Book Review: On Education

On EducationOn Education by Bertrand Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bertrand Russell enchants the reader on the topic of education too. While this book touches on topics very briefly and much focus is on early education, it still leaves a good impression. He even studies the effects of education from a Chinese and Greek attitude standpoint by focusing on two contrasts – laziness and being energetic. He goes on to make a point that passionate beliefs produce either progress or disaster, while not giving stability.
The author is appreciative of the Montessori model while being heavily critical of the aristocratic system of education in England that came to being under Dr. Arnold. A powerful observation he makes here is that all European countries are less subject to herd domination than in America.
Also impressive is his take on the four characteristics of an ideal character that he emphasizes as one that children need to be equipped with as part of a well rounded education – vitality, courage, sensitiveness and intelligence. I love his explanation of the concept of abstract sympathy, a form of sensitiveness where you feel for someone even when the suffering is merely known to be occurring, even if not sensibly present. This he declares comes from a higher form of intelligence and is no wonder rare in today’s world.
Another gem of his is the statement that poverty, since the Industrial revolution has been only due to collective stupidity. To continue on with some more references that make this book a reading pleasure are:
Fear has been thought the only way to make women ‘virtuous’, and they have been deliberately taught to be cowards, both physically and mentally – Sounds like today’s modern religious dictum?
Shyness is a distressing form of timidity – well, it does have a correlation for sure.
Subjects like literature and everything that can be put into a handbook is worthless – well, A.I is fast catching up for a reason.

The book doesn’t holistically cover the sphere of education. It does give a good sense of what can be built into the early years of a child knowing that today’s education system in most parts of the world are still stuck in the past or a broken present. The future still looks bleak in the realm of child education and the reformers at best are mostly misled politicians, activists and deluded beings. Hope there is a Russell who comes up soon with the power to wield change for the greater good of children.

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