What then is the purpose of education?
October 8, 2021

What then is the purpose of education?

From very early in our lives, our experiences as a people, through slavery, colonialism and under white plantocracy, right down to the present, the wisest among us have always stressed the value of education as a means for not just personal advancement, but the progression and development of our people as a whole. Perhaps the best manifestation of this was given in The Mighty Sparrow’s immortal rendition of “Education” – singing “Without an education in yo’ head, you’ll be better off dead…”.

That mantra remains as valid today as when we were first apprised of it. Education, formal education in particular, has done a lot for the poor and disadvantaged of our society. We have made impressive achievements from the toddler stage right up until tertiary and professional ranks.

The logical conclusion from all of this is that by virtue of being much more educated, formally, the society would be much better off and certainly more capable of being able to exercise informed judgements especially on matters where one’s education tends to affect life choices.

There have been no shortages of opportunities to put this to the test given the challenges the global COVID-19 pandemic place squarely before us. One would have thought that given our educational advancements, we would be in good stead to recognise the value of science in dealing with the health, economic and social problems presented by the virus.
Sadly the reality is far different. If COVID-19 had contaminated our society 50 to 75 years ago, and the collective global wisdom was for vaccination as the most effective weapon of combat, we would have had no problem, just as we responded to measles, small pox, polio and the like. Of course there would have been dissenters, but the overwhelming response would have been to “go with the science” and take the vaccination.

Today however, our “educated” population no longer relies on commonsense or science; we have to demonstrate that we are “different”, “special” or more “astute”; our individualism, not our collective wisdom is our guiding star. The emphasis is no longer on the well-being of the collective, it is on what we perceive, no matter how misguided, is best for us, personally and for our families, and, to hell with the rest.

Every day the same “educated” persons witness what is taking place in the rest of the world; we imbibe death tolls that multiply more rapidly than we could have done our simple  “times’ (multiplication) tables”. Yet we are so bright that we prefer to ignore reality and follow the dangerous mis-directions of all sorts of people, with their own axes to grind.

Just think of the Caribbean, SVG and its neighbours, all being decimated by the coronavirus. Does this not call for leadership by the most “educated”? Shouldn’t the vanguard to combat the virus be led by those who should know best? Shouldn’t our teachers be in the forefront of trying to convince those being misled; engaging parents and students and mobilising them in the vaccination campaign? Shouldn’t graduates of university; doctors, trained nurses, lawyers, all those with access to more reliable information, not be helping the rest of us in the scientific battle against the coronavirus? How could they be thinking contrary to what is obviously in the best interests of the people of the world? How could we justify that in the face of all the disadvantages to our children, just two days after the resumption of online classes, that there would be a call for teachers to absent themselves from classes, placing personal grounds above those of our children and society? What then is the purpose of education?