Do you believe that school and education are the same things? Our society has been well-trained to equate school with education. In this article and podcast episode, we’re defining school and education.
It’s important that we distinguish the differences between school and education, as one need not go to school to be well-educated.
When you recognize how society has intertwined the definitions of education and school, then you’ll begin to see how this impacts how we educate, raise, and homeschool our children.
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For many, the word definition brings back memories of school days, sitting at your desk, writing the same spelling word over and over again, and then copying the meaning of the word onto a sheet of paper during a vocabulary lesson.
No worries though, we won’t ask you to recite any definitions in front of the class. This is simply thought-provoking and has the potential to have a significant impact on how you approach homeschooling your children.
Definitions for Educate, Education, & School
Let’s begin by defining the words educate, education, and school. While we intuitively know what these words mean, seeing the definitions as they are used today is eye-opening.
After we examine the current definitions, we’ll also look at the etymology of each word. Examining and observing how the history of the words educate, education, and school have changed over time is fascinating.
Understanding where the words educate, education, and school originated is enlightening. Of course, we’ll share some insight about the definitions, but ultimately, it’s up to you to consider how the definitions and history of each word impact your beliefs about education today.
Defining Educate – A Full Definition
Let’s begin by looking at how the word educate is defined today. We’ll examine a few versions of the definition.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary version.
- a) to provide schooling for; b) to train by formal instruction and supervised practice, especially in a skill, trade, or profession.
- a)to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically, especially by instruction; b) to provide with information.
- to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way.
Do you agree with this definition of educate? How does it make you feel when you view your own education in this light? Do you believe that this is what it means to educate someone or to be educated?
If your child is to be educated and this means that someone is ‘to persuade’ your child to ‘feel, believe, or act, in a desired way,’ then who should be doing this with your child?
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Definition of Educate – A Simple Definition
A simplified definition from Merriam Webster Learner’s Dictionary.
- a) to teach (someone) especially in a school, college, or university; b) to give (someone) information about something : to train (someone) to do something.
Do you notice how the definition of educate implies that it mostly happens in a school and that it is more about the giving, teaching, or training of another?
Do you notice how the word learn is not used?
Some might say that because one has taught that another has learned; but that is not necessarily true.
Have you ever been taught a lesson that you have not learned?
In order to learn, one must be ready to learn and want, need, or be motivated to learn the lesson.
Video: Our Definition of Education is Wrong
Note: Educate vs Education
As you’ll notice in the definition below, the word education uses the word learning in it’s definition. On the other hand, the word educate is more about studying and methods used in schools. This is the primary reason we included the study of both words: educate and education.
Defining Education – A Full Definition
Merriam-Webster Dictionary version.
- a) the action or process of educating or of being educated; b) the knowledge and development resulting from the process of being educated
- the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools.
Unlike the definition of the word educate, the word learning is used in the definition of education, but it’s mostly about studying the methods used in schools.
Education Defined – A Simple Definition
A simplified definition from Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.
- a) the action or process of teaching someone especially in a school, college, or university; b) the knowledge, skill, and understanding that you get from attending a school, college, or university.
It’s notable that the definition of education includes where it takes place: education happens mostly in schools.
Video: A Brief History of American Education
Please note, this video was published in 2013. It is a quick representation of the history of American Education.
Review of the Definitions for Educate & Education
Before reading further, consider reading those definitions again. What do you notice?
As defined previously, the word educate has less to do with learning or the person(s) being instructed and more to do with training and persuasion from the person [or organization] who is doing the educating.
Also, the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary notates where someone ought to be taught: “to teach especially in a school, college, or university.”
While the words learn, knowledge, and understanding were not used in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary when referencing the word educate, these words were used when defining the word education. However, when examined closely, the definition of education has very little to do with one’s own ability to learn.
According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, the word education has more to do with being trained by someone else ‘to feel, believe, or act in a certain way.’
Again, the definition also answers the question: “Where does education happen?”
According to the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary, education happens ‘especially in a school, college, or university.’
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What the Definitions of Educate & Education Mean
If, as a society, we are leaving education to happen mostly at schools, then according to the same definition, we are leaving a [compulsory] public education school system to develop our children mentally, morally, and aesthetically.
What do you think of this?
While we intuitively understand the word school, it’s important to examine the definition. Once again, We’ve italicized noteworthy words.
Definition of School – A Full Definition
Merriam-Webster Dictionary version.
