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.
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