Friday, July 3, 2009

Why your children need education instead of training

One thing that has been on the agenda in all political circles for quite sometime is “education”. This has been increasingly so since the passage of Public Law 107-110 known as the No Child Left Behind Act. Lawmakers throughout Indiana and the nation are dumping more money into so-called education. However, I don't believe that money is being spent solely on education. Today I am going to discuss the differences between “education” and “training” and why you should object to your tax dollars being spent to train your children in place of educating.

There are times when training is essential. I will use potty-training as an example. You could broaden your child's mind with knowledge of plumbing, bacteria, etiquette and how to operate a toilet. That may not achieve the desired result and, instead, it may be better to train your child to use the toilet properly through instruction and discipline.

When I was in school I observed as I grew older that school became not so much education as it did training. The opportunity to explore and challenge while looking for answers was gradually replaced with specific instruction and dire consequences for failure to comply. As I currently observe the public school system I see less opportunity for education and teaching now limited almost purely to training for the purpose of passing a federally mandated statistical measuring tool to satisfy an agenda developed by super-corporations.

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that to “educate” is to generally develop the intellectual and moral powers in a person. To rear a child so as to develop the habits, manners, intellectual and physical aptitudes. However, “training” is to guide or control the mental or moral development of a child. To discipline or condition to perform or make proficient in certain skills. In their simplest forms educating is to develop the person through knowledge while training is to control the person and constrain thought to mastering a skill.

Sidney Jourard in his book Disclosing Man to Himself had this to say about education and training: “True education, as opposed to training (which is essential), is by definition subversive. Education liberates individuality; it frees and strengthens autonomy. Training constricts: it reduces variance; it diminishes freedom and lessens autonomy.”

Unfortunately, much of what is called education is only a sterile exercise of the disembodied mind. Often it does not touch the emotions or influence action. Coleridge said, "make any truth too definite and you make it too small." That is what training does. It makes truth definite. It says "do this, not that." This is quite noticeable in math teaching where students are told this is what is on the test and here is how to do it. Gone is the time when students are given a real life situation and taught how to approach solving it. Now they are trained to find the answer.

We all know that there are multiple routes to getting to the answer of a mathematics problem. Education strengthens this concept while training restricts us to one acceptable method. Students sense in an inarticulate way that there is more to it than these rules. As a result, trainee resistance hardens. Jourard tells us that “people are always looking for an absolute rule that will relieve them of the responsibility of evaluating each situation on its own unique merits, and then risking an action.” Thus people want to be told how to do something but are resistant to being told the process to do it when they perceive that there may be another way more natural to themselves.

What I see happening in the institutionalized education system is that there is a loss of focus on the transfer of learning. That is, is what is being learned and tested for being applied to produce positive results in real life scenarios. Almost like left brain-right brain concepts, it is possible for a person to get 100 percent on a test and be a total failure in actual practice.1

The principles of educating and training are related, but ultimately, their aims are different. The aim of education is broader than training. Education prepares students to be analytical thinkers and problem solvers by developing the faculties of reasoning along with the associated skills, disciplines and knowledge to accomplish that. Education should develop students’ understanding, abilities to synthesize information, and work skills within and beyond the workplace. Therefore, it often includes what might be considered generic or general topics without a specific, immediate application. Training, however, simply focuses on performing a task and mastering an immediate task such as taking a test.

Students are now leaving our high schools, colleges or trade schools as nothing more than automatons designed to fulfill a corporate need. The imaginations that once envisioned the creation of technology are being replaced by minds that focus only on using the technology to perform a task. Following the NCLBA the focus of “educators” has transferred from producing awe inspiring minds that reach for new ways to tackle the world to simply molding a brain to memorize and regurgitate facts and processes to satisfy the next artificial measure of learning.

I cannot and will not lay fault entirely upon the educational system. That system is producing what those who pay require it to do. It is the super-corporations that fund the campaigns of the legislators and the lobbyist for them who speak to the legislators that develop the rules for “educators”. In the end it is still up to parents, fathers in particular, to ensure that their children are educated. Education is a whole life concept that cannot be entirely learned in an institutional setting.

The Indiana Supreme Court as recently as 2007 had reaffirmed that it is the duty of a father to “educate” his children.2 That to develop the child as a whole is a fathers' responsibility. If you want for your children to receive an education, to be able to think for themselves, to be problem solvers, to be explorers and to allow their minds to reach their fullest potential then demand education for them. Demand it from those who purportedly provide it with your tax dollars and also from yourselves. If you want them to operate a machine while strictly following directions then allow them to continue to be trained.

1-Peter J. Fabri, MD, PhD, FACS, Associate Dean, Graduate Medical Education, University of South Florida College of Medicine

2-Lambert v. Lambert, 861 N.E.2d 1176, 1177 (Ind. 2007) citing Haase v. Roehrscheid, 6 Ind. 66, 68 (1854) (“[i]t is the duty of a father to support and educate his minor children”). Emphasis added.

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©2008, 2009 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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