The utilitarian approach to education

   Sometimes, parents try to motivate their children to study with the following suggestion: “You have to prepare yourself to become someone useful”. This formation can be broken down into the following recipe:

   1. Be a good student, get outstanding grades and be the first one of the class. At the same time, try to avoid any other activities that may distract you from becoming someone useful.

   2. Have a university career, and subsequently a good master, that have professional prestige, a good salary, and a stable short term position.

   3. Have other interesting and practical capacities, such as computing, the knowledge of the English language as well as another language.

   First of all, these goals are valuable and recommended to just about anyone: be a good student, have a university career, and learn about computing and different languages. The negative aspect is to focus the education of children entirely around these factors for social success. It would lead to making a person exclusively into a student, and making the student a nerd. Without forgetting about the above criteria, it is also expected that the student be a good son or daughter, a good classmate, a good Christian, who knows how to think with a personal criterion, develop a will power, learn to work well, as well as rest and have fun responsibly. One can say to a good student: “It is good that you put all that effort into studying, just as long as you put the same effort to cultivate your personal life” (San Josemaría Escrivá. Camino, n.341); and “Knowledge matters less than the exercise of judgment” (Rousseau).

   Second of all, the utilitarian goal of achieving academic success regardless of the means is not always fulfilled because not all students can be the first one of the class, neither do all of them finish a university career. And even if that goal is achieved, one must ask: is that enough to have a fulfilling life? Has it really been a holistic formation for overall life? The answer is a negative one, because the goals that were mentioned above concerning the education of the individual in its entirety count just as much if not more than achieving academic success.

   The human being not only prepares for life by accumulating knowledge, but by acquiring positive habits and responsibilities in other areas of life: in the family, with friendships, at work, and within the rest of life’s social relations (Translated by Gianna Sanchez Moretti).

   Arturo Ramo

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