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GET REAL: What exactly is education?


GET REAL: What exactly is education?

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“EDUCATION AIN’T COMMON sense”, is what we’ve always been told. 

A person can have more letters trailing behind their name than the alphabet and still struggle with ABC. Ossie Moore could have had a PhD, and still be the called the village idiot.  

This wisdom of our elders points us to the fact that intelligence cannot be measured by degrees. You may be fooling yourself if you think your formal schooling is preparing you for the dynamism of everyday living. Most drivers will tell you that they really learned to drive after they passed the driving test. Passing a test mainly proves that you can . . . pass that test. Everyday driving/living is the real test.

On the surface, the saying: “Education ain’t common sense”, makes sense. Hidden in this popular saying are two flaws that have been fatal for Barbadian society. There is the belief that education only happens in school and that there is such a thing as “common sense” that does not require education. But we know that common sense ain’t so common and education ain’t only schooling.

The idea of common sense is that there are certain things that everyone should know and understand no matter their level of formal schooling. If common sense is really a thing, where then does it come from? Is it genetic? Is it of divine origin? 

Whether common sense comes from God or from DNA, it is clear that it is not equally distributed to everyone; hence, it can’t be common. Therefore, a person cannot be blamed for their lack of common sense. Blame God or their ancestors.

The word sense implies that you are born with common sense; like the five senses. We know that some people are born with better eyes, better ears or a better nose than others. Are some people born with better common sense? 

Looking at common sense this way and then saying that education is not common sense is to say that common sense comes from within and education comes from outside of you. Common sense is seen as something you naturally have and education as something you acquire. 

A lot of things that we take for granted as natural, are acquired. It is said that children born in the wild, raised by animals, without human contact, find it very hard to learn to speak and walk on two legs. European explorers reported that Amerindians, seeing swords for the first time, would grab them by the blade. The first Europeans to settle in the so-called New World had to learn new things that may have been common sense to even the children they found already living there. The original inhabitants taught the newcomers the skills to survive. 

Maybe what we call common sense is really basic survival skills. If we get away from the idea that common sense is something that is inborn, we can consider that what we call common sense needs to be learned. Which means that common sense comes from education. Common sense then is education . . . in a sense. 

If we find that from PhDs to li’l pickneys are lacking in common sense, we are saying that some basic skills are missing across the range of society. Education is failing to provide those skills. 

The educational system is more than the school system. It includes the school system, but we are also educated at home, on the block, in the church, by the media. Education authorities must take all these things into consideration; otherwise, they are really the authorities of schooling. We need more than that.

If you are the authority over schooling, then you might be content to measure success by CXC results, Common Entrance scores and the passing of paper tests. If you are the authority over education, you will be concerned with so much more. You will realise that in addition to academics, under your portfolio are the nation’s emotional development, socialisation, health, fitness and character development. Authorities in education the world over recognise this. But let’s get real. Knowing what to do is one thing. Having the will, knowledge and know-how to do it is another.

A nation with a culture which is the result of deliberate and incidental miseducation has to get real about education. The miseducation and re-education of the educational authorities will have to be addressed before and alongside the education of children. The whole cultural idea of what education is may have to change.

Adrian Green is a creative communications Specialist. Email: [email protected]