Noam Chomsky – The Purpose of Education



you we can ask ourselves what the purpose of an educational system is and of course there are sharp differences on this matter there's the traditional and interpretation that comes from the Enlightenment which holds that the highest goal in life is to inquire and create to search the riches of the past try to internalize the parts of them that are significant to you carry that quest for understanding further in your own way purpose of Education on from that point of view is just to help people determine how to learn on their own it's you the learner who is going to achieve in the course of education and it's really up to you what you'll what you'll master where you go how you use it how you'll go on to produce something new and exciting for yourself maybe for others that's one concept of Education the other concept is essentially a doctor nation people have to the idea that from childhood young people have to be placed into a framework in which they'll follow orders accept existing frameworks and not challenge and so on and this is often quite explicit so for example after the in the after the activism of the 1960s there was great concern across much of the educated spectrum that young people were just getting to free and independent that the country was becoming too democratic and so on and in fact there's an important study on what's called the crisis of democracy too much democracy arguing that they are claiming that there are certain institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young so they're phrase and they're not doing their job properly that's schools universities churches we have to change them so that they carry out the job of indoctrination control more effectively that's actually coming from the liberal internationalist end of the spectrum of the internet of the spectrum of educated opinion and in fact since that time there have been many measures taken to try to turn the educational system towards more control more indoctrination or vocational training imposing a debt which traps students young people into a life of conformity and so on that's the exact opposite of the what I referred to as the tradition that comes out of the Enlightenment and there's a constant struggle between those in the colleges in the schools in the schools do you do you train for passing tests or do you train for creative inquiry pursuing interests that are aroused by a material that's presented you want to pursue either on your own or cooperation with others and this goes all the way through up to graduate school and research just two different ways of looking at the world when you when you get to a say a research institution like the one we're now in at the graduate level that essentially follows the enlightenment tradition effect science and couldn't regress unless it was based on inculcation of the urge to challenge to question the doctrine question authority search for alternatives use your imagination that freely under your own impulses cooperative work with others as constant as you can see just by walking down the halls that's my view what an educational system should be like down to kindergarten but there's certainly are powerful structures in the society which would prefer people to be indoctrinated and form not ask too many questions be obedient fulfill the roles that are assigned to you and don't try to shake systems of power and authority those are choices we have to make either as people that wherever we stand in the educational system as students as teachers as people on the outside trying to help shape it in the directions in which we think it ought to go you well there certainly has been a very substantial growth and new technology technology of communication and information access interchange it's surely a major change in the nature of the culture and society so we should bear in mind that the technological changes that are taking place now while they're significant probably coming nowhere near having as much impact as technological advances of say century ago plus or minus so the shifts as tech just communication the shift from a typewriter to a computer or a telephone to the email is significant but then begin to compare with the shift from a sailing vessel to a telegraph I mean the time that that cut down in communication between say England and the United States was extraordinary as compared with the changes taking place now and the same is true of other kinds of technology like just introduction of say plumbing widespread plumbing in the cities had a huge effect on health much more than the discovery of antibiotics so the changes are real and significant but we should recognize that others have taken place which in many ways were more dramatic the as far as the technology itself and education is concerned technology is it's basically neutral it's kind of like a hammer I mean you can the hammer doesn't care whether you use it to build a house or whether a torturer uses it to crush somebody skull hammer can do either same with the modern technology say the Internet so on the Internet is extremely valuable if you know what you're looking for I mean I use it all the time for research I'm sure everyone does if you know the kind of what you're looking for you have a kind of a framework of understanding which directs you to particular things it lets you sideline lots of others then this can be a very valuable tool of course you always have to be willing to ask is my framework the right one maybe I ought to modify it maybe if there's something I look at that questions that I should rethink how I'm looking at things but you can't pursue any kind of inquiry without a pretty relatively clear framework that's directing your search and helping you choose what's significant what isn't what can be put as I thought to be pursued what ought to be challenged will be developed and so on you can't expect somebody to become a biologist say by giving them access to the Harvard University biology library and say just look through it give them nothing and the Internet is the same except magnified enormous ly if you don't understand what know what you're looking for if you don't have some kind of a conception of what matters always of course we supervise that you're willing to question it if it seems to be going in the wrong direction if you don't have that exploring the Internet is just picking out random factoids that don't mean anything so behind any significant use of contemporary technology the Internet communication systems with graphics whatever it may be behind unless behind it is some well-constructed directive conceptual apparatus it is very unlikely to be helpful it may turn out to be harmful for example the random exploration through the internet it turns out to be a cult generator pick up a factoid here and a factoid there and somebody else reinforces it and all of a sudden you have some created the picture which has some factual basis but doesn't do with the world you have to know how to evaluate interpret and understand the say biology again they the person who wins the Nobel Prize in biology is not the person who read the most journal articles and the most notes on the person knew what to look for and cultivating that capacity to seek what's significant always willing to question