How does education form and challenge a person's identity?

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I'm a teacher and I'm committed to education, but I'd like to make the case that is it not education but educators who form and challenge a person's identity. 

Rarely is one changed in any significant and lasting way by learning something in a vacuum.  Generally it is a teacher or a classroom environment which prompts thought and discussion and encourages internalizing by a student.

Looking back on one's education rarely causes a review of learned material.  Instead, we reflect upon the teachers and classes which challenged us and spurred us on to greater, higher things. 

Admittedly, we have probably all had turning points in our education where we discovered we "love" math or "hate" English or "aren't good at art." That's material, but it's also presenter.  There aren't too many instances where we remember the teacher as being terrible while the subject matter was excellent.  True education is a combination of an effective teacher presenting strong material in a memorable, engaging, and challenging way. 

 

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Well, a quality education will hopefully ask you the right questions, and a lot of them.  School, in the right environment, is an opportunity to challenge the ideas you've held since your youth.  This means hearing ideas that did not come from your parents or preacher, and hopefully critically analyzing what you believe so that you either have a specific logic to back up your beliefs, or perhaps you modify what you believe to align with what you've discovered.  To me, it's one of the best parts of a person's education.

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Just to look at this from a radically different point of view, try to think about how education can label people, often in very negative ways. For example think of people who for whatever reason have a tough time at school and do not well. They leave as soon as they can and do not go on to college or further education. Society often label these people "failures" because they have not done well in the traditional education system. So unfortunately, it is not all positive!

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Education has helped to make me who I am. Through education I learned more about my own strengths and weaknesses. It helped me to develop both occupations and vocations. It gave me confidence and helped me to see the world as an approachable place.

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I would say that it can challenge a persons identity by exposing individuals to different points of view and other ways of looking at the world. Depending on the students background this can be a very eye opening experience.

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Look at bildungsroman literature (novels of apprenticeship) and the impacts on their narrators.  From The Catcher in the Rye to A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man to The Bell Jar, these novels are reveal the following:

  • Psychological
  • Moral
  • Social

...shaping of the personality of a character.  Rarely, if any, have the school having an impact at all, let alone a positive impact.  Rather, it's the individual rebelling or changing his/her school, society, or peer groups.

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Through education we tend to question the things that we had just taken as the truth in our youth.  Primarily, the beliefs of our parents come under fire.  You learn to think more deeply about issues which effect you and about which you are passionate.  You learn to better support arguments and to make your points clear.  You mature and learn that sometimes it is better not to argue at all, but to walk away from conflict.  You learn to stand on your own two feet and what you like and don't like about who you are. Through dating, you learn what you do and do not want in a life partner.

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Even at an early age, children who are encouraged academically by their parents, teachers and peers will grow up with the comforting realization that a thorough education will provide for them--financially, professionally and socially--in the future. My parents drilled the idea--the absolute expectancy--of a college education into me at a very early age, and I never considered not going to college or earning a degree. Facts support the idea that a continued education makes for a better life, a better job, and better opportunities for the future.

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Education can form your identity, especially at the college level.  The education you get often determines what kinds of interests you will have for the rest of your life.  It also affects how you see yourself in terms of social class -- if, for example, you get a graduate degree, you may see yourself (and people may see you) as being very different from people with less education.

But education can challenge the identity that you bring to college, for example.  Religious parents, for example, worry that their kids' identities as Christians will be attacked and changed by liberal colleges.  Kids whose parents don't have degrees may have their identity changed -- they start to identify with the people they know at college rather than with their families, for example.

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