The Distinction Between School & Education Revisited

To educate

The distinction between school and education, though understated, should be clear and is relatively well-documented; it warrants some discussion all the same.

Education is the objective; it is the journey, while school is simply a route — but not the only route. The two go hand in hand; at the same time, they need not go hand in hand. Education happens everyday outside of school buildings. In fact, I posit the best type of learning occurs outside of the classroom.

If any of you have ever had the pleasure of taking your classroom talents overseas to study in a foreign country, you should know what I am talking about.

I spent my spring semester of 2014 in Madrid, Spain, and I quickly learned how vital an experience like that was towards both physical and cognitive growth. (Interestingly, I never wanted to go abroad, but circumstances far from my control that fall prompted me to book a first class flight out as soon as possible. And I’m very thankful for the decision).

My time in Spain was spent just taking everything in stride, staying wide-eyed and open to everything. All of my classes were in Spanish, so I had plenty of opportunity to improve. But in rank of significance, there aren’t words to explain just how unimportant class was. This is not to say that I didn’t attend my classes or do my work; but class was simply never going to be of paramount importance. And how could it? There was really nothing I was going to gain in Spanish classrooms that I couldn’t get from generally resource-rich American classrooms. At least nothing like the genuine conversations I would have with Spanish students and regular civilians on the street.

Classrooms have been stifling creativity for long time now, promoting standard lesson plans and teaching methods over innovative ones, ultimately encouraging conformism, and churning out students who are carbon copies of the ones who preceded them. There are exceptions here and there, but the exceptions are few and far between.

For a lot of people, there are few occasions where genuine learning is even possible in a classroom. This is why I so vigorously encourage travel. Even if it’s as simple as taking a drive to a part of your city or town that you’ve never seen, that experience can be invaluable towards your growth.

Go see something new. Go do something new.

Perhaps you don’t have the opportunity to travel. Understandable. Still, treat each passing day with the same energy you would in a new place. Approach each passing day with the wide-eyed amazement of a kid excited to see what the world has to offer. Treat each day as an opportunity to learn something that’ll make you better. And if you find yourself in a classroom feeling stuck, unmotivated, and uninterested, do yourself a favor and don’t waste time. Change your perspective, and try to get something out of it. With that said, remember:

Don’t let school interfere with your education


The Distinction Between School & Education Revisited

2 thoughts on “The Distinction Between School & Education Revisited

  1. I realize you write from your life experience and like you, I believe that school, as an institution with a physical location, is merely a tool, a means, a facilitator for learning. 

    Like you said, education takes place everywhere all the time. School is the setting in which you find yourself at any given moment and at all times. The autodidact does not require brick and mortar to become learned in the ways of life, literature, lanthanides, or love. The internet makes it possible for you to travel, educate yourself, radicalize yourself, or even learn a trade without ever paying a penny or stepping out of your home.

    But we sometimes don’t know what will inspire us. We sometimes have no direction or understanding of who we are, where we are, where we have come from, and where we want to go. 

    As I read your essay, I get it, you think the school of life is more valuable than the brick and mortar that sent you to those Spanish streets. But again, if not for that institution and their support of you, you don’t get that experience in Spain, you don’t get to be the Ibrahim you are, I don’t ever get to meet you, and I never get to argue with you about your blog post. To minimize the significance of the classroom that launched your ambitions is to trivialize the process of your education.

    From personal experience, nothing was more life changing than Isabella Allende’s “Cuentos de Eva Luna.” A unknown world was introduced by a passionate Peruvian mestizo who said, “read this and tell me your thoughts.” That would never have been possible without that physical place, that grim, gray, and musty hall in a 150 year old building, and that woman’s life experiences taking her to be a professor thousands of miles away from the place of her birth teaching the works of the daughter of a fallen South American leader. To minimize or trivialize that place and experience is to deny a part of one’s self. 

    I conclude with Woody Allen:

    “We’re all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices…”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for responding, and you’re right in saying were it not for my institution, Spain probably doesn’t happen, lest I take anything away from my school or schools that have given other people similar opportunity. My intention was to bring to light to an ever-increasing divide between school as a location (and almost an occupation) and learning and education as an objective. They are no longer the same, if they ever have been; I can’t say. Somewhere along the line school became an absolute requirement for reasons other than this main objective. I simply seek to ask, why can’t one be a learned, successful individual without this, in some instances ineffective and, in most instances, cost-prohibitive endeavor? Why can’t one go to Spain without it?


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