The purpose of education

My friend said that he prefers to stay in Singapore than Malaysia because education is better in Singapore. But that said, he further went to on to say that the education system here isn't that great. He's not the only person who thinks so.

What's the purpose of education? Is it to acquire knowledge?

Education and the availability of information from educators, books and the Internet has given us an advantage over those in 3rd world countries. But one unfortunate result is the emergence of what I call "knowledge superiority". When was the last time you heard someone say "put yourself in her/his shoes"? Nobody really cares to do that anymore. Most people want to talk but don't want to listen. All they want is for other people to see things from their perspective - because they think they have superior knowledge and experience.

But education is not solely about acquiring knowledge. It is about knowing that limits of human knowledge, it is about being aware of what do we not know, to be sceptical, to question and to discover.

Unfortunately, most of us would think that someone who is described as "skeptical" is negative and jaded, a person who is described as "curious" is tiresome busybody, while a child who is "obedient" to his parents is a "good" child, a wife who is "submissive" to her husband is a "good" wife, and a religious follower who believes everything that the preacher says is a "good" follower. A person who doubts and questions is bad; a person who obeys and believes without asking questions is good. Imagine if I believed my mother when she told me babies come out from the armpit! (No kidding, that's what she said!)

New discoveries are made not when people accept theories but when they doubt them and go on to find evidence to prove them wrong. Thanks to doubt, we know that the world is round, not flat.

In school, we are graded according to how many questions we can answer. Show me an exam that grades you on how many questions you can ask! Teachers get irritated with students who have more questions than answers. This gets carried on into the work environment where managers want employees to bring them the solutions not the problems/questions. People don't like to be asked questions. [See, Don't ask why] And when people can't answer a question, they are taught in school that bullshitting pays off [see, Bullshitting 101] If we can't doubt and question or admit that there are things we don't know, how can we even begin to learn?

From my perspective, our inability to accept doubt and questions as part of learning is evidence that education has not fulfilled its purpose.

However, education has been re-defined and re-packaged by governments, religious groups and organisations. The purpose of education now is to teach people how to conform and obey the laws. This gives governments and religious leaders the ability to control people. Law and order. They are good for society, aren't they?

It is interesting that John Steinbeck made this observation 50 years ago. He wrote in his book East of Eden:

"Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, art, in poetry, mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

"And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced directions, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged, It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.

"And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost. "

50 years later, governments and religious leaders - with the help of scientists, supporters, economists, educators and the media - are still using the same method to maintain control over people. I now question the truth behind every news article I read, every claim that is made, everything that people say about how great married life or having children is, every statistic in economic reports and every scientific finding or discovery. Call me skeptical with all its negative connotations; it sure beats being gullible.

Related post: [Paper qualifications are just paper qualifications]


Anonymous said...

Pretty simple N yet much to explore...thanks for sharing...with this article, i will become a regular reader from now on...


David said...


Curiosity and skepticism are, at least where I am concerned, valuable and desired traits.

Education starts when we are very young, socialition, langauge, and manners are taugth to us by our parents.

Shcools provide formal education, math, science, history and language help the growing child learn about the bigger world.

As one grows in knowledge the role of society can temper and modify how one uses knowledge.

Experience often teaches us that we do not know enough.

I could speak on this to the point of putting all your readers into a sound sleep.

Being one of the older followers of your site I started to realize sometime when I was between 40 & 50 that I the more knowledge I gained, revealed that to me more areas where I needed additional knowledge to understand a subject or topic.

Work has demanded that I keep up with specific standards, learn new software apps and more.

You know that I am a Religous man.
Consider that our little planet is located in the goldilocks zone of this very average solar system. We are located in a distant and quiet arm of our galaxy, far from the turbulent area at galaxy center, or areas of active star formation.
The Moon keeps the Earth's axis from changing rapidly and destablizing our climate.

Science describes the first moments of creation as the Big Bang, yet are at a loss to explain why the Big Bang happened. How did life arise on Earth?

I do believe there is a Divine spark the makes human's unique.

Creativity, love, freedom are not explained by science. Science can only describe some of the complex neuro-chemical reactions that interact with emotions and knowledge.

Trust in creativity, love and freedom, that requires faith!

Atheist need even more faith than I could imagine, for they need an explanation for everything.

