The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dennis Hayes Headshot

Education is Bad for you

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Without a hint of irony, Dennis Hayes explores the damage that education can do to you.

Ever since that famous speech in 1996 when Tony Blair declared that his three priorities for government were "education, education, and education" and John Major replied that he had the same priorities "but in a different order", Britain has been obsessed by education and the belief that it is a good thing. As an educationalist and writer on education, I have to tell you that I disagree. Education is a bad thing, a very bad thing, and it does you harm.

Education is a bad for you when "education" just means getting more and more meaningless qualifications rather than learning for its own sake.

Education is bad for you when it is about the process of "learning to learn", rather than learning.

Education is bad for you when it reduces everything to skills and when even critical thinking becomes a 'skill'.

Education is bad for you when it takes the form of training in socially acceptable behaviour through citizenship education, or working for the 'big society'.

Education is bad for you when it is all about getting a job or meeting the future needs of the economy, rather than giving you knowledge and understanding.

Education is bad for you when it focuses on manipulating your emotions, rather than developing your intellect.

Education is bad for you when it offers classes in 'happiness', which can only make you wonder 'Why I'm I not happy?' and make you feel more unhappy than you were.

The list goes on and on and the current obsession with 'well being' that is invading 'education' is sure to produce ill being and be very bad for you.

One response to the above is to say that these are not examples of education, but of the reduction of education to instrumental socialisation and social training. There is an irony in the use of 'education' to refer to these things.

If this were all I had to say, my statement 'Education is bad for you' would be ironic because 'education' in my assertion referred to things that are not educational - and there is an important point to make about how the term 'education' is now widely used to refer anti-educational activities which crowd out real education. But I want to go further and asset that it is real education, and not these distractions, that is bad for you!

Education is bad for you because it damages your self esteem when you realise how little you know. When you realise how ignorant you are. When you realise how much work is involved in increasing your knowledge that your confidence is threatened.

Education is bad for you if it gives you enough knowledge and understanding with which you can make negative and unconstructive criticism of popular and authoritative ideas.

Education is bad for you when it undermines your fundamental beliefs, whether religious or secular. Everything you hold dear or important is questioned.

Education is bad for you because it will increasingly detach you from your family and former friends who will soon seem narrow and parochial.

Education is bad for you because it will make you so unhappy with the world and to want to change it. Then you will become even unhappier with yourself, and your inability to effect change.

Education is bad for you because it will undermine your contentment and 'well-being' and will leave you perpetually recreating yourself.

Education is bad for you because you will become deeply unsatisfied with everything your betters, whether teacher, employers or the political elites have to offer, and you will demand more.

Because of this, paradoxically, education is a very good thing for people, but not for society. When people say that education is a social good, they are wrong: at best it's an anti-social good. The unexamined life is not worth living, but the examined life does not bode well for student satisfaction or social satisfaction.