What is the goal of education? Or another way to say it: why teach? This list of goals and whys for education can vary depending on your audience. The question is important, one that I feel does not get asked often enough. This can hinder us as educators. Understanding why we do something, as Simon Sinek says in his book Start with Why, is of utmost importance. Without this understanding, we end up haphazardly adopting methods that may or may not work in the long run, with some of these methods damaging our students’ willingness (one could even say ability) to learn.
So, how do we find our why? I think Ellen White gives us a good starting place. She says: “It is the work of true education to develop [the] power [to think], to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen.” The goal, the why of education or teaching, is to make thinkers. It is to strengthen the hearts and minds of our students, enabling them to see their Creator for who He is, a God who is love.
You do not reach this goal by teaching for a test, yet this seems to be the current state of education. Teaching to understand and think one’s own thoughts should be of great importance. As Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren argue, the goal of learning is to understand, not to regurgitate information. Though this regurgitation is easier than thinking for oneself, it does not help students. It hinders a student’s ability to be a productive member of God’s kingdom. White continues: “Instead of educated weaklings, institutions of learning may send forth men strong to think and to act, men who are masters and not slaves of circumstances, men who possess breadth of mind, clearness of thought, and the courage of their convictions.” This is what we want to strive for. This should be our “why” as educators. Christ said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).
Effective workers come from godly thinkers, not those who can ace a test. Let us find our “why.” In God’s strength, let’s create workers for His field so that we may soon see Christ in the clouds of glory, coming to take us home.
Adler, J. M. & Van Doren, C. (2014). How to read a book: The classic guide to intelligent reading. New York, NY: Touchstone.