Our entire childhood revolves around getting an education; we are taught to count and recognize letters and their sounds before we even enter kindergarten and it's a norm for everyone to achieve at least a high school degree. But what is the point of an education in the first place? And how can one best be delivered to students? These questions are explored by Desiderius Erasmus and Michel de Montaigne, who both wrote extensively on their thoughts and theories on the importance of education.
One of the biggest points that Erasmus and Montaigne both stress is that education is not only important to increase intelligence, but also to mature a person's morals. Children do not naturally know how to behave and interact with society. Instead it is something they must be taught very early on. Erasmus said, “After all, nothing clings more tenaciously than something that is poured into empty minds," (Erasmus, 76). If a child learns the wrong way to behave before being taught the correct way, it will be extremely hard for them to make the switch later in their life. He explains that children that are taught to "put on a savage face, to love weapons, and to deal blows" (Erasmus, 76) before they are taught anything else, will have a more difficult road ahead of them. Not only will they need to be taught the correct way to act, but they will have to be untaught all of the violent ways that they had previously learned.
I have seen this very obviously in my three year old nephew. He loves superheroes and has often sat by my brothers side as he played video games online. Once he began to be exposed to this genre of entertainment, his favorite games involved pretend shooting everyone or wrestling them to the ground. It became increasingly difficult to get him to not hit or kick people, and suddenly everything he could get his hands on was a gun in his imagination. He is not an overly violent young boy, but the effect that this exposure to violence had on him was very evident.
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But more than teaching people the right way to act within their community, by expanding a child's education you also expand their mind. It is very easy and common for someone to grow up in one place all their life and become accustomed to the way that life is lived there. Which is why Montaigne advocates for beginning to travel with children while they are very young. By learning about other languages, countries, and cultures they realize that the conventionalities of the way they live are not the correct and only way to do things.
From my personal experience, just by coming to NYU, I have been exposed to more culture than I ever experienced growing up in Ohio. In my town in Ohio, everyone celebrated the same holidays; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc. But here many of my friends know multiple languages and come from places that I have never heard of. I find it so interesting when my friends miss class because they are celebrating a holiday exclusive to their own country or religion that differs from mine. In the same way that I am used to celebrating Christmas every year, they are used to celebrating Hanukkah or the Chinese New Year.
My ability to empathize and see things from other people's perspective has grown immensely. Those who go through life thinking only of themselves may by chance be able to be successful, but there comes a point that we have to know how to communicate and get along with other human beings. Knowing how to think of another person's needs and ideals as well as your own is a vital tool in order to interact with others, and it can all be gained from traveling and educating yourself in the cultures of others.
Next rises the question of how a child can best be taught. Erasmus and Montaigne had strong opinions on that as well. Montaigne believed that it was vital for children to not solely learn through reading and writing, because that only improves a person's ability to memorize. Instead, they must be able to apply what they have learned to action. I agree wholeheartedly with Montaigne. History class was never my forte because for me it was nothing more than memorizing names and dates.
But subjects like Math, I flourished in. I was able to practice different equations and theories, applying them to different sets of numbers repeatedly until I had perfected that topic. This was also true for writing papers. It was always a daunting task, but once my high school initiated a program that required us to write a two page paper for every class twice a year, I found myself able to write them faster and faster each time. Now that I have moved on to higher level classes where writing is vital, I can tell how all of that practice in high school has paid off and my abilities continue to improve with each paper I write.
A factor that was very important to Erasmus was to ensure that children were being taught by well qualified professionals. It shocked him how parents would be so concerned with the people that they hired to train their horses, but less so with the tutors they hired for their children. While I have never really been in the position to choose my teachers based on their individual qualifications, I have had experiences that exemplify the great difference in outcomes from a good teacher and a bad one. My freshman year of high school we got our third new band director in four years. But this time was different. He pushed harder than the previous ones, giving more difficult material, and instead of getting angry when we messed up, he just encouraged us and remained positive that we would be able to rise to the occasion.
When the first competition came and we won, we were ecstatic. At the next rehearsal, our director began by celebrating and congratulating us, but then quickly moved us on to what needed to be fixed in order to keep improving. His demeanor was never harsh, always positive. We knew that he was pushing us because he wanted to be able to see us succeed again and again. This experience was the perfect example of the direct correlation between the teacher and the performance of their students. Some teachers are simply better than others, and for a child to reach their full potential it's helpful for them to learn under the best teachers possible.
Even though Erasmus and Montaigne wrote their thoughts down many years ago, they are still very relevant today. As the importance of intelligence and knowledge continues to increase in the modern world so will the importance of education. But more than that, education is necessary to help children learn how to interact and live civilly with others. And with a crucial purpose like that, the importance of education should and will not be pushed to the side any time soon.
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The Importance of Education as Pointed by Desiderius Erasmus and Michel De Montaigne. (2023, Jan 05). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/the-importance-of-education-as-pointed-by-desiderius-erasmus-and-michel-de-montaigne/