I think that education (formal or otherwise) has a primary purpose: To help us discover our Place in the world. This is vital to the creation of a fulfilling life.
There are examples in history where this idea of finding one’s Place can be manipulated by leaders of companies or governments who need classes of people in order to bring about their own vision. Japan once went to extremes by using training regimes with children in order to build a warrior class. Every country has educational training methods that indoctrinate individuals with the intention of building valuable citizens. Companies often require employees to loyally take certain tests so they can be placed in a productive position within the corporation. I personally find these methods of manufactured placement rather creepy. For example the hand placed over the heart while standing for the U.S. national anthem symbolizes loyalty to a national vision while reminding me of the raised hand of Hitler’s Nazi salute.
Finding our own place in society is an extension of familial roles. For example, we can start out being a son or aunt; a rigid place holder dictated by birth. Geography can be a factor in your place view almost by definition and time/space also has an impact. For example, at some points in my life I have identified with another time period, figuring I might have enjoyed a place beside Charles Darwin on the Beagle. Whenever I travel in the present, the time zone can make me lose my place as much as the country’s subway map or its language.
My place in my family was structured by my mother. My functions were clearly defined under the headings: son, brother, student, society member. She had role expectations. I rarely challenged my place in her world. I sought other places where I could experience change: First by going to university, marriage, moving for a job and a taking a chance to build my own family.
I ponder the nature of Place using a simple question, “Where do I fit in?” The talents I developed in my life have provided a sense of place and redefined how I interact with my family or the community. I have wondered, “Once I find where I am in this place how can I best enjoy life?” Most people don’t like to have this question come up too often. There are people who have never moved from their home town, always voted the same political party, never changed their job, or always bought the same products. There is satisfaction in knowing one’s place, so rarely is there a need to question your choices. In fact, to question your choices can be unsettling. While the risk may be worth it.
The search for one’s Place starts with an understanding of one’s self. It’s knowing how it feels when you ‘fit in’. It’s learning to recognize when you are ‘out of place’. Sometimes life is like being in a play. You wonder what your role is. Without a script your world tips. Suddenly you recognize your part.
All is well and the show goes on.