“Education” & “Schooling” are not interchangeable – get over it!

Education and schooling appear to be the same thing even though they have different meanings and outcomes. The idiosyncrasy to use both terms interchangeably or subsume schooling under education has become a common social trend. This tendency to assume, rather than confirm, has led to misleading interpretations and beliefs, as well as fallacies of both disciplines. As a consequence, most people think that a good education, whereas the same as an educated person, is the result of completing a specific time in a formal instructive discipline, in a specific field of study. Education is not achieved by completing a concrete timeframe at a high standard instructive facility, nor can credentials and academic achievements measure education. Thus far, there is no concise definition, but there are a vast number of attempts to describe both terms, yet without doing the meaning justice. Furthermore the difference between definitions is subjective. That is why it seems of greater importance to detect the differences between education and schooling in order to have a better understanding of their meaning, and consequently acknowledge their usefulness.

Society used these terms to point out the historical, cultural, social and political procedures of converting humans into citizens and affiliates of categorized social groupings. Schooling is a method to shape and fashion minds and behavior, laying out the foundation known as ‘general knowledge’, according to the interests and beliefs of a specific social group. Therefore, it is a form to domesticate people. The pedagogy implemented is to inculcate concepts such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’. The key factor used to teach in schools, colleges or universities is repetition. That’s why the prime place under schooling is accorded to memory.

Students who are schooled well have mastered how to follow the system’s commands but they haven’t necessarily learnt how to keep up with life’s expectations. The reality is that someone else has drawn the map they need to follow to achieve success. They were given the directions and instructions to follow the route. Given the task to come up with their own route, these students wouldn’t know how to react. Even for the simple tasks, students are conditioned to seek for directions instead of figuring it out for themselves. Not to mention that an excellent math and algebra student doesn’t necessarily know how to implement the knowledge in a real life scenario, for example to calculate which product is comparably cheaper at the grocery store. This happens because there is a difference between studying and learning. Students who are schooled have the tendency to study in order to pass the test or get good grades, and fulfill the teacher’s desires. Students who are educated well will ask questions, but they will want to create their own map. They won’t wait until the test comes up to study as a reaction. Instead these students will proactively review for their lifetime learning. Schooling should build the desire to seek for knowledge and self-education, training and providing basic tools to be ready to challenge life outside of the classroom. It does somehow, and yet seems to push students away from education.

The child-adult dichotomy Mortimer J. Adler uses throughout his article Adult Education: The Task of a Lifetime (1952) seems like a perfect metaphor to explain why citizens give more importance to their careers than to education. All students aren’t children, especially not those who continue going to school in their adulthood. The problem is that these adult students are treated as children, rather than adults. In schooling the locus of power is external to the student. It’s the adult that imposes and defines in the classroom, being part of a hierarchy in which those in power have defined the policies and guidelines. In this ranking, there is only one view, the one who speak from a position of power. It seems adequate in a child-adult relationship to make a differentiation between the yet to be developed mind of a child and the knowledge level of an adult. These young students will have a role model, so to speak, who they respect as an authority. The same is completely inappropriate in an adult-adult setting where both are to be considered equal.

Taking this metaphor in consideration, Adler makes a good point when he compares the student’s lifestyle with childhood (61). It is true that students are living a life that doesn’t fully relate with reality (61), as these academic institutions are somehow secluded from the real world, teaching what can be found in books, without exposure to the ‘real’ scenarios but more so to hypothetical situations. There is a practical application that cannot be taught by lectures or even demonstrations. Just by reading books about how to swim or how to ride a bike won’t be enough for anyone to know what they really think they know, until they get inside the water or fall off a bicycle. It requires practice and the maturity to be humble enough to take the risk of making a mistake and being embarrassed, and learning more. Schooling doesn’t provide the opportunity to experience but rather keeps students in a protected environment, the same way parents do with their children. “I use the word children for all human beings still under institutional care” (Adler 61).

