Why education matters: Quotes from the wise

At the start of this school year, we affirm what American writer Ropo Oguntimehin says: “Education is a companion which no future can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, and no nepotism can enslave.”

No less than US President Barack Obama announced: “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.”


The Philippine government’s investment in education, especially in the ongoing K to 12 program, is considerable.  Of course, deficits still plague the entire system, from teachers barely paid a living wage to classrooms too crowded and insufficient to meet the needs of a growing student population.

But for many Filipinos, a solid education is often the only way out of poverty and despair.  Parents who force their children to drop out of school to help out in the fields or the store should heed this warning from the wise:  “Education costs much, but lack of education costs much more.”


US Congressman Horace Mann, education reformer and brother-in-law of “The Scarlet Letter” author Nathaniel Hawthorne, once said: “A human being does not attain his full heights until he is educated.”


Why are creative and innovative teachers essential for long-term learning?  If students feel that the subjects they are studying are not relevant to their lives, there can be no genuine learning.

The Greek philosopher Plato said: “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind.”

Love of learning is independent of whether a subject is easy or difficult, serious or entertaining.  If students find school to be attuned to their needs and desires, they will exert the effort to learn.

Asked if schooling helped him in movie making, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas said: “Traditional education can be extremely isolating.  The curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don’t connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and schools operate as if they were separate from their communities … . Students connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning … . And well-prepared educators are critical.  I didn’t really discover any interest in film until I was a junior in college.”

Good teachers do all they can to master the subject.  They update their own learning constantly.  They have high expectations of their students, and provide ways to meet them.  They know their students and help them achieve their potentials.


Good teachers know they are the best role models for students.  What they say, what they do, what they are influence students.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer put it succinctly:  “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

A wise person once said, “Good teachers teach.  Great teachers inspire.”


Unless we can come up with a better system of assessing performance, grades will remain mandatory.  However, prodded by overanxious and extremely competitive parents, many students study just to get good grades or pass tests, doing whatever it takes to succeed, no matter the financial or even ethical costs.

Students become so dependent on tutors and never develop proper study habits on their own.  The obsession with high grades tempts them to cheat— getting questions before a test, letting others do the class work, plagiarizing papers, making tutors do projects, bringing kodigos, etc.

Hooked on instant gratification, many students find solving complex problems and reading unabridged books too tedious and demanding.  They rarely make the effort to reflect on themselves and the world.

Sadly, they are missing out on the true point of education.  As French novelist and Nobel Literature Prize winner Anatole France explained: “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.”

Preparing for real life

The American psychologist M. Scott Peck began his book “The Road Less Traveled” with this line:  “Life is difficult.”

Students have to face problems with determination and skill, confidence and courage.  These traits are learned at home but they can also be developed in school.

Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle said: “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement and impossibilities:  It is this, that in all things, distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”

British World War II hero Lord Alexander said: “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”

In these times of political conflict, we do well to heed American historian Edward Everett Hale: “Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.”

The philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson knew what really counted:  “The secret to education is respecting the pupil.”

We have to ensure that the youth learn the most in the best way they can. As American thinker Alvin Toffler said: “We need a multiplicity of visions, dreams and prophecies—images of potential tomorrows.”

E-mail the author at [email protected]

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TAGS: Albert Schweitzer, Education, Learning, News, Nobel Prize, Plato
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