The Purpose of Education (This might get a little deeeep....)

As an instructional coach, which is what I do now, I've been given the opportunity to really consider what I think about my path in life, and how I understand my role in it.  In Albemarle County, our coaching team has Instructional Coaching Professional Learning Community (ICPLC) meetings biweekly so that we can gather together as a team and develop our work as a whole.  Well, this past week, we were asked to prepare for our meeting by reflecting on our understanding of what the purpose of education is.  At first, I was thinking, "Oh, geez, this is something I don't even have to consider."  I'd spent enough time in education courses, professional development, and clever meetings to have thought this over time and time again, only to be given some form of an "appropriate" understanding.  Those sessions always ended up revisiting the etymology of the term, educate. 

The etymology (I'm not sure if it's accurate, but then how can one ever be) of educate is derived from ex-, and ducare, the Latin for to "lead out" which according to the people adopting this as their mantra, assumes that knowledge is inherent, it's just about drawing it out into the light from the child.  While I like that idea of knowledge being inherent in a person, the thing that troubles me, is that education is a social and cultural activity framed by our world.  Think Paolo Friere here-word/world.  We use education to shape the moral/ethical fabric of our youth, and if they are doing their job, they push back against that, causing us to renegotiate the process and what they are to get from it.

So, back to my "assignment," I was supposed to reflect on this idea of what education means to me.  I blocked about a good 15-20 min into my calendar to do this.  I felt pretty good about it afterward.  Full disclosure, for expediency, I blocked out that time ahead of the ICPLC meeting.  That way, I'd have a fresh set of thoughts.

Flash forward (approx 25 minutes) to the meeting.  The education piece was to be our opening activity.  I was ready to get down and go deep.  Then we were handed a survey from Cognitive Coaching.  We were supposed to rank the items one to six.  Only two were actually clearly related to the purpose of education.  The others were merely techniques or approaches to teaching.  In all, not very helpful.  Needless to say, I was disappointed--especially considering I'd spent that 15-20 minutes of reflection on the purpose of education just before that meeting.

So.... Here's what I came up with.  I'm sure you were curious.  Education is a process by which the individual and the world reconcile themselves to each other's existences.  I don't necessarily feel it's at odds with the etymological concept, though I do feel it's pretty accurate for the way of the world at present.  One or two of the items in the ranking from my ICPLC equated teaching with education.  There are hairs to split there.  Not all education has to occur in a classroom--I'll leave it at that.  With that in mind, I felt that my understanding worked best for me, as it also spoke to my experience.  I was not a K-PhD kid.  Instead, after high school, I went to college, then dropped out a semester in.  I worked as a graphic designer, well into my college career as a way to reduce student debt.

I feel pretty comfortable with that conceptualization.  I have been educating myself by going into courses, but also through living my life outside of the academy.  It's a messy process, but one I enjoy finding structures within.  So, feel free to contact me, or comment.  Do you feel that education is a process by which the individual and the world reconcile themselves to each other's existences?