The educational monolith of the past century, whose absence from modern life was all but unthinkable, has all but vanished, and for months now. This has thrust millions of families into a reassessment of their children’s education. And so I want to contribute something that may be of some use to them.
Here you will find a set of passages from my files: The thoughts of notable geniuses on the subject of education. I hope that parents, especially, will find them informative.
It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.
School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like sergeants. I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam… I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement.
I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy.
Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
Academies that are founded at public expense are instituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them.
School is the advertising agency which makes you believe you need the society as it is.
Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education.
There is not, perhaps, in the kingdom, a more dogmatical, or luxurious set of men, than the pedantic tyrants who reside in colleges and preside at public schools.
I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Truth has to be repeated constantly, because Error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude. In the Press and Encyclopedias, in Schools and Universities, everywhere Error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having Majority on its side.
A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows on rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.
Education by the State is a contradiction in terms. Intellectual development is only possible to those who have seen through society.
It is easier to make people appear equally stupid than to make them equally clever, so teaching methods are adopted which make it practically impossible for anyone to learn anything.
John Stuart Mill
A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another: and the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.
Ludwig von Mises
Education rears disciples, imitators, and routinists, not pioneers of new ideas and creative geniuses. The schools are not nurseries of progress and improvement, but conservatories of tradition and unvarying modes of thought. The mark of the creative mind is that it defies a part of what it has learned or, at least, adds something new to it.
The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda – a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make ‘good’ citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.
I hated school so intensely. It interfered with my freedom. I avoided the discipline by an elaborate technique of being absent-minded during classes.
We know that children are capable of peak experiences and that they happen frequently during childhood. We also know that the present school system is an extremely effective instrument for crushing peak experiences and forbidding their possibility. The natural child-respecting teacher who is not frightened by the sight of children enjoying themselves is a rare sight in classrooms.
Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.
Children are nowhere taught, in any systematic way, to distinguish true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements. Why is this so? Because their elders, even in the democratic countries, do not want them to be given this kind of education.
Education by choice, with its marvelous motivating psychology of desire for truth and the exercise of this desire for truth, will make life ever cleaner and happier, more rhythmical and artistic.
Our greatest vulnerability lies in the amount of misinformation and misconditioning of humanity. I’ve found the educations [sic] systems are full of it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
Conscience is deceived by the social.