Going to College So That We May Learn to Live Well

The least important of all the the reasons for going to college and trying to get an education is that it will help one to earn a living. … There may be other reasons for going to college, but unless the chief reason is to learn what needs to be learned in order to live well, in order to lead a decent human lie, then one might have been better off, perhaps, not to have gone to college at all.

~Mortimer J. Adler, Education and the Pursuit of Happiness

Given what goes on at most colleges, Adler is right. Students often see college as a time of experimentation rather than formation, and the experimentation that goes on is destructive to the soul. Better not to go and save one’s soul.

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Does Education Only Happen After School?

So says Mortimer Adler:

No one ever becomes a generally educated person in school, college, or university, for youth itself is an insuperable obstacle to becoming generally educated. That is why the very best thing that our educational institutions can do, so far as general education is concerned (not the training of specialists), is to afford preparation for continued learning by their students after they leave these institutions behind them.

Reforming Education: The Opening of the American Mind, p. xxxi.

Demonizing Dewey

deweyIf you work in education or the philosophy of education, no single philosopher is more debated than John Dewey. For years I’ve heard people rail against Dewey blaming him for all the evils of Progressive Education. Through all those tirades, I’ve nodded my head approvingly. Yet, aside from a smattering of short essays, I’ve never read much of him. Thus far I’ve been happy to hate him.  Then I came an essay in the introductory volume to Mortimer Adler’s Great Books of the Western World which states that Dewey is the “most misunderstood of all philosophers of education.”

Adler (or whoever wrote this particular essay, there’s no way to tell) continues,

It is one of the ironies of fate that his followers who have misunderstood him have carried all before them in American education; whereas the plans he proposed have never been tried. The notion that is perhaps most popular in the United States, that the object of education is to adjust the young to their environment, and in particular to teach them to make a living, John Dewey roundly condemned; yet it is usually advanced in his name.

I guess I need to read Democracy and Education now before I jump on any more bandwagons.