- an organization that provides instruction:
- such as an institution for the teaching of children.
- College, University.
- a) a group of scholars and teachers pursuing knowledge together with similar groups; b) one of the four faculties of a medieval university; c) an institution for specialized higher education often associated with a university; d) an establishment offering specialized instruction.
- a) the process of teaching or learning especially at a school; b) attendance at a school; c) a session of a school.
- a school building.
- the students attending a school; also its teachers and students.
- a source of knowledge.
- a group of persons who hold a common doctrine or follow the same teacher; also the doctrine or practice of such a group.
- the regulations governing military drill of individuals or units.
In this context, the word school can also be used as a verb:
- to teach or drill in a specific knowledge or skill.
- discipline or habituate to something.
- to educate in an institution of learning.
Summarize Your Thoughts About School and Education
Before moving on to the simplified definition of school, consider what you’ve just read.
Combine your own thoughts about the definition of school with your thoughts about the definitions of educate and education.
The Meaning of School – A Simplified Definition
A simplified definition from Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.
- a) a place where children go to learn; b) a college or university; c) a division within a university or college for study and research in a particular area of knowledge ; d) a place where people go to learn a particular skill
- the activity or process of learning or teaching in a school; b) the period of time during which students are in school
- the student or students and teachers of a school
- a group of people who share the same opinions, beliefs, or methods
As a verb, the Learner’s Dictionary describes school as:
- teach or train (someone or something) to do something.
What do you think of the definition for school? Does it align with your experiences?
Summary of the Definition for School
Let’s summarize the definition of school as defined by Merriam-Webster and as it relates to children today. To be clear, this is HomeSchool ThinkTank’s summary, not Merriam-Webster’s definition.
School (summarized): an institution for the teaching of children that takes places in a building where one ought to be educated following a common doctrine.
One should follow the teacher and be drilled on the knowledge and skill so that they might become disciplined and habituate to becoming educated in a [compulsory] institution of learning.
This is done so that they are part of a group of people who share the same opinions, beliefs, or methods and regard the school as a source of knowledge.HomeSchool ThinkTank’s summary of Merriam Webster’s definition of school.
Please, read this again. What do you think of this summary? How do you feel when you read it?
Summary of the Definition for Education
When we summarized Merriam-Webster’s definition of education, here is how it came together.
Education (summarized): to receive formal instruction, schooling, or training (especially in a school) as to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically with information intended to persuade or condition one to feel, believe, or act in a desired way.HomeSchool ThinkTank’s summary of Merriam Webster’s definition of education.
What Do You Think?
When you comprehend all of this information, what are your thoughts?
What are your feelings about school when you read this?
Have you taken note of the feelings you have when reading about the definition of education?
The History of the Words Educate and School
Everything we’ve discussed so far has been about the current definitions of education and school. However, when we study the origins of the words education and school, you’ll begin to see how their meanings have changed over time. Let’s take a look at the etymology of the words school and education.
If you don’t know what etymology is, you’re not alone. Many people are unfamiliar with this word. Summarized, etymology is the study of the origins and history of a word.
Here is the full definition of the word etymology as described in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
“The history of a linguistic form (such as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral languageMerriam-Webster
The Online Etymology Dictionary is a great resource to learn about the origins and history of a word. It can be fascinating to learn how words have evolved over time. Take some time to peruse it. If you have a child who loves words and history, be sure to share this excellent resource.
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Etymology of School
The definition of school that the Online Etymology Dictionary shares is enlightening. The Greek definition is especially interesting.
- The Old English word scol derived from the Latin word schola which could be construed as an:
- intermission of work
- leisure for learning
- learned conversation
- meeting place for teachers and students
- place of instruction
- disciples of a teacher
- body of followers
The Greek word skhole referred to
- spare time
- that in which leisure is employed
- learned discussion
- also a place for lectures, school
- originally a holding back, a keeping clear
Clearly, the intention of school was once very different than it is today.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “the original notion [of school] is ‘leisure’ which passed to ‘otiose discussion’ then ‘place for such discussion.'” The Latin word was widely borrowed by other cultures.
Trivia: How the Word School Has Been Used In History
Use these “answers” to create your own trivia questions.
- In the 1300s the word school started meaning “attending a school” in English.
- By the 1590s, the word school started referring to a “school building.”
- In the 1590s the term “school days” started being used.
