylor Gatto

Why do We Educate the Young?

This is a worthy debate to have. Why do we educate our young? Birds show their young to fly, wild cats show their young to hunt, humans show their young how to live by including them in adult society. Young people discover who they are and how they can function successfully in the world by participating in it. We don’t teach humans how to learn. The mind is not a muscle that needs to be exercised. And it is not a machine that needs to be filled with information. In fact, filling it with information can block our ability to receive wisdom. 

We come into this world as free beings connected to our innate wisdom and wellbeing. We let our thoughts and emotions pass through without hooking us. We have free will and choose where to focus our attention. We are free from fear and do not judge. We are naturally curious, resilient, altruistic, cooperative. We thrive in nature and through play. Energy flows through our body, encouraging us to move. 

Human Beings are Designed to Learn

Humans are designed to learn so that they grow into self-sufficient beings who self-direct their learning and lives. Learning is a natural, internal process of awakening to Self that best happens as the free inquiry of a relaxed, peaceful, playful mind. We need to trust that humans are designed to learn and desire is the calling of their soul to learn something. It may be dance, painting, building, writing, or molecular biology. The point is that it is their choosing. 

Learning to talk is the most difficult cognitive process and humans master this without anyone teaching them. You are designed to cooperate with your environment and continuously gather knowledge to learn how to best adapt to your current circumstances. Learning is not an object or thing that can be tracked and measured. It cannot be forced. 

Indigenous people understood this, so children learned in the community, observing adults, modeling their behavior, and adapting to their environment. Children in industrialized countries are forced to adapt to the artificial, pathological environment of schooling away from the rest of society. As they grow, they awaken to an artificial self. They are taught to survive school and not thrive in life. 

Many people believe that formal education within a school institution where a teacher is leading the educational activity is the only worthwhile endeavor. Most parents have been conditioned to think that they are incapable of educating their children. 

Often I encounter mothers who look at me and say how brave I am for home educating my kids. Or they ask me how I can stand being with my kids every day. What this points to is a widespread misunderstanding of learning and education. 

True Education Produces Self-Sufficient Men and Women

True education produces secure, independent, literate people who can think for themselves and have self-agency. Education done well is mastery of Self, evolution of consciousness, exploration of gifts and talents, and complete well-being (mental, emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual, and financial). Notice that this list doesn’t include information processing and mastery of subject matter. 

Education can guide you to understand how your mind works, what your innate skills and talents are and how you want to contribute your gifts to society. Education is not a group activity, it is an individual process that can be greatly enhanced by belonging to an educational community. 

People survive in this complex society by using their minds and reason so that they can get their needs met. After the age of 18, it is up to the individual to take action to get needs met. Because we are a species that lives in complex social groups, unless you are living on a self-sufficient farm off the grid, you need to learn how to live in society among your fellow humans. 

Your ability to successfully navigate this complex society and pursue happiness depends upon your ability to use your mind, connect with your inner wisdom, think critically, and practice self care. By educating yourself, you get to know yourself and the world, learn how to think, and gradually become responsible for your own life. 

If this inspired you to choose a different educational path for your family, check out the Instead of Schooling book or online course. Set your children free!