In addition, Adler makes a great point when he writes about society’s democratic ideology and the loopholes and fallacies when it comes down to education (63-64). Schooling is a necessary method for non-democratic forms of political organization and education is a fundamental process for democracy. The hierarchy placed on the ‘educational system’ has made education a privilege when it should be a human right. The position of power can be articulated in terms of gender, race, religion, social class and age. Not only is schooling structured to provide citizens the knowledge that is socially beneficial in order to fit into society, but to discriminate and create divisions. An individual is considered an educated person based on the credentials and degrees obtained, instead of acknowledging their knowledge and experience. Consequently, it also factors in which academic facility this individual has attended in order to receive these accreditations. The more expensive and higher reputation, the more educated the person will be. This is a commonly believed fallacy that has allowed society’s structure to be highly discriminating and hypocritical.

The IQ Test, first developed by French psychologist Alfred Binet in the early 1900s, is a perfect example to explain how the ‘educational system’ is everything but democratic. Based on the generic guidelines in which everybody is forced to learn the same way, the idea to elaborate a test that would measure the individual learning capacity was well intended. Since every human learns differently, the meaning of this test was to create different learning programs that would adjust to every student’s needs. Unfortunately this vision got into the wrong hands, and the IQ Test was then designed to discriminate rather than to help students in their intellectual growth. In fact, this testing was used to select immigrants entering the United States, granting those who passed the test access to the country.

There has always been a clear political interest in regards to schooling and education. The system built around both terms is a lucrative business to create pawns for the working force. It is not of common interest to have a well-educated nation because knowledge is power, hence dangerous. That’s why it is not available to everybody and it is regulated by standards and policies designed by those in control. People move in a fast pace, focused on earning a living rather than living. They get into educational programs that will provide them with the degree that they need to get the work position they aim for, thus Adler’s view on schooling as vocational training is an excellent analogy (63). Due to the speedy lifestyle and the overload of work, the education process stops right there for most people, as there seems to be no time to think and self-educate oneself. Most importantly they are convinced that they now are educated (66). Schooling is necessary to create a general knowledge foundation for everyone but education doesn’t stop there. “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” (Twain).

The brain is definitely a muscle that needs to be trained and fed in order to function properly and be healthy (Adler 67). The human being is curious by nature and has the desire to know and to understand. Due to society’s standards, people seem to have adopted a robotic-like behavior and lifestyle instead of enjoying what life really has to offer. Everybody is an individual with a specific purpose, and that seems to have been lost along the way. Since students learn differently, there is not one universal solution for schooling. The main problem is that people always tend to generalize. It is absurd to assume that everybody is built the same exact way.

The IQ Test should no longer be part of society’s procedures. The system should be restructured; creating programs that would align with the student’s capacities. Presently what happens in the classroom could qualify as a setting filled with dogs, fish, birds and lizards, while being taught to fly. Every single animal possesses skills and they are all different from another. These aptitudes won’t be taken in consideration neither the differences between the students. As if it is a fair selection, all the animals will be taught the same thing and then expected to perform accordingly. Regardless of its senselessness, it perfectly describes the reality children and adults are facing every single day of their lives.

According to Adler, “[…] education is not primarily a matter of training or habit formation […] education is the cultivation of the human mind” (61). Education embodies so much more and that’s why it is a hard to define term. Schooling is the way to be disciplined by professionals such as teachers and professors, and is necessary to prepare people for life. The disadvantage is that the discipline can lead to restriction of thoughts. These thoughts are often needed for inquiry, which is the essential to learning. Education is life itself; a continuous process that never ends (66). The moment a person stops learning, the growth that comes along with it ceases too. “An education is being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t know” (France), whereas wisdom is to be humble enough to realize that in the end all people know is that they know nothing at all.

Work Cited

Adler, Mortimer J. “Adult Education: The Task of a Lifetime.” The Journal of Higher Education, February 1952.

France, Anatole. “An Education Isn’t How Much You Have Committed to Memory, or Even How Much You Know. It’s Being Able to Differentiate between What You Do Know and What You Don’t.” AQuotation. n.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2013.

Twain, Mark. “I Have Never Let My Schooling Interfere with My Education.” Goodreads. n.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2013.


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