whether you're on the right track that's what education is going to be about whether it's using computers in the internet or pencil and paper and books you well I is discussed in terms of whether it's a worthwhile investment that does a create human capital that can be used for economic growth and so on that's a very strange with that it kind of Airy distorting way to even pose the question I think do we want to have a society of free creative independent individuals able to appreciate and gain from the cultural achievements of the past and to add to them do we want that or do we want people who can no increase GDP not necessarily the same then not the same thing and a an education of the kind that say Bertrand Russell John Dewey and others talked about that's a value in itself whatever whatever impact it has in society it's a value because it helps create better human beings that after all that's what an educational system should be for on the other hand if you want to look at it in terms of costs and benefits make the new technology that we were just talking about where'd that come from well actually a lot of it was developed right we were sitting down below where we now are was a major laboratory back in the 1950s where I was employed in fact which was had lots of scientists engineers people of all kinds of interests philosophers others who were working on developing the basic character of the and even the basic tools of the technology that is now common computers in the internet for example were pretty much in the public sector for decades just funded in places like this where people were exploring new possibilities that were mostly on photo of the heard of it time as some of the work some didn't the ones that worked were finally converted into tools that people can use that's the way scientific progress takes place it's the way the cultural progress takes place general classical artists for example came out of a tradition of craftsmanship that was developed over long periods with master artisans with others and something sometimes you can rise on their shoulders and create new marvelous things but it doesn't come from nowhere if there isn't a lively cultural and educational system which is geared towards encouraging creative exploration independence of thought willingness to challenge to cross frontiers to challenge accepted beliefs and so on if you don't have that you're not going to get the technology that can lead to economic gains though that I don't think is the prime purpose of cultural enrichment and education as part of it you there is in the recent period particularly at increasing shaping of education from the early ages towards on that towards passing examinations that can be taking tests can be of some use both for the person who's taken the test see what I know where I am what I've achieved what I have it for instructors what should be changed and improved and in developing the course of instruction but beyond that then really tell you very much I mean I know for for many many years I was on I've been on admissions committees for Andrea to a advanced graduate program maybe one of the most advanced anywhere and we of course pay some attention to test results but really not too much I mean you can but a person can do magnificently on every test and understand very little I mean all of us who've been through schools and colleges and universities are very familiar with this you can be assigned you can be in sums a course that you have no interest in and there's demand that you pass a test and you can study hard for the test and you can ace it to use the idiom into fine and the three we had a couple of weeks later you forgot what that what the topic was I'm sure we've all had that experience I know I had it's a it can be a useful device if it contributes to the constructive purposes of Education if it's just the set of hurdles you have to cross it can turn out to be now meaningless but it can divert you away from things you want to be doing after I see this regularly when I talk to teachers just give you one experience from a couple of weeks ago was plenty like it I have to be talking to a group which included many school teachers that one of them was a sixth grade teacher teachers kids it's an hour eleven of the twelve something like that she came out to me afterwards and I've been talking about these things and she told me that I'm an experience that she had just had in her class after one of the classes a little girl came up to her and said she was really interested in something that came up and she asked how she could cut the teacher give her some ideas about how to look into it further and the teacher was compelled to tell her I'm sorry but you can't do that you have to study the past this national exam that's coming that's going to determine your future the teacher didn't say it but it's going to determine my future like whether I neveri I heard and so on the system is geared to getting the children to pass hurdles but not to learn and understand and explore that child would have been better off if she had been allowed to explore what she was interested in and maybe not do so well in to test about things he wasn't interested in i'ma go come along when they fit into her interest in concerns and so a test I don't say that test should be eliminated they can be a useful educational tool but ancillary something that's just helping improve for ourselves for instructors and others what we're doing tell us where we ought to be moving but they don't passing tests doesn't begin to compare with it with searching and inquiring and into pursuing topics that engages and excite us that's far more significant than passing tests and in fact if you person if you if that's the kind of educational career that you're given the opportunity to pursue you will remember what you discover which is a famous physicist world famous physicist right here at MIT who like a lot of the senior faculty was teaching freshman courses he once said that in his freshman course didn't Alaska what are we going to cover this semester and his standard answer was it doesn't matter what we cover it matters what you discover and that's right teaching ought to be inspiring students to discover on their own to challenge if they don't agree to look for alternatives if they think they're better ones to work through the great achievements of the past and try to master them on the run because they're interested in if that's the way teaching and is done students will really gain from it and will not remember what they studied but will be able to use it as a basis for going on their own and again education is really aimed at just helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own because that's what you're going to do for their free for your life not just absorb materials that give it to you from the outside and repeat it you

40 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky – The Purpose of Education

  1. Thought experiment: What if there were no schools, from Kindergarten through graduate school? Answer: Industrial forces would have to invent them. But wait a minute, if there were no schools there would be no industry. Education created industry, which in recent decades has resolved to annex its creator in order to feed its greed for ready workers.

