BLOG POST #1: Education and Learning


I was prompted by my interest in social innovation to assess the words ‘Education’ and ‘Learning’. More specifically, I was seeking a conclusion whereby there is a decoupling of the two ideas. The delineating differences between ‘Education’ and ‘Learning” is underreported, and as a result unbeknown to education innovators. From consulting the OED for a standard definition I collected that learning is “a process which leads to the modification of behavior or the acquisition of new abilities or responses, and which is additional to natural development by growth or maturation”, while education is “The process of bringing up a child, with reference to forming character, shaping manners and behavior, etc.; the manner in which a person has been brought up”. These two words offer almost similar definitions that may be used interchangeably. For instance, the first accounted definition of the word education in 1527 posits that good education is as well in nurture as good learning. There is misrepresentation of these two ideas but Ngram does not truly show that difference. Education on the one hand is the institutional matrix that articulates our expression and personal creativity to teach each other and hold each other accountable for the knowledge expressed, learning is about the desire to be educated.

The education system into which we thrust young people generally expels their individual capacities with standardize teaching methods and standardized testing. Not only that, the mainstream practices of many urban schools is to subject delinquent children to detention or deal them a punishment for not adhering to the status quo. Overtime this has created a conundrum whereby the education system is failing children by not tailoring resources to their individual needs for learning. In E. R. Hilgard’s Theories of Learning xii (1948), he expressed that with reasonable confidence there are changes in the nervous system accompanying learning. This definition of learning highlights the subjectivity of learning.

One interesting thing that struck me about the two definitions is that in reality, the institution of education is a defeating mechanism that suppresses the “process by which children and people will modify their behaviors”. If you look at the graph you can see that the word ‘education is prioritized in literature or emphasized by Google, while the emphasis on the word learning may show that it is not a thriving either. This can invoke many conclusions, many of which may be unsatisfying, like the de-emphasis on learning may mean that: we are stigmatizing and demonizing children for their academic shortcomings by placing our investment in education rather than their personal learning habits. If education has become a substitute for learning, which may not be true, then the graph makes sense.

The Google Ngram expresses the role literature has in emphasizing the word education over the word learning. The graph shows an intersect of the two words in the 1830s which does not really tell me much about the reality of the representations of the idea learning and education. Historically however the rise of the word “learning” can be attributed to the era of progressivism in late 1890s, when the first social reforms were mobilized to edify society. Also as the faculty of psychology expanded through the 1900s the word ‘learning’ became a thing again. The Ngram does little to show any kind of correlation between the two words, and before the definitions from OED offer minimal historical accounts on the two words, it is near impossible to draw conclusions without surmising. The Ngram becomes an arbitrary word tool that doesn’t allow an effective frame for referencing the understanding of words if you have to guess why words are based on the frequency its used.

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