Some things work, and some things don’t. If you are trying to help a young person, or any person, get a truly great education, you’d better allow him—or, even better, help him—to fall in love with learning.
And you’d better help him learn how to be a superb self-educator. Without these things, great education just won’t occur. These principles are essential to leadership education.
Consider several quotes on this that cut straight to the heart of the matter:
First, Edward Bulwer-Lytton said: “The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.” Note that Bulwer-Lytton is also the person who coined the famous proverb that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”
Second, great Sufi leader and teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan said: “The teacher, however great, can never give his knowledge to the pupils … although … he can kindle the light if the oil is in the lamp …”
Our move away from these principles (that effective teachers must inspire; that love of learning is essential to a great education; that to become leaders and fulfill their innate potential students must become effective and engaged self-learners) during the conveyor-belt era of education has hurt great education and emphasized Follower Training rather than Leadership Education.
This has been bad for our modern nations—on many levels from the obvious economic and political realities to the struggles of relationships and family life. Albert Einstein got it right when he said, “It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry …” If students aren’t inspired to fall deeply in love with learning, the quality of education decreases. Period.
Another vital principle of great education is that everyone has genius inside them. Every parent and teacher must know this truth and approach their role of educator with the understanding that their primary objective is to help each young person discover, develop and polish her own areas of inner genius. This is the prime directive of quality education.
Laura Ann Huber put it this way: “There is no such thing as the ‘average student.’ That is why so many kids do better with one-on-one attention.” In this quote, Huber brings out yet another crucial principle of great leadership education: personalized mentoring.
Here is another from the same author: “One regret I have about my early homeschooling days is that I was so intent on teaching my little kindergarten son phonics and math, I didn’t focus on what he was interested in.”
Great education emphasizes individualized interest and passion for learning instead of focusing on requiring a young person to drop her interests and do the curriculum adults assure themselves is necessary.
Note that all the quotes cited so far in this article are also found on pages 57-60 in the book The ABC’s of Homeschooling by Laura Ann Huber. The rest of this enjoyable book teaches a number of other central principles of quality education. I think every homeschooler will find this book a helpful and inspiring read!
Calvin Coolidge summarized many of the problems with modern education when he said that, “Highly trained intelligence, combined with disregard of fundamental virtues, is a menace.” Einstein put it this way: “Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem to characterize our age.”
In short, for far too long (especially since the 1930s) we moderns have emphasized job training without a truly broad and deep leadership education for our youth, and the consequence is a nation that is highly trained but poorly educated.
Allan Bloom wrote an entire bestselling book – The Closing of the American Mind – on this topic.
The principles of quality, great, leadership education really do work, and they are found throughout our history and literature. When we ignore such principles, the quality of our education suffers. When we apply one or more of these principles, we see an immediate increase in the quality and success of our teaching.
When I outlined and summarized these principles in my book A Thomas Jefferson Education, I hoped to see them catch on in homes, private and public schools and other institutions of learning from business to professional and adult continuing education. It has been wonderful to watch this occur.
But more is needed. We need more people to read (and write) more books like The ABC’s of Homeschooling, The Closing of the American Mind and others. Great education impacts all facets of our lives, individually and as a society.
And each of us must choose to engage such learning, or not. The future of our families and our nations will depend upon what we decide. The principles are real, and we all need to give them more attention.
Oliver DeMille is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education, The Coming Aristocracy and other books on education and freedom. He has taught graduate courses on the complete writings of Thomas Jefferson, The Federalist Papers, Aristotle’s Politics and other great classics of liberty. Oliver is a popular keynote speaker, writer and business consultant.
Presently, he is active as a founding partner with The Center for Social Leadership and he devotes a majority of his time to writing. Oliver is married to the former Rachel Pinegar. They have eight children.