For the vast majority of people there is the perception that the concepts of “Education” and “Paideia” (Παιδεία) are identical, that both words mean the same thing. This may be true in other languages, but certainly not in the Greek one.
Education and Paideia in many other languages are expressed with the same word, as for example with the word: Education in English, éducation in French, educazione in Italian, Bildung in German, educación in Spanish, educação in Portuguese.
In Greece, fortunately, we still distinguish Education from Paideia. We say Ministry / Minister of Pedia and higher / medium / elementary Education.
But what is the difference between Paideia and Education? The use of the two terms is it random or expresses, or even expressed in the past a significant difference? In what follows an answer to this question is attempted.
In the Dictionary of Modern Greek Language by G. Babiniotis: Education is defined as the systematic process of transmitting knowledge and skills on a specific object. (Technical, vocational, education …), and Paideia is defined as the process providing systematic knowledge, for the upbringing of someone’s intellectual level.
The above definitions describe the difference between the two terms. A clearer and more understandable definition of the two words was given by the late Cornelius Castoriadis in his book “The ability of an autonomous Society»[i]. Here is a small excerpt, related to this topic:
“Education is not the teaching: The issue is not to teach them arithmetic. The arithmetic is necessary to live, but education is what the Greeks called Paideia; that is, education and, mainly, skilling for the transformation of the young child into a real man with the full meaning of the word; namely into a man free, responsible and able to make decisions . It is obvious that education aimed at freedom (what the Greeks call Paideia, Παιδεία), cannot be done but only through the exercise of freedom. In other words, educating citizens in a democracy should produce all the conditions for its exercise. ”
There may be other definitions for the education and the Paideia, which we do not know, because our education and experiences are not relevant to the topic. However, based on the experience of an ordinary citizen, we concluded that:
(1) Education means the process of acquiring knowledge and skills on a particular subject,
(2) Paideia means to transform young people into free, responsible and able to make decisions for the good of all citizens; for people with genuine democratic culture.
Besides that, this class of education, which the Greeks call Paideia, is acquired through the exercise of freedom and of real democracy and not through teaching, as most believe. The teaching of freedom and democracy without ensuring their effective exercise is not Pedia; it is verbosity and sometimes training in absurdity, in immorality and in selfishness.
Today Paideia in Greece, in the sense defined above, does not exist. The current “paideia” in Greece, intends to transform the young people into followers rather than to ‘people free, responsible, and able to make decisions’, ie to citizens. Education today became a vehicle to create party followers, which decides for them without their consent.
The cause of this distortion lies in the perception and practice that Paideia is provided by “progressive” teachings and not through the exercise of youth for freedom and true democracy. But still worse is the perception that the training of the young people for this transformation must be done in the way that each political party understands the freedom and the democracy. But freedom and democracy are unique and not as many as the political parties.
Today we do not have Paideia. Unfortunately we have training for the transformation of the young people in blue, pink, black, siklamen, green or red fans.[ii]
It is a fact that in other countries, the top choice of the Education is related to the provision of materials and services to improve the lives of people and not education/paideia as defined above. The education/paideia in the countries of “Western Civilization” is not a primary but a second option, which primarily is provided mainly through the teaching and secondarily through the exercise. This strategy results to the deterioration of culture and to the degradation and education. Many thinkers and experts consider that the deterioration of culture made the current education blind; an education without basic vision and goal.
This view was expressed by the famous philosopher and poet T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965), who in his essay “The current Education and the Classics,” writes: “An educational system is meaningful only within a given social system. If education today is lacking, if it seems that is chaotic and meaningless, it is because we have not stabilized and satisfactory constitution of society.”
Similar views especially for those who are responsible to provide education to ordinary citizens, expresses the father of Quantum Mechanics Erwin Schrödinger (1887 – 1961), who in his book Science and Humanism[iii] writes: “The majority of educated people is not interested in science and does not realize that the scientific knowledge is a part of the background to the ideals of human life. Many – in their complete ignorance of what science really is – believe that science’ main goal is to invent or to contribute to the invention of new machines to improve their living conditions. These people are willing to delegate this task to the experts, just like supplying hydraulic hoses to be repaired. If the future of our children is decided by people of this mindset, the result will necessarily be what I have described previously.
Greece, where Paideia was once born, has not simply adopted the above strategy of the West, but outperformed the distortion and degradation of Paideia, developing a modern “pedia” model that the only relation with the ancient Greek one is the name.
Everyday we see the results of this “modern Greek paideia” with the vandalism of school buildings, the destruction of educational equipment, we see it in the “culture” of the people to whom the ‘paideia’ provides asylum, as well as to the controversial teaching material and the questionable authority of teachers.
Worst of all, however, is the current public opinion that this is the right way to educate young people in Freedom and Democracy!
The conclusion of an ordinary citizen who does not have the education and experience of a political person, of a trade unionist and of an expert, is that in Greece we do not have Pedia; we have education that is crippled by the lack of Pedia.
[i] Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης, Η ΔΥΝΑΤΟΤΗΤΑ ΜΙΑΣ ΑΥΤΟΝΟΜΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑΣ, Εκδόσεις: Στάσει Εκπίπτοντες.
[ii] The colors / symbols of political parties in Greece.
[iii] Erwin Schrödinger, ΚΟΝΤΑ ΣΤΟΝ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟ. Εκδόσεις: Π Τραυλός – Ε Κωσταράκη 1992