by Kenneth Rudich
This week’s post for “promote a social good” and the Social Good Campaign centers on education.
Sometimes characterized as consisting of the three R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic (or should it be reading, riting, and rithmetic?) – the concept of education is really much bigger and broader than that simple description alone could ever suggest.
At heart, education aims to do socially productive work.
Part of the social good stems from the act of teaching – and thereby spreading — the knowledge we already possess as a society.
Another part comes from fueling the discovery of new knowledge. This entails much more than the mere ability to pass on knowledge. It involves the capacity to endow people with higher order cognitive skills, like an aptitude for critical thinking and problem solving. An often heard adage, which some claim is an old Chinese proverb, says, “The mind is a fire to be lighted, not a vessel to be filled.” Education is about lighting the fire.
So while education perhaps starts with the three R’s, the big picture pursuit is to improve quality of life. Consider just a few of the countless advancements of the 20th century as a case and point. Antibiotics like penicillin, the transistor, the laser, the microchip, the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, molecular biology, the intricacies of genes, chromosome structures, and DNA – all of these have turned into springboards for products and services that never would have seen the light of day were it not for the education process behind it.
But education does not stop there, either. It strives to be much more than just the studies customary for preparation in a trade or profession. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace in society.” Consequently, it also includes the effort to mold young individuals into well-rounded citizens – tackling the challenge of what Penn State University President Graham Spanier describes as “developing character, conscience, citizenship, tolerance and social responsibility.”
Said another way, education is about the quality and robustness of the social systems that emerge from it.
Noted scholar and author Dr. Deepak Chopra asserts that a well-nourished sense of community is capable of producing a phenomenon he calls the “critical mass of intentionality.” This theory says, when a community of intent reaches a critical mass the intent is amplified, which produces a kind of energy field that propels it forward with even greater force or momentum.
A key purpose of education is to help cultivate individual desire to actively participate as a community member, to be personally involved and thereby become part of the critical mass of intentionality. Whether at the local, state, national or international level, a society can flourish only if bright, hard-working people are making positive contributions to it.
who benefits from education?
Individual students of course benefit from the experience of becoming educated. But others use the product of education — the knowledge, values, literacy, and critical thinking skills acquired by the graduates — rather than experience it. Employers are among these, as are governmental and community agencies. Still another is society.
In reality, our collective common good stands to reap the greatest benefit of all – improved lives and better living.
what can be done to promote education?
Here’s what can be done to advance the social marketing of education:
- raise the educational aspirations of our youth, starting at the earliest possible age to
ensure that all children are ready to learn before they enter school
- boost the quality of teaching and learning in our elementary and secondary schools
- increase high school, college and university graduation rates
- expand adult lifelong learning, worker training, and professional development
- increase the level of activity in university research and development
- create a framework to sustain those commitments and strengthen accountability for the public agenda