by E. Christian Kopff
Before I started writing this essay, I went to University of Colorado library and took out one of the best books in English on education, Albert Jay Nock’s Theory of Education in the United States (1932). It is significant for our topic that, while Nock‘s irritable tirade, Our Enemy, the State, is easily available in three separate editions and is featured in most Libertarian book catalogues that come my way, Nock’s masterpiece, delivered as the Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia in 1931, is difficult to find and almost unknown, although in the 1950s it won the praise of a young man named William F. Buckley, Jr.
Nock makes the central distinction without which discussion of our topic is futile, the distinction between education and training. Education is the study and mastery of a body of knowledge which is formative in character. Training involves learning information which is instrumental or banausic and which serves to solve some immediate problem or accomplish some specific goal. Both training and education are important for a society. Anyone, however, can be trained to do something. (Naturally the complexity and difficulty of the jobs will vary from being a short order cook to being a brain surgeon.) Fewer can profit from education. The goal of education is to produce thoughtful people capable of judging matters of general importance in a disinterested manner, with maturity, with a wealth of general knowledge, and with the courage of the commitment (a condition which is both intellectual and moral) to face facts. A society without trained workers will not get its work done. A society without educated citizens will collapse in times of crisis and will wither away in times of ease and prosperity. [Read more...]