Bill Gates

Is Education The Same As Schooling?

Jose 3 Comments

Bill Gates

Bill Gates

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:

  1. How many tests actually determine whether they get to the next level of their education?
  2. Will these tests accurately determine whether they succeed in life?
  3. 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?

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonIs Education The Same As Schooling?

Comments 3

  1. Sutterlearn

    Jose,
    I’ve been following your stuff for about a year. You’re a thoughtful, dynamic thinker. I wrote on just this topic a while back after watching a, now-famous, RSA video (http://sutterlearn.com/sutterblog/2011/02/schooling-vs-learning/).

    Granted, my take is not to further legitimize athletics; our society and economy has made that clear. Those with “degrees in the sport” are busily entertaining us in March Madness as I write this. God bless anyone with such gifts that their physical and mental synthesis on court or field might raise them from otherwise squalid conditions our society created and into which they may, or may not, have been born. The rest, nearly talented but equally dedicated in their life’s pursuit of the sport, are on the bench, at the Y, or in the neighborhood, I can’t imagine a ball degree would improve their daily happiness or well-being, unless you are suggesting a societal shift in which employers and our culture developed a deep understanding and value for the mental dispositions athletes must develop that are transferable to improving self and society: perseverance, teamwork, leadership, hard work…all desirable dispositions. I’m left wondering about the academic base necessary for a learning society.

    Education is learning. Schooling is the institutionalized, and increasingly flawed, way we’ve developed to encourage learning en mass. Ultimately, it must come down to dialogue, like ours, between caring individuals determined and dedicated to serve and help others see their passion and provide evidence of their ability to fill a need in the world. That could come through an academic test or hard-earned success in your art (ala Gates or pro athletes).

    Think how different K-16 learning structures are (carrots and hoops) from graduate and post-grad work (dialogue and discourse). That difference answers your final question with a resounding negative.

  2. Pingback: Degrees For Sports | Sutterblog

  3. pamzella

    Had not thought of the “degree in sport” concept, and I admit, it just blew my mind a little. No, there are no guarantees after all that hard work and study. You don’t make the hoop with old balls and new balls and from 16 places on the court fairly reliably without significant investment in trial and error, over a period of years, all the while adjusting for height changes and limb adjustments and the increasing skill of our opponents who are going through the same process with different results. Controlling for variables is just as impossible as in actual science, what we have if you look at the philosophy of science is the ability to learn something from our efforts when we have given consideration to our variables, minimizing what we could and weighting our evidence based on the variables still out there and how important we expect they could be to our larger understanding of the topic. Educational environments don’t leave room for the trial and error and this kind of testing leaves no room for the recognition of effort that may not result in success in a given timeline, or ever, but contribute to the learning of the process, the processes that can be applied to the next thing. Gates got to where he did by breaking the rules, so he got more computer access, I don’t fault him for it, but I don’t understand why he expects that everyone else should follow the rules to be allowed access to what comes next.

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