A definition can also be programmatic i.e. take on a moral dimension in stating what it should do to benefit society. An example is, “Education should prepare its beneficiaries to be of good behaviour”. Granted that we can have several perspectives to the definition of education, Ira Steinberg on his part painted this utilitarian picture of education: People have aims and purposes. Education is not a person; it is not a thing. However, like a thing it has its uses. The purposes of education are the uses that people would have for education3. He went further to submit that we can give several uses of education at a time but that we cannot give a true meaning of the concept, and we should not seek to give one meaning for it. So he concluded: Education has no more true meaning than it has true purposes. And it has no true purpose.4 Mr. Vice-Chancellor, if philosophical studies were subject to gerontocratic opinion, this lecture would end at this point. It would not make sense to expect man to be concerned with or spend a life time in an assignment without a purpose. The Yorubas of southwest Nigeria say, “enu agba l’obi ti ngbo” (literally, the mouth of the elders decide the maturity of the kolanut). This is to say that the elders have the final say. Philosophy and philosophy of education are exceptions to this rule. What makes philosophical discourse both challenging and enduring is that no scholar can claim to have the answer to any question. We all give possible answers and usually one scholar’s answer provides a springboard for another question. It has been submitted that all philosophies from classical times to date have been only footnotes to Plato. It is 3
Ira S. Steinberg (1968) The Aimlessness of Education in Educational myths and realities, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, p. 3. 4 Ibid p. 18.
Published on Sep 1, 2009