The purpose of education

What is the purpose of our education?


  • Students are not engaging in the true gifts of a liberal arts education.
  • Students are learning for other purposes such as for the sake of preparing for future careers, getting a good grade, professionalism, etc.
  • If we take the “purpose” of college to be some sort of “personal fulfillment,” then the question of “what is the purpose of education” is very trivial and becomes some sort of search for a “feeling.” But, we can explore a non-personal version of “meaning” that explains the ethics of our actions (such as moral or rational norms). For example, we can explore a utilitarian approach based off deontological (moral rules) reasons for action that maximize our benefit from education (ie., if these purposes that students have give the greatest benefit, then those purposes are the “moral rules” that students “should” adhere to.) This way, we would fulfill the purpose of an education in the most effective way possible.


  • Lack of humanism, curiosity, aesthetics, ethics, empathy, other values in education/workforce
  • Training students for future careers doesn’t seem possible nor effective (at least, prima facie)
  • Formation of distinct academic cultures and we become hostile to new ideas/thoughts
  • Classrooms are stripped of values and reduced to places of “handing out a grade”
  • Increased burnout, loss of purpose in future lives
  • Humanities will perish (okay, maybe that’s a bit exaggerated)
    • As a consequence of harm to the humanities, we lose the benefits of the humanities
  • Some would say there have been negative mental health effects
  • Academia/University becomes a “business” (ie., one might argue that, if we were volunteering for the sake of a reward, then the volunteering might become some sort of “employment.”)

How do we approach this issue?


Basic value:
  • What is well-roundedness?
  • What is the purpose of volunteering?
  • What are your intentions or motives when you volunteer?
  • What is professionalism?
  • How does what you do prepare you for the future?
  • What skills do you obtain from your education/experience?
  • What is important to you?
  • Why are those things important to you?
  • How are you going to achieve it?
  • Why is it that you can do that?
  • What type of experience do you want to gain from your classes?
  • What type of introspection can you do?
  • What larger meaning is there? How do the things that you learn fit into a bigger picture?
  • What is the purpose of your education?



  • Terry Eagleton “The Slow Death of the University”
  • Pablo Freire “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
  • Abraham Flexner “Flexner Report” (for Medical education)
  • Arthur W. Foshay “The Curriculum Matrix: Transcendence and Mathematics”
  • William Deresiewicz “Excellent Sheep”
  • Jackson Lears “Liberal Arts vs. Neoliberalism”
  • Suzanne Mettler “Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream””


  • Terry Eagleton “The Illusions of Postmodernism”
  • Wendy Brown “Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution”
  • Lorin W. Anderson, Lauren A. Sosniak “Bloom’s Taxonomy: A Forty+ Year Retrospective”


  • Clive Bell “Art”
  • Tolstoy “What is Art”
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