The True Purpose of Education

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The purpose of a universal public education system can be debated, but originally, in the 1830’s, Horace Mann reformed the American school system in order to give all children the basis on which to learn and become judicious citizens. As public schooling has evolved throughout the years, the purpose of education has been slowly vanishing, being replaced by monotonous routines and pointless activities done by students that no longer are interested in learning, but getting good grades instead. The true purpose of learning isn’t being addressed properly in schools, and it isn’t being recognized by those who attend school in order to learn. In ‘An Education’, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson paints a picture of what an education is supposed to provide for a pupil. He writes, “The function of opening and feeding the human mind is not to be filled by any mechanical or military method…you must not neglect the form, but secure the essentials” (para. 9). In a sense, Emerson argues that the purpose of education is, not to mold a judicious citizen that has basic understanding of certain topics, but to guide and ultimately unleash the genius and determination in every man by giving them the essentials to learning. On the other hand, Mann in ‘Report of the Massachusetts Board of Education’ uses the analogy of Feudalism to show that when education is not made a mandatory opportunity for all, society gets broken into classes, like Feudalism, in which the rich and powerful abuse the poor and uneducated. Here we see a specific clash of opinions on what education is supposed to provide for an individual person, and a society. Although Emerson’s essay may seem less subjective than Mann’s, I believe Emerson holds a more broad understanding of what an education can give to a person. There are many cases in which twelve years of public school do not provide a student with the passion or direction in order to live a life full of learning and accomplishment, when twelve years of public...
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