The Value of Education


As a student and an educator, I have spent many years in tune with the cycles of the school year. The sunny spring days of late April and May always make me think about the current school year winding down. Elementary schools look forward to outdoor sporting events and field trips. Teachers accept that concepts not hammered in by this time probably won’t take hold.

The university session is already completed, and intercession and summer courses are anticipated. There will be a different tone to those courses – good weather does something to the higher reaches of academia. (A reflection that obviously pertains more to areas where foul weather is a distinct possibility – as in most of Canada – maybe it doesn’t play out in California!)

This time of the year will always have me thinking freedom while September inevitably brings thoughts of new beginnings.

I came across a couple of quotes related to education that I want to share.

Nelson Mandela wrote, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” I think Mandela would know what of what he speaks.

Here is a gem from the pen of Mary Jo Leddy – a Canadian writer, speaker, theologian and social activist. Leddy is widely recognized for her work with refugees at Toronto’s Romero House. “Education is about learning to hope. I invite you to anticipate this; that your education is for the sake of hope. It is meant to give hope to someone, somewhere, at some point in the future. Sometimes, somewhere, someone will ask you for a reason to hope. And then everything you have learned, every talent and skill you possess, all that you have become will be questioned and summoned forth. I know this will happen, at least once in your life.”

Marshall McLuhan, writes, “Is not the essence of education civil defense against media fallout.” McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory; his work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries.

Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator, philosopher, and influential theorist of critical pedagogy, tells us that education can become, “. . . the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

The final word goes to Jean Vanier, a Canadian, Catholic, philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian, and founder of L’Arche, an international federation of group homes for people with developmental disabilities, who wrote that the purpose of education was to make people of peace.

Education as a means of change, education for the sake of hope, education as a means of defense against the almighty media voice that hums away below our conscious level of thinking, education for freedom and the transformation of the world, education to make people of peace.

I encourage all students and educators to reflect on the powerful role education has in our world; realize that each one of you is part of a strong wave of change that sweeps further and wider than you can ever imagine. By the very fact that you seek to know, to understand, to teach, and to learn, you are hope, defense, freedom, transformation, and peace. You are the change in the world that we all hope to see.


(The top photo was taken on a 2009 trip across the country to attend my son’s wedding in Ottawa. We were in south western Minnesota and had to stop and take photos of this old, abandoned school house. The whole building was full of pigeons. The bottom photo was taken at the Fort William historical site in Thunder Bay, Ontario.)