  2. Cherish voices like that of Noam Chomsky; a perpetual subpoena against the silent but aggressive expurgation of our freedoms. We continue to be 'farmed', from cradle to grave, by gluttonous capitalists, a tenacious parasitic group who have succeeded in financialising the power of democracy thus rendering governments and the people they are supposed to serve virtually impotent. The problem is not the relevance or reception of the message, it is the apathy and torpidity of the enslaved. Wake up!

  3. The purpose of "Education" for Mr Chomsky was to give him a cushy academic lifestyle with the illusion of having something "meaningful" to say
    ..but not actually change anything…yes… well done Noam…what a great use of your life and energy….you leech !

  4. Current school system is not working. It's too mechanical for one. People are not machines, so why are we so inflexible in insisting in using the same method? I feel we can learn much more effectively if we allow students more time to digest information, ask questions, discuss what's happening in their life, learn about themselves, find their talents. But the problem with this approach is it takes a great deal of intelligence. Most teachers are lazy, robotical,and this is a problem that needs to be addressed.

  5. Chomsky’s brilliance is matched only by the moral integrity he’s shown throughout his long life to the present day.

  6. I always believe in education as the basically of the young generation. In my mind, it’s lead you to learn much more as yours lives should be as you go. Please be in righteousness😀with morality and merciful.

  7. Hi all,
    Below I am posting the UNTOUCHED TRANSCRIPT of the video for the benefit of those who want to take note while listening. Like you guys I am also a fan of Chomsky 🙂 (Part 2/2)

    Cost or investment
    well education is discussed in terms of whether it’s a worthwhile investment that does a create human capital that can be used for economic growth and so on. that’s a very strange with that it kind of a distorting way to even pose the question I think. do we want to have a society of free creative independent individuals able to appreciate and gain from the cultural achievements of the past and to add to them. do we want that, or do we want people who can no increase GDP not necessarily the same then not the same thing and a an education of the kind that say Bertrand Russell John Dewey and others talked about that’s a value in itself whatever whatever impact it has in society it’s a value because it helps create better human beings that after all that’s what an educational system should be for. on the other hand if you want to look at it in terms of costs and benefits make the new technology that we were just talking about where’d that come from well actually a lot of it was developed right we were sitting down below where we now are was a major laboratory back in the 1950s where I was employed. in fact which was had lots of scientists engineers people of all kinds of interests philosophers others who were working on developing the basic character of the and even the basic tools of the technology that is now common computers in the internet for example were pretty much in the public sector for decades just funded in places like this where people were exploring new possibilities that were mostly on photo of the heard of it time as some of the work some didn’t the ones that worked were finally converted into tools that people can use. that’s the way scientific progress takes place it’s the way the cultural progress takes place general. classical artists for example came out of a tradition of craftsmanship that was developed over long periods with master artisans with others and something sometimes you can rise on their shoulders and create new marvelous things but it doesn’t come from nowhere. if there isn’t a lively cultural and educational system which is geared towards encouraging creative exploration independence of thought willingness to challenge to cross frontiers to challenge accepted beliefs and so on if you don’t have that you’re not going to get the technology that can lead to economic gains though that I don’t think is the prime purpose of cultural enrichment and education as part of it

