Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is education a gift or an entitlement?

Recently Greg Whitby wrote in a recent post,
Motivation (6 Oct. 09) that,
What motivates me and many of my colleagues is a desire to give young people the best opportunity in life by giving them the gift of education.
This didn't sit comfortably with me. I understand the intent behind Greg's statement.

Let me explain.
The part that caused me some discomfort was the notion of education being a gift. For me language is important. It's the sociologist and linguist in me (and perhaps a hint of the philosopher).

gift n. 1. something given: a present. 2. the act of giving. 3. the power or right of giving.
education n. 1. the act or process of educating: the imparting or acquisition of knowledge, skill, etc. 2. the result produced by instruction, training, or study. 3. the science or art of teaching.
Source: The Macquarie Dictionary
The Latin root of education is educare which means "to bring out of" or "to lead forth".

Gifts are things that we can choose to give or not give to another. For me education is not a gift that I give to another.

For me education is an entitlement. It's part of the right of being human.
There are implications behind these understandings of education as a gift or entitlement that lead to understandings of teachers, teaching, learners and learning.

If education is a gift then there maybe a danger that the teacher may be seen to be the holder of the gift who gives the gift to the learner. The learner can choose to accept the gift or not, or to value the gift or not. Sound familiar? Friere's "Jug to mug" maybe.

If education is an entitlement then the function of the teacher is more than giving something to the student. For me it implies that there is more at stake. The teacher needs to ensure that education is happening for all. This is what I know Greg to be about. He has said many times,
"What if learning was compulsory rather than schooling?"
How do we ensure that all students access and benefit from that they which they are entiltled? Education.
Image source: Artists_models


Camilla Elliott said...

Hello Andrew
I've read this blog post with interest and feel that it deserves further conversation. I agree with your argument that education is not a 'gift' and therefore cannot be given but I also feel that, while it is an 'entitlement', the receipt of this entitlement is very much influenced by perspectives.

Learning has to come from within. A student is not really at the level of understanding to insist on receiving this entitlement. So, while we as adults see it as an entitlement, it is often rejected by the student who does not realise its value.

I believe that education is a 'journey'. A child's success in learning starts from birth and is dependent on the 'maps' they are given to help them find their way. Through our lives we experience a whole range of journeys that fit into Fullan's analogy of highways, cliffs, cul-de-sacs and roundabouts analogy. All have different outcomes.

In our classrooms we are seeing the evidence of the 'maps' children have received up until that time from their whole world of learning - home, school and community. They have been on life's journey for a long time when they arrive in secondary school. They have encountered a whole range of 'maps' with varying degrees of success.

I may have been a bit cryptic here but I often place myself in the shoes the students and know that I would often be a very frustrated student in some classes today. One of the greatest influences on motivation, I believe, is the 'maps' we are handing out to our students. What effect does it have on them when we hit them with an outdated 1980's - 1990's map in secondary school when they cannot see its relevance to the 'journey' that they identify for themselves?

I agree with Greg Whitby that we need to create a new teacher DNA etc but there are many teachers who still don't have that message. Must stop there before I get too vocal about this topic.
We met at the ACE Geelong conference dinner. Cheers Camilla

Andrew said...

Hi Camilla
And thanks for your post. I often wonder who reads this blog!
"The shoes of the students" is powerful statement that I think is Hattie's point about "seeing learning through the eyes of the students."
BTW: get vocal about the topic!

Related Posts with Thumbnails