Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Education comes from the Latin word to mean "lead out", right?

What does education mean? In her excellent new collection, Early Childhood Practice: Froebel Today Tina Bruce writes that  "Education comes from the verb educare, 'to lead out'".

That notion, that education is about leading the child - or any of us - outwards, into wider worlds of sensations, experiences and ideas, is often repeated. I think it may have been in the opening lecture when I was at my teacher training college in the late 1980s. That most famous of teachers, Miss Brodie, explains to her headmistress that "Education is from the Latin, ex and ducare, meaning leading out"; to which Miss Mackay replies, Gove-like,  "I wish there was a little more putting in". 

Intriguingly, though, Christian Schiller - one of the leading progressive English school inspectors from the post-war period, and a marvellous writer - claims otherwise:  "it is usual for the speaker to explain that education comes from the Latin word which means "lead out". In fact ... our word is not "eduction" but "education", and it comes from quite a different Latin word which means to nourish, or to help to grow, just as a gardener helps a plant to grow." 

In the same vein, the Shorter Oxford Dictionary begins its definition of education with: "Old French education or Latin educatio the process of nourishing or rearing".  Could anything be more appropriate to Froebel, than thinking of early education in the kindergarten as a process of nourishing?