Where does our modern school system come from? Why do we go to school? Why is the system designed the way it is? Why is the focus on memorizing facts and reprint those facts on a test? Where is the individual thinking? Why is there a “one size fits all” approach to learning?
Critical thinking is taught in school sometimes. But where is your critical thinking about the actual school system?
The Goal of a Classical Education
From ancient times, one of the primary goals for education was to teach a student how to teach himself. The simple idea behind this was that if we train a student in the skills of learning, then he will continue to learn on his own for the remainder of his life. This may be contrasted with the modern concept called “life-long learning,” which does not train a student in the skills of learning, but only trains him to perform individual tasks. As a result, the student must continually return to his trainer for more training. In other words, the basic skills of ancient learning will make us free to learn on our own, but the task-by-task approach of modern learning will enslave us to our taskmasters.
The ancients classified the basic skills for learning under three subjects: 1) Grammar, 2) Logic, and 3) Rhetoric. (Learn more about these in our publications.) Once a student became proficient in the use of these three tools, he was considered to have mastered those arts which liberated him from his teachers. He could now learn on his own. Hence these were called the Liberal Arts. We could call this life-long self-learning which encourages independence, as distinguished from the modern life-long serf-learning which encourages dependence.
Wikipedia – Prussian education system
The political motivations of the King of Prussia
Seeking to replace the controlling functions of the local aristocracy, the Prussian court attempted to instill social obedience in the citizens through indoctrination. Every individual had to become convinced, in the core of his being, that the King was just, his decisions always right, and the need for obedience paramount.
The schools imposed an official language, to the prejudice of ethnic groups living in Prussia. The purpose of the system was to instill loyalty to the Crown and to train young men for the military and the bureaucracy. As the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a key influence on the system, said, “If you want to influence [the student] at all, you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will.”