- By the 1690s the word school began referring to “people united by a general similarity of principles and methods”
- In 1864 the phrase “School of thought” started being used.
- The term “School board” started being used in 1870.
- The phrase “School of hard knocks” started being used in 1912.
- In 1908 the term “school bus” was coined.
- Ivan Illich coined the word “deschooling” in 1970.
- In 1980, the term “homeschool” began being used.
Etymology of Educate
We’re going to keep this very simple, but you can visit the Online Etymology Dictionary to learn more about the word educate. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the mid-15th century word educaten meant to “bring up (children), to train” and was derived from the Latin word educatus which meant to “bring up, rear, educate.”
“The word educare is related to educere which means to “bring out, lead forth.”
The word educere refers to the bodily nurture or support of a child, while educare refers more frequently to the mind.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary (as referenced in the Century Dictionary, copyright 1889), there isn’t any proof that the word education means to ‘draw out or unfold the powers of the mind.’
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary: the origin and history of the word education is as follows.
- In the 14th century, the word education came directly from the Latin word educationem and meant a rearing, training (from the word educare).
- By the 1530s education meant “child-rearing” and was also a word used for “the training of animals.”
- In the 1610s, education referred to the instruction in social codes and manners as it applied systematic schooling and training for work.
The meaning of the word educate once meant to “bring up, rear, and train” children.
Doesn’t this sound like parenting?
Comparisons of Past & Present Meanings of School and Education
Let’s compare the past definitions of school and education with the current definitions of school and education. The meanings of the words have certainly changed over the centuries. In addition, the once distinct words – school, educate, & education – have become muddled.
In summary, the meaning of the word educate once meant to “bring up, rear, and train” children. You might notice that the word school is not found in the original meaning of educate.
Eventually, though, the words educate and education began including the word school.
Education began referring to a “school system” that was used as a “training for work.” Over time, it has become largely assumed that this training and mental, moral, and aesthetic development would be held in a formal manner at a school building.
The word school once held a meaning of leisure and became a place to have ‘otiose discussions.’ School was ‘leisure for learning.’ School was an intermission of work.
Review of the Current Definitions of School and Education
Let’s review the current definitions of education and school as we’ve summarized them. While we used the Merriam -Webster Dictionary to study the definitions, this summary is HomeSchool ThinkTank’s definition based on that study. It is not Merriam-Webster’s definition.
Education Definition Summarized
Education (summarized): to receive formal instruction, schooling, or training (especially in a school) as to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically with information intended to persuade or condition one to feel, believe, or act in a desired way.
School Definition Summarized
School (summarized): an institution for the teaching of children that takes places in a building where one ought to be educated following a common doctrine. One should follow the teacher and be drilled on the knowledge and skill so that they might become disciplined and habituate to becoming educated in a [compulsory] institution of learning so that they are part of a group of people who share the same opinions, beliefs, or methods and regard the school as a source of knowledge.
Are School & Education Different?
For many families, the words school and education have become nearly synonymous. However, for true homeschool families, the words education and school can have very different connotations.
At HomeSchool ThinkTank, we believe that school and education are quite different. We don’t believe that a child needs to go to school or be schooled to be well educated. In fact, a child or any person can educate themselves or be educated in a variety of ways.
Read this article to consider how your beliefs about school and education impact how you educate and raise your children.
How do YOU Define School & Education?
Now it’s your turn to decide what school and education mean to you.
Ask yourself the following questions.
- What is education?
- Why do we educate our kids?
- Where does education take place?
- When should education happen?
- Who tells us how to be educated?
- How should you educate your kids?
- Who tells us how we should educate our children?
After you have a moment to think, try the following exercise.
Replace the word educate with the word school.
Then repeat the exercise with the word learn.
As you complete this exercise, don’t worry about poor grammar. Just think about the meaning of each sentence.
In another article about learning, we discuss the results and purpose of this exercise more.
Meaning of Schooled
When a person is well-schooled, they have learned how to follow orders, fit in with the group, wait to do as they are told, and learn what they are told to learn. In essence, a person comes to value and believe what they were taught in school.
At HomeSchool ThinkTank, we believe that much of childhood is about learning, but it’s not about learning to become a well-schooled student.
Education, School, and Learning
While we don’t believe that education is about school, we do believe that a child’s education is about learning and following their curiosity.
Explore how children learn best with this article, podcast episode, and video about learning.