I have a degree in education so I should be able to answer that question easily. But I can't. The word encompasses so much--I can't quite put a definition in words yet. Still working on my own definition for it.
I remember calling my dad after I graduated for college, preening a bit because I knew he must be so proud of me for getting my degree-- ready for him to celebrate with me. And he was excited for me. But what he said, I will never forget. He said something like, "And now your real education begins."
And boy was he right. No four-year instruction at a University could prepare me for the 6 years that came after my "formal education" was complete. A lot of learning has happened since I graduated from college.
As I was reading Elder L. Tom Perry's biography, I came across this experience that his wife shared--and it has been on my mind ever since:
"Several years ago when we were living in the state of New York, I remember attending a Relief Society Conference. President Belle S. Spafford was there. Also President Harold B. Lee--he was then Elder Lee.
Sister Spafford asked for a definition of education from the audience. Several were given. I recalled a definition give by Plato. Many centuries ago, someone asked him: 'What is a good education?' And he replied: 'A good education is that which gives to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable.'
I was rather pleased with myself because I was able to remember the quotation, but my elation was short-lived because when President Lee arose and addressed the group, eh said; "Well, so much for Plato.'
Then President Lee said he had his own definition of education, and he liked it better. He said: 'The best education is that which gives to the individual the strength and ability to adjust.' I remembered his words and during the ensuing years I have had many occasions to ponder his words and recognize the great wisdom they contain.
Life is filled with adjustments--joys and sorrows, trials and temptations. That's what life is all about--this is the time of our schooling. We are gaining an education from the time we enter this mortal existence until we leave it. There are always adjustments to be made, and how we make them is all important. Our actions and reactions here will determine in a large measure how we spend the rest of eternity. . . .
President Lee has also said: 'The all-important thing in life isn't what happens to you. The important thing is how you take it.'
As we consider the adjustments necessary in life, it may be well to remember the biblical story of Joseph who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into Egypt. . . .Always, Joseph stayed close to God and kept his values in proper perspective. He had the strength and courage to do right. He was able to make the best out of whatever happened to him. . . .
May we prepare ourselves so that we, like Joseph of old, will be armed with an inner strength--even the power and inspiration of God--so that no matter what happens to us in this life during our mortal school, we will cling to the iron rod of the gospel and stand firm in our testimony of truth and right."
Virginia Lee Perry as quoted in L. Tom Perry: An Uncommon Life, pages 299-300
I really liked this account, because I, like Virginia Perry, love Plato's definition of education-- and I was a bit taken aback by President Lee's response to it. And I still think Plato's definition is correct in one sense of the word "education." A loving Heavenly Father wants us to become our biggest, brightest selves. He asks us to seek perfection and even provide the perfect example for us in His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would know what perfection spoke and acted like. (Matthew 5:48) And filling our lives with knowledge and art and experiences that enrich and beautify our lives and the lives around us is all part of that. The scriptures provide many other insights into what learning and true wisdom are (Wisdom- Guide to the Scriptures).
If wisdom and learning and seeking perfection are the end goals, then we can define education as what gets us to wisdom, learning, and eventual perfection. And in that sense, though Plato's definition is lovely, I have to say, that President Lee's definition is certainly more appropriate and applicable. Learning to adjust well to life's circumstances and not become impaired or destroyed by them, is what allows us to move forward and continue learning and growing and flourishing. The times in my life where I became hurt and angry about things that were happening to me, were the times in my life when I learned and understood the least. Once I learned to adjust and react in positive healthy ways, learning and understanding began again.
Life is the school. Learning to adjust is education. And it has been my experience that the way to adjust and learn and beautify best is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Who is learning that educating an almost 3-year old about using the potty is more difficult than teaching 6 periods of 7th-grade English.
"Brigham Young has said, “The person who enjoys the experience of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and at the same time has the love of God within him, is the happiest of any individuals on the earth. …“Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for he is the giver of every good thing. ... He may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, he is joyful. ...“Truly happy is that man or woman, or that people, who enjoys the privileges of the Gospel of the Son of God, and who know how to appreciate his blessings.” As quoted by Elder L. Tom Perry here