A broad conception of education

What does the word ‘education’ mean? Newman had a very broad conception of what he meant by the word ‘education’, and he resisted the tendency, common in his time as in our own, to reduce its meaning and narrow its scope. When speaking of ‘education’, Newman would sometimes say ‘education in the larger sense’ to emphasise his use of the word.

Newman did not consider ‘education’ something confined either to its more formal moments or to institutional settings.

Education takes place in formal settings, such as lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, laboratory experiments; in semiformal settings, such as drama, music making, student journalism, organised sport; and informal settings, such as meal times and social events.

It is not confined to an institutional setting: someone who did not go to university may end up being better formed than someone who did, says Newman.

There is a marked tendency to reduce ‘education’ to the transition of knowledge, to mere training, and hence to impoverish what it stands for. For Newman, ‘education’ is something much broader as it encompasses the whole person.

In contrast to those who regard knowledge as involving merely an acquisition or a method, Newman views it as a personal possession and a habit of mind, which is why he insists that ‘education is a higher word [than instruction]; it implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent’. (Idea of a university)

The concept of paedeia is central to Newman’s thinking, and embraces the total development of the human person.

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