Education as civilization-building
Today, there is too much focus on education as job training. Here's a better framework: education as a process of civilization-building — as a tool to maximize human potential.
In the modern mind, "education" is all about young people developing skills that are useful to their future selves. Learn to read, learn to write, learn to code. Skills that will enable them to function in society, and make a good living. Education as job training.
As individualists, we only approach education from the perspective of how learning can be valuable to the individual. As utilitarians, we define the value of learning as the future practical usefulness of the skills we pick up. And as capitalists, we focus on marketable skills that are needed by employers.
Certainly, job training, and in general enabling individuals to productively function in modern society, is an important goal of education. But it is far from the only one, and it isn't even the most critical one.
Crucially, education is civilization-building. Education is the process through which the body of knowledge and culture that we have been accumulating for thousands of years passes from our generation to the next one. It is the steel making up an uninterrupted chain of cultural transmission, accretion, and renewal, stretching back to the emergence of language — back when humans first became truly human. The default state of our culture, our technology, our science, our stories, is not eternal progress — it is fast decay. Without proper education, the next generation forgets, and soon enough, cultures fall into decadence. What took thousands of years to discover may be forgotten in a few generations.
Perhaps even more essential is the realization that education is about maximally realizing human potential. It is about leading each individual towards the best version of themselves — about identifying and expressing what they could be, in a best-case scenario, and collectively, turning our civilization into its best possible future. Education is open-ended optimization over the space of human possibilities.
Something to keep in mind as we keep searching for a proper digital replacement for our legacy industrial-age education framework…
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