Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, professors at Carleton College, recently wrote a thoughtful opinion piece, Don’t Mistake Training with Education, in which they highlighted the stark differences between these two, often confused, forms of teaching. Although the article was written to demonstrate how diversity training is insufficient for effectively addressing complex issues such as racism, their message has much broader application.
Failure to understand and appreciate the differences between training and education short-changes students, both those who would benefit from post-secondary training, as well as those for whom a college or university education is the more appropriate path.
Khalid and Snyder identify ten points of distinction:
■ Training makes assumptions; education challenges them.
■ Training is packaged; education cannot be contained.
■ Training rewards compliance, education curiosity.
■ Training is having to say something, education having something to say.
■ Training tells you what to think; education teaches you how to think.
■ Training answers questions; education poses them.
■ Training is generic; education all about context.
■ Training simplifies the world; education reveals its complexity.
■ Training promotes conformity, education independence.
■ Training is performative; education is transformative.
Khalid and Snyder write that training should be the preferred approach in many situations, especially when there are clear-cut problems and directly applicable solutions. Students who know they’re interested in such hands-on fields as auto mechanics, culinary arts, fire fighting, medical technologies, or welding, may want to pursue community college, trade school, or apprenticeship training which will equip them for immediate employment. Knowing how to repair the cars we drive and operate the variety of medical devices used to by health care professionals are valuable and necessary skills.
On the other hand, there are students who are interested in challenging their world views, engaging with complex issues, and developing new habits of thought and expression. These hallmarks of education, as identified by Khalid and Snyder, are precisely those of quality liberal arts education. Liberal arts education is less about the information students acquire and more about the habits and skills they develop. It is concerned not only with what is happening today, but also with preparing for a world that is currently unknown.
Futurists tell us that today’s young people are likely to work in jobs that haven’t even been imagined yet. Furthermore, they can expect that their world will be dramatically different from the one we live in now. Students who have the desire and ability to engage in transformative thinking should be encouraged to do so.
Recognizing the differences between training and education, and appreciating the value of each are critical for effectively guiding students and for addressing our current challenges, as well as those that await us.