Education is a relational enterprise

Education is a relational enterprise

“Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilization of knowledge” — Alfred North.

While the basic principle behind education is to teach students tools and skills that can “sharpen” their mind, as Alfred North Whitehead argued, humans acquire and use knowledge to satisfy themselves. As the practical meaning of the statement above may show, therefore, the aim of education is to master the art of using the education itself for life fulfillment and purposeful living. The statement makes the following distinguishing: there is a difference between acquiring knowledge and utilizing it. In other words, a knowledge that is not utilized is an “inert knowledge” and never changes the person nor the world around us.

The statement also confirms a rather obvious but unenforced teaching expectations. Although, according to Cahn, “all practical teachers know that education is a patient process of the mastery of detail” they are expected to focus on the mastery of the art, the utilization of knowledge in real-life situations.

Indeed, education involves more than teaching concepts; it involves taking a holistic approach to producing knowledgeable humans (as Elias and Merriam insist). Failure to shoot for that level of knowledge utilization may result in severe outcomes for all. The last three chapters of Minority Outcry deal with this profound principle.

Education is not a transaction between a teacher and a student in a static way. It is a relational enterprise, one that is supposed to create intellectual bonding. As Nel Noddings wrote, there is so much to the teaching transaction, and it requires mutual care. According to Noddings, “when a teacher asks a question in class and a student responds, she receives not just the ‘response’ but the student.”

This is when real growth is achieved. The fact that students grow with the knowledge should encourage teachers to plant the right seeds in the minds of their students. Perhaps, this is how the Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher concludes this idea: the absence of these virtues in teaching will translate into a complete failure, “depriving them [students] of the possibility of letting the seeds of their good qualities germinate and grow.”


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