    assessment vs autonomy
    there is in the recent period particularly at increasing shaping of education from the early ages towards on that towards passing examinations that can be taking tests can be of some use both for the person who’s taken the test see what I know where I am what I’ve achieved what I have it for instructors what should be changed and improved and in developing the course of instruction. but beyond that then really tell you very much I mean I know for for many many years I was on I’ve been on admissions committees for Andrea to a advanced graduate program maybe one of the most advanced anywhere and we of course pay some attention to test results but really not too much. I mean you can but a person can do magnificently on every test and understand very little I mean all of us who’ve been through schools and colleges and universities are very familiar with this you can be assigned you can be in sums a course that you have no interest in and there’s demand that you pass a test and you can study hard for the test and you can ace it to use the idiom into fine and the three we had a couple of weeks later you forgot what that what the topic was. I’m sure we’ve all had that experience I know I had it’s a it can be a useful device if it contributes to the constructive purposes of Education. if it’s just the set of hurdles you have to cross it can turn out to be now meaningless but it can divert you away from things you want to be doing. after I see this regularly when I talk to teachers just give you one experience from a couple of weeks ago was plenty like it I have to be talking to a group which included many school teachers that one of them was a sixth grade teacher teachers kids it’s an hour eleven of the twelve something like that she came out to me afterwards and I’ve been talking about these things and she told me that I’m an experience that she had just had in her class after one of the classes a little girl came up to her and said she was really interested in something that came up and she asked how she could cut the teacher give her some ideas about how to look into it further and the teacher was compelled to tell her I’m sorry but you can’t do that you have to study the pass this national exam that’s coming that’s going to determine your future the teacher didn’t say it but it’s going to determine my future like whether I never I heard and so on the system is geared to getting the children to pass hurdles but not to learn and understand and explore that child would have been better off if she had been allowed to explore what she was interested in and maybe not do so well in to test about things he wasn’t interested in. i’ma go come along when they fit into her interest in concerns and so a test I don’t say that test should be eliminated they can be a useful educational tool but ancillary something that’s just helping improve for ourselves for instructors and others what we’re doing tell us where we ought to be moving but they don’t passing tests doesn’t begin to compare with it with searching and inquiring and into pursuing topics that engages and excite us that’s far more significant than passing tests and in fact if you person if you if that’s the kind of educational career that you’re given the opportunity to pursue you will remember what you discover which is a famous physicist world famous physicist right here at MIT who like a lot of the senior faculty was teaching freshman courses he once said that in his freshman course didn’t Alaska what are we going to cover this semester and his standard answer was it doesn’t matter what we cover it matters what you discover and that’s right teaching ought to be inspiring students to discover on their own to challenge if they don’t agree to look for alternatives if they think they’re better ones to work through the great achievements of the past and try to master them on the run because they’re interested in if that’s the way teaching and is done students will really gain from it and will not remember what they studied but will be able to use it as a basis for going on their own and again education is really aimed at just helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own because that’s what you’re going to do for their free for your life not just absorb materials that give it to you from the outside and repeat it.

  8. Hi all,
    Below I am posting the UNTOUCHED TRANSCRIPT of the video for the benefit of those who want to take note while listening. Like you guys I am also a fan of Chomsky 🙂 (Part 1/2)

    Purpose of Education
    we can ask ourselves what the purpose of an educational system is, and of course, there are sharp differences on this matter. there’s the traditional and interpretation that comes from the Enlightenment which holds that the highest goal in life is to inquire and create to search the riches of the past, try to internalize the parts of them that are significant to you. carry that quest for understanding, further in your own way. purpose of Education on from that point of view is just to help people determine how to learn on their own it’s you the learner who is going to achieve in the course of education and it’s really up to you what you’ll what you’ll master where you go how you use it how you’ll go on to produce something new and exciting for yourself maybe for others. that’s one concept of Education the other concept is essentially a doctrination people have to the idea that from childhood young people have to be placed into a framework in which they’ll follow orders accept existing frameworks and not challenge and so on. and this is often quite explicit. so for example after the in the after the activism of the 1960s there was great concern across much of the educated spectrum. that young people were just getting to free and independent that the country was becoming too democratic and so on and in fact there’s an important study on what’s called the crisis of democracy too much democracy. arguing that they are claiming that there are certain institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young. so they’re phrase and they’re not doing their job properly that’s schools universities churches, we have to change them so that they carry out the job of indoctrination control more effectively. that’s actually coming from the liberal internationalist end of the spectrum of educated opinion and in fact since that time there have been many measures taken to try to turn the educational system towards more control more indoctrination or vocational training imposing a debt which traps students young people into a life of conformity and so on. that’s the exact opposite of the what I referred to as the tradition that comes out of the Enlightenment. and there’s a constant struggle between those in the colleges in the schools in the schools do you do you train for passing tests or do you train for creative inquiry pursuing interests that are aroused by a material that’s presented you want to pursue either on your own or cooperation with others and this goes all the way through up to graduate school and research. just two different ways of looking at the world when you when you get to a say a research institution like the one we’re now in at the graduate level that essentially follows the enlightenment tradition effect science and couldn’t regress unless it was based on inculcation of the urge to challenge to question. the doctrine question authority search for alternatives use your imagination that freely under your own impulses cooperative work with others as constant as you can see just by walking down the halls. that’s my view what an educational system should be like down to kindergarten. but there’s certainly are powerful structures in the society which would prefer people to be indoctrinated and form not ask too many questions be obedient fulfill the roles that are assigned to you and don’t try to shake systems of power and authority. those are choices we have to make either as people that wherever we stand in the educational system as students as teachers as people on the outside trying to help shape it in the directions in which we think it ought to go

