First published in educational Horizons Summer 1991

Education and Schooling

©2000 Gary K. Clabaugh


edited 9/2/11

Education and schooling are NOT synonomous. Any deliberate and prolonged attempt to teach someone something counts as education. Schooling, on the other hand, is an institutionalized form of education requiring a special place and specialized people for its accomplishment. This is NOT linguistic hair splitting. The distinction is fundamental if we want to make real sense of the relationship between the family and schooling.

Some cultures pay particular attention to this distinction. In Spanish culture, for example, proper education in the home is what makes you "educado," or well brought up. One goes to school to become "erudito," or academically trained. We do not recognize this same degree of distinction in English. Nevertheless, most of a child's education still takes place outside of school. Moreover, one of the most fundamental problems teachers face is that too many of their so-called students are simply not well brought up.

It may not be quite the same thing as making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but it is still awfully tough to train a child in academics when he or she is poorly brought up. In fact it is even tough to train the children around such a child because they tend to be disruptive and inconsiderate.

One suspects that the critics are righter than they deserve to be when they demand "educational" reform. They intend that schooling should be the recipient of their tender mercies. But their imprecise use of English reminds us that what is required is not merely school reform but, far more importantly, family or parental reform.

In some circles such an observation is not politically "correct.". The party line is that child rearing practices vary from group to group and no one way of raising children is better than any other. This "nonjudgmental" view of families is fine so long as you don't have to accomplish anything with kids. If you do, it is so much garbage.

One does not have to be a political pundit to figure out why this dimension of "educational" reform is largely ignored. Think of the reaction if the "education President" went on national television and told America's parents that too many of them were doing a lousy job. Envision him stressing that the most critical aspect of "educational" reform" was up to them. Imagine him saying, "Quit expecting teachers to do your job! School reform will accomplish little or nothing unless more of you begin providing your children with a proper example and adequate love, guidance and emotional support!"