Education vs. training
By Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld
The other day, I got a call from my good friend Marshall Fritz, president of
the Separation of School and State Alliance. He had attended a meeting in New York
of private entrepreneurs interested in doing something about education. Chris Whittle
was there promoting the idea of government-subsidized private management of public
schools. Ted Forstmann was there to talk about privately funded voucher programs.
Marshall's impression was that these gentlemen did not have much of an understanding
of the distinction between education and training, and he wanted my views on the
Education, I told him, is concerned with the development of the mind, of the
intellect, while training deals with learning specific skills. Education is a more
personal activity, in that its main purpose is the enhancement of an individual's
ability to use his mind for his own personal pleasure or gain. Training means developing
skills that will be used more for social and economic reasons than for the self.
Which means that education should come first, training later.
Animals, it should be noted, can be trained, but they can't be educated. Why
is that? It is because human beings have the one capability that no other species
has: the ability and capacity to use language. Language is more than merely a means
of communication. Language links us with our Creator. God gave Adam the power of
speech because he wanted to communicate with his creation. And he wanted Adam to
be able to communicate back.
Even Noam Chomsky, noted socialist who also happens to be the world's leading
[H]uman language appears to be a unique phenomenon, without significant analogue
in the animal world. ... As far as we know, possession of human language is
associated with a specific type of mental organization, not simply a higher
degree of intelligence. There seems to be no substance to the view that human
language is simply a more complex instance of something to be found elsewhere
in the animal world. ... In fact, the processes by which the human mind achieved
its present stage of complexity and its particular form of innate organization
are a total mystery.
Of course, they are not a mystery if you believe the Bible. In fact, the Bible
makes it quite clear what the purpose of language was as a God-given gift. First,
it enabled Adam to communicate with God. Second, it permitted Adam to extend his
dominion over the animal kingdom. We read in Genesis 2:19-20: "And out of the ground
the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air, and brought
them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every
living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and
to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field."
In other words, God turned Adam into a scientist, an observer of the world around
him, and also a lexicographer, an inventor of names. Thus, the second function of
language was to permit Adam to know the world and control his environment. The third
function of language was to permit Adam to know his mate, Eve, whom God had given
him. This function gave man the ability to know others in a profound and intimate
way. And, finally, the fourth function of language was to permit us to know ourselves.
For without language we would not be able to engage in that inner dialogue that
helps us know our own natures and chart the course of our own lives. John Calvin
wrote in his "Institutes of the Christian Religion":
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists
almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. ... [N]o
man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God
in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments
which we possess cannot possibly be of ourselves; nay, that our very being is
nothing else than subsistence in God alone.
This intimate connection to God is demonstrated in the fact that infants start
learning to speak during the very first year of life, which indicates the strength
of this God-given ability. Language is the most powerful tool that any child can
master. In fact, children are language-learning dynamos during the first six years
of life, and this remarkable development provides the child with a launching pad
for further mental and spiritual growth through the continued mastery of language
It was the invention of alphabetic writing that gave man the ability to expand
language with ease, and thereby enhance his ability to think and invent. The alphabet
gave Adam's descendants the ability to do more than simply name what could be observed.
Man could now name the invisible: atoms, neutrons, bacteria, viruses. He could write
books, plays, biographies, histories, poetry, novels. (It should be noted that the
Holy Scripture is written in alphabetic writing, not hieroglyphics.)
The ancients knew that education meant expanding the power of intellect, the
ability to acquire knowledge. And so, traditionally, education meant learning to
read well and fluently so that by reading and writing one could strengthen the powers
of mind, increase one's knowledge of the world, and seek one's purpose in life.
It was an affirmation of an individual's freedom to grow spiritually and control
his own personal destiny.
But that traditional view of education has been largely abandoned by our so-called
educators, who now believe that the purpose of schooling is training an individual
to be a useful, politically correct social component in the economy. It was socialist
John Dewey who first proposed the shift away from the emphasis on language learning
to the hands-on basket-weaving curriculum of progressive education.
That philosophy has finally blossomed into Marc Tucker's Human Resources Development
System, in which the government trains individuals to serve the State and the economy.
In his famous letter to Hillary Clinton, Tucker wrote:
What is essential is that we create a seamless web of opportunities to develop
one's skills that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system
for everyone -- young and old, poor or rich, worker and full-time student. It
needs to be a system driven by client needs, guided by clear standards that
define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and
regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients,
not inputs into the system.
As you can see, there is no room in that system for the development of an independent
intellect. In fact, to make sure that an independent intellect is not developed,
the trainers make sure that each child's mind is made intellectually dysfunctional
through whole language teaching in the primary grades. That prepares the child for
training in the behaviorist, Skinnerian methodology, in which the reinforcement
techniques of animal training are used on human children.
The takeover of American public schools by behavioral scientists and psychologists
means the permanent destruction of traditional education. And because most parents,
teachers, and politicians don't understand the distinction between education and
training, there is virtually no chance that traditional education will ever be restored
in our public schools.
Finally, the beauty of education is that, after learning to read, you can educate
yourself by reading and investigating anything you want. But when it comes to training,
you need trainers and schedules, tests and assessments, psychologists and remediators.
To deprive children of the great personal benefits of education and to throw them
at an early age into training is a crime, and its victims will be a blight on America
for generations to come.