What does it mean to be educated?

Jon Spayde in a Utne Reader article of May-June 1998, Learning is the Key of Life, wrote:

What does it mean—and more important what should it mean—to be educated? This is a surprisingly tricky and two-sided question. Masquerading as simple problem solving, it raises a whole laundry list of philosophical conundrums: What sort of society do we want? What is the nature of human kind? How do we learn best? And—most challenging of all—what is the Good? Talking about the meaning of education inevitably leads to the question of what a culture considers most important.

We have all, or at least those who think, which should but often doesn’t mean all of us, asked ourselves what it means to be educated. The Republican National Convention is now going on. Are the thousands there in attendance educated? As I watch and listen I wonder how many of them are even “man thinking,” thinking about the meaning of education or about anything else. They are certainly  pleased with themselves, proud to be there and taking part, but thinking? In any case they are not encouraged to think for themselves by what is being said or shouted from the rostrum.

But if I had to answer the question what does it mean to be educated I’d say that most of all being educated means having a certain attitude, in just a couple of words it means being curious and wanting to learn. That’s why even a child may be educated. Being educated says nothing about the extent of one’s knowledge. It says nothing about having reached one’s learning goal no matter what that goal may have been.

Probably the very least educated people, the least thinking people, are those who act as if they were educated, as if they had somehow arrived. These people, usually not children, are pedants, sophists who flout their seeming knowledge. That’s why we say, since the time of Socrates, that the wisest of us knows that he or she knows little or nothing, and yet still wants to go on learning even though the goal of complete knowledge is clearly and forever unobtainable.


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