In the first piece of my two-part series on Bill Gates’ interview on teacher evaluation, I found myself perplexed by this college dropout, one of many, keeping with the same old adage that kids take tests all the time and that’s just a part of getting an education, so just deal with it. Of course, it led to many questions:
- How many tests actually determine whether they get to the next level of their education?
- Will these tests accurately determine whether they succeed in life?
- Is getting an education the same as getting schooling?
One place to look is at college sports, for instance. I wonder why society has yet to embrace college athletes getting their degrees in the sport they got a full scholarship for. If this athlete dedicates their entire life at that moment to a given topic (namely: the sport) with collection of teachers (coaches, trainers, and other personnel) and studies this topic for the better part of a school year (the season and off-season workouts), then why couldn’t that student get a degree in the sport, as a graduate of that sport?
Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse University basketball star, got his degree in one year and became successful at his chosen topic of study. Much better than sleeping in a dorm room hoping his campus dollars don’t run out. Multiple-NBA-champ Tim Duncan stayed all four years at Wake Forest. He’s very successful at his sport as well, and most of his exams came in the middle of actually playing the game, not sitting in a classroom. Getting a degree in basketball (or football, or any other major sport) wouldn’t guarantee these athletes a spot on the next level, but none of our college degrees guarantee us a job in our field either.
Does that mean we can’t be successful if we don’t stick to what our college degree says? No. It just means we have to use some of those intangible skills to find a means of employ, possibly related to that degree but not always.
With this, getting an education doesn’t equate to schooling. Someone who goes through their whole life passing exams at a consistently successful rate from pre-kindergarten through college, all high-stakes, doesn’t necessarily determine the type of success students see once they finish college. An education, however, is the general acquisition of knowledge for maturity, growth, and understanding. Our current schools not only don’t do that, they’re veering in a direction that emphasizes schooling over education.
Education allows us to collect a set of necessary skills and knowledge and apply it to the world that best works for us. Schooling demands that a set of procedures and rituals get performed for a seemingly tangible, but shallow goal of developing people that fit into neat puzzles. We ought to use our schools as places to give students tools for a toolbox, where we can mix some of the more abstract theories with real contexts for kids. Schooling, at least the type we’ve seen in schools, doesn’t do that.
So, is education the same as schooling?