We think "education" means school

It doesn't. School is hardly eduction.

Education is derived from two Latin roots.

  • Educare, which means to train or to mould.
  • Educere, which means to draw out or to lead out.



Educare, Educere, Explorare | Alliance for Self-Directed Education


The two meanings contained in education provide an etymological foundation for debates about conventional and progressive pedagogies.

  • Educare implies that the educator acts upon the learner to shape them into a form determined by the educator. Familiar tools are lectures, worksheets, pneumonic devices, and standardised assessments.
  • Educere implies a process of drawing out, development, awakening. The tools used include Socratic dialogue, deep reading, the arts, any course of action that encourage critical thinking, sharpens the senses, and expands mental space.


Educare and educere have their role in human society, yet neither is sufficient for achieving the learner's holistic development. Educare by itself may stifle individual genius and agency, while educere - to draw them out - needs an entirely different approach that demands "student choice."

The problem with both is that education is ultimately passive. Philosophies of education built on either processes start with the educator rather than the learner.


"You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink"

Ultimately, any learner must desire to swallow whatever lesson is being taught. Teachers can offer classes, but they are entirely unable to make students learn, especially not deeply.

The history of pedagogy is primarily about developing techniques to overcome this barrier rather than focusing on character development, which provides a shift in perspective to overcome the obstacle.


The instructional fallacy is the assumption that if instruction is provided, then children will learn. However, the student does not learn. Even if they can master some concepts and skills temporarily, they usually don't remember them for long because they lack curiosity or continued study that depends on the knowledge.

It's not that instruction is defective, its that it is insufficient.

  • Learners must actively engage in order to learn.
  • They should have a genuine curiosity for the material.
  • They should take ownership of the process.


How to avoid the instructional fallacy

One possibility is to shift from education to exploration. Explore (explorare in Latin) means to investigate, search out, examine, explore.

Exploring will result in learning. Students may learn "the basics" in the course of their explorations, such as arithmetic while baking or reading while gaming. Learning will take place when the whole person is engaged and interested.


This point is fixed: people have free will. Any honest philosophy of education must take as a goal to develop people capable of acting deliberately to create their own lives.

Ultimately it is up to the individual to engage and choose what attitude to adopt. Explorare aligns more with this goal while educare or educere cannot. If we are moulded and lead by education, we likely will forget that it is our responsibility to live deliberately.


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