Being more curious at this point in life, I truly believe that humankind will never know everything.

the journey in the honest quest for knowledge however is the greatest of goals and adventures!


If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world
can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made
for another world.

-- C. S. Lewis

Anonymous said...

"I now question the truth behind every news article I read, every claim that is made, everything that people say about how great married life or having children is, every statistic in economic reports and every scientific finding or discovery. Call me skeptical with all its negative connotations; it sure beats being gullible."

Are you serious Yu-Kym?

I know and agree that it sure beats being gullible but are you going overboard with your skepticism? lol

I am not so sure this is how one should live life, questioning everything? lol

I am certainly curious and I ask whys too. But I sure am not curious and asking whys about everything! I will go bonkers if I do that!

"Relak" a little lah Yu-Kym! lol

curious cat

David said...


You should be happy the Yu-Kym is a thinking skeptic!

YK is correct in stating that statictic and other finding can be manipulated.

Read my first comment in "Why the rich don't hang out with the poor".

I have read and researched both sides of climate change and no longer suffer those foolish enough to follow the Main Stream Medias (MSM) almost panic stricken reporting what type of weather the world will have 25, 50 or 100 years from now.

Weather forecasters can rarley tell accurately what kind of weather a specific area will have 7 or 14 days from now, and then people believe forecast for years later will be accurate! ! !

If I were not a work, I would seek out a strong adult beverage.


Beware of the person of one book.

Thomas Aquinas

Anonymous said...

Bravo YK. You have just discovered the truth in Sillypore where there is NO FREE PRIVATE media of any type, be it newspaper, TV, radio etc and satellite TV is illegal. You will be fined heavily if you receive foreign TV programs via satellite.

So all we get are rubbish fed by the looonny gartment so that we will be meekly obedient to million $$$ ministers!

Anonymous said...

Ok David, I am happy. lol

curious cat

Anonymous said...

So touching. This funny fella is so concern we are not free and we will be out of pocket with heavy fines. He worries for us endlessly. ICA, pls allow our poor exiled "silly son" to return home lah. No other country wants him. Even his new found home wants him out. At least he can find work as a stand-up comedian. The worst harm he can do is to upstage Kumar. lol

silli cat

CharlieTT said...

Silli cat

I share the same sentiment as you - "silly son" is pathetic and needs our sympathy. He dislikes the government becoz he does not like a roof over his head. He does not like to live in a safe and secure country. Likewise, he does not like his love ones to live here, safe and secure. He likes to bribe the authority which he can't do it here. Or shall I say he loves corrupted government. Guess we have to understand him and view things from his point of view. Yah lor ICA should let him come back LOL....

Anonymous said...


I'm sure we too share the sentiments that our "Sillipore" government aint perfect and can be sometimes arrogrant and deserves constructive criticisms. But we also recognise its excellent work and there is far more to be done to improve the less well off in our society.

But yes, this fella who ridicules our country of birth as "sillipore" and us as "silliporeans" in a most cowardly manner from the rathole he now hides in another appears very comic indeed and deserves our sympathy instead. lol

No woman wants him, no prison wants him, his family disowned him, his employers sacked him, ppl around him shunned him, no country wants is it fair that this Sillipore of ours turn our backs on him? He is our son after all? Albeit a very ""silli"" son!

So let's pity him instead and welcome him back as a comedian, entertain us and pay his dues back to society. lol

ICA, show him the proper point of entry pls. No, I dont mean his arse! lol

silli cat

Anonymous said...

silli silliporeans

Anonymous said...

hahaha....why only two words? How are u going to be a silli comic with just these pathetic words? ICA expects more from you to be allowed back in from exile and gainfully employed.

Did CharlieTT, Leo and silli Cat cut your silli tongue? Come on, entertain us with you silli-ness. lol

silli cat

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hey silli comic! I wonder why u cannot engage in some clever banter, cut and thrusts like other contributors instead of resorting to your usual silli remarks!

ICA is not the only authority interested in you. It would be interesting too for the IMH to examine your mental capacity and circuitry! lol You would be a good case study specimen. Perhaps our leaders that you so ridicule as silli conmen, leeches or watever your sick mind can fabricate would be able to understand you better after your stay in IMH and pray God so dont inadvertently create another the likes of you. lol

silli cat