    Impact of technology
    Well there certainly has been a very substantial growth and new technology, technology of communication and information access interchange it’s surely a major change in the nature of the culture and society. we should bear in mind that the technological changes that are taking place now while they’re significant probably coming nowhere near having as much impact as technological advances of say century ago plus or minus so the shifts as tech just communication the shift from a typewriter to a computer or a telephone to the email is significant but then begin to compare with the shift from a sailing vessel to a telegraph I mean the time that that cut down in communication between say England and the United States was extraordinary as compared with the changes taking place now and the same is true of other kinds of technology like just introduction of say plumbing widespread plumbing in the cities had a huge effect on health much more than the discovery of antibiotics so the changes are real and significant but we should recognize that others have taken place which in many ways were more dramatic the as far as the technology itself and education is concerned technology is it’s basically neutral it’s kind of like a hammer I mean you can the hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to build a house or whether a torturer uses it to crush somebody skull hammer can do either same with the modern technology say the Internet so on the Internet is extremely valuable if you know what you’re looking for I mean I use it all the time for research I’m sure everyone does if you know the kind of what you’re looking for you have a kind of a framework of understanding which directs you to particular things it lets you sideline lots of others then this can be a very valuable tool of course you always have to be willing to ask is my framework the right one maybe I ought to modify it maybe if there’s something I look at that questions that I should rethink how I’m looking at things but you can’t pursue any kind of inquiry without a pretty relatively clear framework that’s directing your search and helping you choose what’s significant what isn’t what can be put as I thought to be pursued what ought to be challenged will be developed and so on you can’t expect somebody to become a biologist say by giving them access to the Harvard University biology library and say just look through it give them nothing and the Internet is the same except magnified enormously. if you don’t understand what know what you’re looking for if you don’t have some kind of a conception of what matters always of course we supervise that you’re willing to question it if it seems to be going in the wrong direction. if you don’t have that, exploring the Internet is just picking out random factoids that don’t mean anything. so behind any significant use of contemporary technology the Internet communication systems with graphics whatever it may be behind unless behind it is some well-constructed directive conceptual apparatus it is very unlikely to be helpful it may turn out to be harmful. for example, the random exploration through the internet it turns out to be a cult generator pick up a factoid here and a factoid there and somebody else reinforces it and all of a sudden you have some created the picture which has some factual basis but doesn’t do with the world you have to know how to evaluate interpret and understand the say biology again they the person who wins the Nobel Prize in biology is not the person who read the most journal articles and the most notes on the person knew what to look for and cultivating that capacity to seek what’s significant always willing to question whether you’re on the right track that’s what education is going to be about whether it’s using computers in the internet or pencil and paper and books

  9. To the point ( boys-girls) itswhat he is sayingthat matters. I have written a book (why you should’t send your child to school) it might shock you if you read it and realise what has been done to you and maybe what you are laying on your children,

  10. Do want people who are going to contribute to the rich cultural achievements or increase the GDP? Appalachian State University: GDP!!!!!!

  11. Chomsky never fails to – speaking of hammers… – hit the nail on the head. Fascinating. I never struggle to pay attention. (Well maybe a bit today with that wanky camera work. Oh I feel I'm being picky – was it just me, or were you annoyed by the camera jumping around? Ok back on topic -) I especially liked/disliked the story about the girl being prevented from expanding her learning beyond the passing a moronic test. Yes, fair to say our teachers have a vested interest in preventing genuine education!

  12. Reason is my framework. The fool doesn't need it. Noam can tell us something against the us-terror but in culture, psychology and education he is really lousy – a left- wing man (extremist as well as right-wing idiots of course).

  13. Chomsky claimed 9/11 was not a conspiracy by the Bush administration when obviously it was. Why Possibly because his alma mater, MIT, produced the inept and fake video of planes penetrating and ludicrously passing through the steel and concrete walls of the twin towers – a physical impossibility. There were no planes, no Osama Bin Laden and no Islamic terrorists. The Israelis set demolition charges weeks earlier to synchronise when detonated with the imaginary aircraft. There was an Israeli TV crew on hand to record the catastrophe even before it happened.
    Chomsky sold out just like the late Christopher Hitchens did over the US invasion of Iraq and 9/11.

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