7 Influential Education Quotes

May 13, 2014
by Jordan Taylor

Not every quote you’ll read about education is full of praise. Some of the most successful, imaginative, and influential people in the world have openly shared their unflattering opinions on institutions, pedagogies, and classroom experience. 

Nevertheless, I think most people understand the intrinsic value of education—seeing that insights offered by critics are (most times) contextualized by political or personal experience. 

Why Education Matters

The answer to the question Why Education Matters is not as straightforward as you’d imagine. Still, an unwavering answer goes something like this: Education is a cornerstone of civilization (whether you’re taught by others at school or self-taught).

Below are seven influential quotes by unrivaled thinkers who didn’t want us to forget the importance of education by highlighting its connection to knowledge, creativity, liberty, and the future.

7 Education Quotes with Analysis 


“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” —Albert Einstein.

Einstein reminds us that teachers do more than teach essential facts and foundational knowledge. They keep curiosity alive by showing students the value of imaginative landscapes informed by both knowledge and wonder. It may sound grandiose, and a bit odd coming from a scientist versus someone in the humanities, but we can never forget that creativity is a defining feature of what it means to be human. 




Edith_Hamilton“It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought—that is to be educated.” —Edith Hamilton

With the advent of Stanford’s stance on critical thinking and intellectual vitality it’s fair to say that essential outcomes of education have been discounted or undervalued. It’s good to see respect for knowledge and thought coming alive again. Here’s how Stanford defines intellectual vitality: “We want to see your commitment, dedication and genuine interest in expanding your intellectual horizons….We want to see the initiative with which you seek out opportunities that expand your perspective and that will allow you to participate in creating new knowledge.


James_Madison“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”             —James Madison

This quote parallels something Thomas Jefferson said: The liberties of speaking and writing guards our other liberties. Guarding our liberties requires knowledge of the past. Without education, there is no advancement of knowledge or a deep analysis of history. So if people are speaking and writing without an education (or at least a sense of causality and history) how many of their ideas are worth sharing? 




Allan_Bloom“Education is the movement from darkness to light.” —Allan Bloom

This quote immediately reminds me of something Carl Sagan said: In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.

In Sagan’s view science is a candle in the darkness where pseudoscience and mysticism thrive. This metaphor can extend to education as well—where education is the lighthouse guiding us safely away from ignorance and deceptive claims.  



“There is divine beauty in learning…To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps. The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples. I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests. And so are you.” —Elie Wiesel 

This quote is perfect for understanding the passion that drives educators. They’re not merely teaching you straight from textbooks which are utterly divorced from their experiences (at least we hope). Instead, educators can impart experiential knowledge to their students—giving them a new perspective on important issues that matter most when it comes to living in and contributing to society. 



Jane_Austen“A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself.” —Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Recent studies continue to show that reading is declining. The reasons for this are manifold. Here’s an example from NPR that’s relative to teens: Why Aren’t Teens Reading Like They Used To?

As many teachers know, essential reading habits need to start at home. Then they can be reinforced in school (where the teachers can ask students to share their ideas and reactions to texts in open classroom dialogues). Reading is frequently touted by the self-taught because it can serve as the backbone of all education even in classes that require more hands-on (learning by doing) models. Perhaps the truth is this: If we are to preserve education then we need to preserve reading.  



“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” —Malcolm X

While in prison Malcolm X began a lifelong quest for knowledge that changed his perspective of the world. He took that new perspective and shared it with others so they could influence the future. We can leave many concepts about the future to futurists—but we cannot let our love and respect for knowledge and education fossilize. 




In the end…

what matters most is always discovering, refining, and upholding Why Education Matters. It’s easy to use the cliché “Knowledge is Power,” but it’s more than that. Knowledge is a window into human experience and our every day experience with reality. Knowing more about ourselves—and the world around us—we can truly be ready for future changes.

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