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The real education starts after the livelihood education ends

Written by April Zhang on Friday, 11 August 2023. Posted in Chinese Writing Contest

The real education starts after the livelihood education ends

In 1872, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was invited to give a series of public speeches on education reforms. 

During these speeches, he said there were two truly antagonistic educational institutions in Germany: one was for real education, and the second one was for livelihood. And all education organisations belonged to the second category.

What he said 150 years ago still rings true. The purpose of today’s schools is to equip students with necessary skills for them to secure a job. And getting a well paid job is the main purpose of students getting an education. 

There are all sorts of schools and learning organisations in a wide spectrum. The way they demonstrate their merit, i.e. attractiveness to students, is usually through how many students go to top universities or how much money their graduates make on average. 

At the same time, students are told from a young age that they need to study hard, so that they can go to a good university, get a good office job, and have a good life. Not studying hard means that they can not go to a good university, that they can not land a well paid job, and that they will have to face financial difficulties. 

All pieces are connected with one another to ensure the continuation of this education system, the second category in Nietzsche’s mind. 

While criticising this second category, a “livelihood” educational system, Nietzsche hoped to replace it with a real one that mass education would produce a few geniuses, whose everlasting works could nourish all our lives and souls.

Nietzsche’s hope is perhaps forever obliterated. The roots for the second kind of educational institutions are deeper than ever. The fight for a place in top schools, i.e. gateway to a better life, is fiercer than ever.

Early this year, the US Supreme Court struck down the Affirmative Action. This case was brought to court by Asian Americans who believed that black and brown kids had an unfair advantage and took away places they did not deserve in top universities. 

Therefore, Nietzsche is right to say that education is all about livelihood. But nobody is to be blamed here. This is the social reality. Most of us have to make a living and most jobs require us to have some education.

However, it doesn’t mean that we’re all completely being deprived of freedom and self-determination by this livelihood education. There are still learning opportunities for us to pursue a dream that is not about making a living. 

Indeed, perhaps it is only after the livelihood education is over that the real education, the first kind that Nietzsche called for, has a chance to start. 

For anyone who chooses to pursue this real education, be warned that it is extremely difficult and requires rigorous self-discipline, exactly the same as Nietzsche said. Also, only a few geniuses will stand out eventually.

In a much diluted manner, Chinese Writing Contest has become a vehicle to contribute to this education system and to the discoveries of geniuses. It’s a tiny contest and only open to people who have learned Chinese.

Now at its third year, Chinese Writing Contest 2023 encourages all Chinese language learners to give it a try. 

Submit your entry before Sep 16!

About the Author

April Zhang

April Zhang

April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and she enjoys teaching and interacting with students. She constantly explores new and interesting ways of teaching Chinese through creative and imaginative activities.

With her help, many students have achieved outstanding result, which has enriched their understanding about China and has significantly contributed to their work.