Are Educators Training or Trainers Educating?

Article excerpt

"The greater issue is not education versus training at all, the issue is for what should we be educating and training our students?"

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE between educating and training? An ongoing argument among school administrators, teachers, and parents is whether schools are institutions of education or training - education is about theory, and training is about practice. Education aims to cultivate the mind, and training seeks to move the mind to action. Education focuses on knowledge, while training concentrates on performance. Education sees knowledge for its own sake as power; training takes a more utilitarian view, seeing results-focused action as power. A world of difference hangs in the balance here.

The Slim Difference

The difference between the two terms as they are applied in institutional situations, however, may not be so easy to distinguish. In many contexts, we use the words education and training interchangeably. Teachers in common schools may tell their students, "You are getting an education to train yourself for future responsibilities, which include pursuing a career, furthering your education, raising a family, and paying your bills."

Most trainers I meet in the corporate world consider themselves educators and talk to employees enrolled in their courses about the need for continual education. My own career serves as a useful example of the sometimes blurred line separating education and training. In my years of service as a college writing professor, I grew accustomed to the word teacher, a word more associated with education than with training; on the other hand, I have also worked as a communication consultant providing writing training programs for corporate employees, whose management refers to me as a trainer but who themselves call me a teacher. In fact, some companies have a Division of Education and Training, but they may not necessarily classify which of their functions deal with education and which address training. Then why do educators and trainers discriminate - and do so vaguely - between education and training? After all, both seem to address issues of intelligence and skill.

Even the dictionary has trouble discriminating between the two words. Webster s provides as one of its definitions of educate "to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession." Meanwhile, it defines train as "to form by instruction, discipline, or drill; to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient." The similarities seem more striking than the differences between these two words.

Misconceptions about the Words

Regardless of the denotative meanings of education and training, academics and businesspeople laud their preferred word and lambaste the other. Many corporate professionals like to think that training is for the highly specialized person who requires proficiency to succeed in a discipline. An information technology specialist, for instance, may need training in a new computer application to keep abreast of the field. …