Grizzly Man is a documentary that tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived amongst bears in the wild in an effort to understand and help them. Treadwell’s belief was that the bears could sense fear.
The big questions we ask about life—Why are we here? What’s our purpose? What should I do?—are ferocious bears. If we ask them whilst cowering, they will raise on their hind legs, strike and leave us with deep, metaphysical wounds.
Another big question about life is this: what’s the aim of an education?
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry, Hermione and Ron form a group called “Dumbledore’s Army”. Why? Because their Defence against the Dark Arts lessons are not enough. They are studying pure theory. Umbridge’s class is designed to get the students through an exam, not prepare them to fight Voldemort.
Perhaps the primary aim of education is to prepare you for life?
Education also teaches you how to ask questions and solve problems. The (supposed) point of exams and coursework is to take a subject and rigorously question it. To break it down and exploit chinks in it’s armor.
Education allows us to learn vicariously. We don’t have to learn everything first hand. We can capitalise on the knowledge of those who came before. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, discover the laws of physics or create the structure of the English language.
If education prepares you for the world then skills not grades should be emphasised.
It should also foster a love of learning. It should teach you to care deeply, not just about specific subjects, but about the development of your self in general. How? By forging mindsets and habits and tools which set you up for a lifetime of perpetual improvement.
I doubt whether our educational system does all of this. For me it certainly didn’t.
I learnt these lessons on my own. And maybe that was best. After all, that which we discover for ourselves holds infinitely more power than that which is forced upon us.
So perhaps education taught me something after all?