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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Education or Training?

I attended a Catholic high school and had to take two years of latin.  Although it was not my favorite subject, in retrospect it was a valuable experience. It is useful to know the origin of words because the words we use do reveal how we think.  The word "educate" comes from e duco which means to "lead out of".   I interpret that to mean that there is something within each person that an educator  guides and nurtures to maturity.  This implies that an educator takes the time to recognize and affirm a person's unique capabilities.   Education is not imposing a set of learning objectives on a person or forcing someone to learn.  It assumes that a person is born with a desire to learn and grow and that a person will do so if given the right conditions, guidance, and support from the educator.   Unfortunately it seems that much of what is called education today is not really education but rather training.

Training is not "leading out of" but rather assumes that a person is a blank slate and needs to be shaped and molded according to a preconceived outcome.  This does not mean that training is bad and shouldn't happen.  There are times and purposes where training is needed.  There are instances or situations where people need specialized skills to perform a specific task.  For example, it is appropriate that people be trained to respond to fire drills-it is and should be a rote response that needs to happen automatically without thinking or reasoning.  There are academic tasks that could also require training, e.g. learning math facts.  Training can support education when the "rote or routine" tasks can become automatic so that students can be freed to think and reason.

Training and education can also work together in the social world.  It is helpful for students to be trained in using manners or other social skills.  Such training can help them succeed in many social situations, however, learning to deal with ambiguous situations requires judgment and reflection.  It is also understandable and inevitable that students will make mistakes in the social world.  Adults need to be there to help them learn from those mistakes without feeling condemned or labelled. 

Efffective bullying prevention requires the right balance of training and education.  Many programs or approaches rely just on training and view education as being either unnecessary or "too soft".  Educators need to ask themselves one simple question when they are responding to a student who has made a social mistake:  "what does the student need to learn in order to be more successful in the future?" Ironically this question requires the educator to use judgment and discretion based on the unique circumstances of the particular incident.  Ultimately, bystanders face ambiguous, uncertain situations without clear cut rules to guide them-they will only be empowered when we educate them to listen to their consciences and to trust in their abiltiy to take a risk for what they know is right.  We need to believe in  the "something"that is already there within them and to help them believe in it also.  Education however can never be a quick fix and relies on human relationships. Education is really the community learning how to be a community.

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