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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

1. What is Education?

1. What is Education?

Now to arrive at a clear conception of what it is, let us definitely understand what it is not.

(1.) That it is not merely or mainly the inculcation, instilling, communicating, or imbibing of knowledge. For "the essence of education is not acquirement, but development, expansion, direction, invigoration."

Thus, for instance, the cramming of a pupil for examination is not only not educating him, but literally injuring him by forcing more mental food upon him than he is, for the time being, capable of digesting. Indeed, a medical authority—Dr. Granville, in an article on "Worry," in the Nineteenth Century of September, 1881—says: "The pernicious system of 'cram' slays its thousands because uneducated, undeveloped inelastic intellects are burdened and strained with information adroitly deposited in the memory as an expert valet packs a portmanteau with the articles likely to be first wanted on the top." And the same writer further remarks: "The sole remedy is the reversal of a policy which substitutes results for processes, knowledge for education." (And see also Lord Brougham's speeches on education.)

(2.) That it is not simply, or indeed principally, intellectual development.

So a learned or well-informed man is not necessarily an educated man, or a wise man.

Hence the mediæval proverb, "The greatest scholars are not the wisest men;" and the Greek proverb, "How vain is learning unless understanding be united with it." So the author of the Verbalist, recently published, says: "Education is one of the most misused of words; a man may be well acquainted with the contents of text books, yet be a person of little education; on the other band, a man may be a person of good education, and yet know little of text books —education is a whole, of which instruction and good breeding are parts."

(3.) That likewise it is not only physical training. Otherwise, an athlete would necessarily be an educated person.

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(4.) That also it is not alone moral culture. For goodness is frequently found where knowledge or physical development, or both, is or are wanting, and—

(5.) That the origin of the word education itself refutes the popular interpretation placed upon it: and suggests not an inculcation of knowledge, but the reverse—viz., a leading out or forth—i.e., a development of the whole being—physical, mental, moral, pari passu. And that not merely a casual development—such as a temporary attendance at a school suggests—but a continuous culture (the verb educare being frequentative); commencing at conception, and only ending with death. Thus, the celebrated philosopher, Seneca, says:—"We learn not at school, but in life."

Having thus endeavoured to ascertain what it is not, let us strive to clearly realise what it is.