On Education and What People Achieve and Become
For education to be meaningful, it should be holistic having as its ultimate goal the development of the whole person. Holistic education helps an individual to grow and develop in all dimensions: emotional, psychological, creative, social, imaginative, physical, intuitive, and spiritual as well as intellectual.1 The focus is on the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values not for the sake of getting the best scores in standardized tests but to prepare them to engage in the real world. Holistic educators seek to engage students in their real life worlds to the greatest extent possible.2
Have the schools of the 21st century been approaching education holistically? Do they deliver the kind of education that enable their students to achieve their full potential? Are children in schools trained merely to be a worker in their chosen fields or prepared to take on the multi-layered challenges they have to contend with in real life?
Answering the foregoing questions definitively is difficult. The ones in the best position to answer them are the graduates themselves. It is only after a few years after completing schooling that people can really evaluate whether the education they receive is meaningful or otherwise.
In the process of evaluating the value of the education people received, the question they need to answer is – “What have they achieved and become through it?”
What education allow people to achieve determines only half the value (or even less) of that education. The other half (or even more) lie in what people become through it. It is not enough that people succeed in their chosen careers – either by being gainfully employed or by having a business of their own – to say that their education is meaningful. What have they become as persons needs to be examined as well.
Psychologists have identified the different aspects of personality as physical, emotional, social, moral/spiritual, and intellectual. It is all in these areas that the evaluation of the process of becoming should be anchored upon.
Tests such as Big Five Personality, HEXACO, Myers-Brigs Type Indicator and Core Self-evaluation can be used to determine the dominant personality traits a person has. In China they have their CPAI (Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory). These tests can somehow help people analyze what have they become (or what are they becoming).
There are only two ways to classify personality traits or characteristics – they are either positive or negative. The HEXACO model of personality structure, for instance, is very specific in describing people in the honesty-humility (H) dimension – sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, and modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful and pompous.
What people become can only be labeled in two ways as well – good or bad. There are no gray areas. Ethics (as a branch of Philosophy) established the clear guidelines in determining what is good and bad, right and wrong.
It is of paramount importance that education should not only help people prepare for a career but guide them into developing positive traits and right attitudes. A child is not only a future employee or businessman. When eventually a child becomes an adult, there are other roles he/she has to play in society – as a citizen, as a community member, as a fellowman, as a neighbor, as a friend, as a family member. Life is not all about work. The workplace is only a small part of the world where the child lives.
Achieving is the process of succeeding in one’s chosen career or business – of enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. Becoming is the process of developing into the best person one is capable of turning into – physically, emotionally, socially, morally/spiritually, and intellectually. The person a child becomes would directly impact the way he/she would perform in the workplace, community and society.
The process of achieving enables a person to have the means to earn a living. But earning a living is different from living a life. It is the process of becoming that empowers that person to live a life beyond work.
Education should be considered functional only if it succeeds in guiding the child in the processes of achieving and becoming.
* (1 & 2) Andrew P. Johnson, Ph.D. Minnesota State University, Mankato