Report on “educated” #4 of 4

 The following is an unedited report from a Western Carolina University MAED student in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

What it Means to be Educated

Smaurtey Stewart 

Culture Agent, Sir Clifford Campbell Primary School, Westmoreland, Jamaica

Before I can respond to that question, I must examine the current purpose of education in the Jamaican society. The Mission Statement of the Ministry of Education reads, “To provide strategic leadership and policy direction for quality education for all Jamaicans to maximize their potential, contribute to national development and compete effectively in the global economy.” Clearly this mission is similar to many and aims to fulfill the purpose of preparing students to compete in the world’s labor force and ultimately acquire wealth if necessary. The question of “What it means to be educated?” is a challenging one and many scholars may provide several arguments to support the view that education is the knowledge and skills that one acquires. According to the ‘educated’ means, “to develop the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling” another definition is, ‘the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession.”

So, what about students who do not attend school or those who do not possess the capacity to score high grades in an examination? Are we saying those persons are not educated? Well, I don’t believe that would be a reasonable assumption.  One can have never attended school yet, be educated. Because, in my opinion, what it means to be educated has to do with how virtues one is.  Therefore, I strongly support the view posited by Hurley (2009) which defines an educated person as those who continually develop the virtues of understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity (p.26).

Throughout my years as a student, I’ve observed that many teachers spend a substantial amount of time ensuring that students learn. They make the efforts to bring about learning in various ways; some were fun while some were not. In addition they sometimes facilitated students either in “one on one” sessions, in small groups or on a whole class basis whenever they detect any form of weakness among students. They would provide meaningful experiences to bring about learning. They would also have students engaged in reciting the gem, “Labor for learning before you grow old; for learning is better than silver or gold. Silver and gold will vanish away, but a good education will never decay.” I too fall within this category of teachers. I can also recall as a youngster, when we were frequently told to recite this childhood gem. Can you imagine, having to recite it every day until you knew it? What were these teachers trying to instill in us? Were they modeling virtues? Or were they trying to convince us that our schooling is important and we should treat it likewise.

While we may accept the reality that knowledge and skills evolves on a daily basis. We must also think about what allows us to gain these knowledge and skills. Therefore, human beings must acquire some form of base by which to build on acquiring these knowledge and skills and if not carefully used these knowledge and skills would be worthless. How many of us know of individuals who are knowledgeable and skilled yet, a question sign pops up whenever we see how they behave with others and around others. Therefore, what does it means to be educated?  Some may also argue that having a good education is to be able to function in effectively in ones community.

However, I believe that to be educated does not suggest that one is. It is the behavior that one exhibits; behaving as one should s in all aspects of life. It is what one models or do to make other peoples’ life “beautiful” that should be a component of what it means to be educated. Can a schooled person apply his areas of study in all aspect of life? I guess not. However, one who is educated (virtuous) can apply the courage generosity, strong character, humility; understanding and imagination in all aspects of his/her life and can bring about education for others as well. Like a star in a dark sky that radiates and stand out so that all can see and benefit from the beauty it emanates. Yes to be educated one should model understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity every day which in my opinion are stepping stones necessary to acquire knowledge and skills.

Take my child hood next door neighbor for example who is an old farmer who spent most of his time on his farm maintaining and cultivating his crop and rearing animals. Often times, whenever we visited him, he would demonstrate a high level of understanding during discussion relating to politics, current affair, or any moral issue. He could also support his arguments by referring to biblical scriptures and may cite them accordingly and if we had any doubt, he would recommend that we refer to the bible for clarification. To my neither surprise this gentleman could not read nor write. Was he educated? Based on my acknowledge he was virtues, he modeled creativity, generosity strong character, humility, courage, and imagination. He also earned the respect of many community members both rich and poor. Thus, it could be concluded that he was indeed educated. He set example for us to follow and some so called educated (schooled) individuals were neither humble nor generous but instead full of pride and fear and would not show generosity to the homeless people in the community. Consequently the state of our present society calls for more than mere knowledge and skills. It calls for a citizenry that are more responsible, more brotherly, more kind-hearted and more compassionate to others. A nation that is more appreciative others for who they are and have great respect for human life and for the preservation of our morals and ethical values.

In concluding, I believe that educated persons don’t necessarily have to be schooled and the purpose of education must not be only to provide individuals with power to continue the labor force but as postulated by (Plato)…for the object of education is to teach us to love beauty. Like Plato, Hurley (2009) shares similar view and I can’t help but to admit that it indeed comforting to learn that education is to teach us to love beauty and to love beauty one doesn’t have to attend school.


Hurley J. Casey (2009) The Six Virtues of the Educated Person, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, Inc.



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