The focus of current systems of education, from primary school all the way to University, is on gaining success in academic performance. In secondary schools and higher education there is additionally an increasing demand that learning be geared towards employability skills.
Children’s perception of what is valuable in life (family and friends almost invariably coming out top), stands at odds with the values most prominent in our culture, namely, doing well in tests (and in sports) and earning lots of money.
In our highly competitive, money-oriented, celebrity/sport-obsessed society, we might do well to look back to the founding of academic education, and heed the words of the founder of the first Academy. As early as the C 5th B.C. Plato warns,
“A training directed to acquiring money or a robust physique, or even some intellectual facility not guided by reason and justice, we should want to call coarse and illiberal, and say that it had not claim whatever to be called education….
Education, when combined with great virtue, is an asset of incalculable value. If it ever becomes corrupt, but can be put right again, this is a lifelong task which everyone should undertake to the limit of his strength.”
[Plato. The Laws. p74. 644. Ed and trans T. J. Saunders. Penguin Classics. 1970]