The Aims of Education

By A. N. Whitehead, 1929, 247 pages, amazon

At the beginning of this semester prof. Kriegsmann, who teaches us Asymptotics II, was gone for a few lectures and prof. Booty was filling up for him. I have to admit that the fluid flow problem that he went over with us during that time was not too interesting for me. But what caught my interest was a recommendation for this small book. It contains essays that the British mathematician Whitehead originally delivered as speeches. And some of them are extremely good and applicable even today despite the fact that they will be 100 years old soon.

Let the main ideas that are introduced into a child’s education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination possible. The child should make them his own and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual life. From the very beginning of his education, the child should experience the joy of discovery…

This book should both be read by teachers who want to be good teachers and by students who want to make the most of their education and understand how the learning process works and passes through different stages. The non-mathematicians should not be distracted by the math examples Whihead uses to illustrate his points, nor by his bias towards necessity to include a certain amount of mathematical curriculum into everybody’s education (which I, personally, share), because the message that he is trying to deliver is valid in all fields.

The first essay (with some math parts omitted) can be found here.

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