“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows”

This interesting quote by Sydney J. Harris, a Journalist and Newspaper columnist, dates back to August 1978. To better understand what he meant, one needs to read his words before the actual quote. He wrote: “Most people are mirrors, reflecting the moods and emotions of the times; few are windows, bringing light to bear on the dark corners where troubles fester. The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” It is an often cited quotation about education.

Education illuminates the mind. It reveals what a person is really capable of. Education gives perfection. It aids socialisation and enhances understanding of social interactions. Through education, individuals are able to influence policy, make positive changes in their communities, and proffer solutions to global issues. The knowledge and skills acquired are no longer latent in the individual but are made potent, profiting others as they are deployed to daily living. So I agree with Mr. Harris’ wise words.

When you gaze into a mirror, you see your reflection. Finding out what you don’t know is a part of education because the mirror has shown you your deficiencies. However, mirrors don’t tell the whole story. If you don’t go beyond this point, it could be limiting, and this limitation could be a barrier. The barrier may be a belief that education is about being confined to the four walls of a classroom, blindly accepting the teachings without critique and getting good grades. The learning process in education should be expanded beyond classrooms to arouse curiosity, and centred on the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

The window, on the other hand, reveals a whole new perspective with a view that stretches far and wide. The traditional form of education focuses on getting a degree and ultimately, a job. As such, many students do not get into careers where their natural interests lie. It may be because of the belief that certain courses would provide quicker monetary benefits and societal acceptance. However, this suppresses creativity. Genuine education makes students dynamic and better prepared to initiate and take advantage of the opportunities around them.

In summary, we avail ourselves to more possibilities with more information, more exposure and more education. There is no limit to what we can learn these days. The world is continually getting smaller, thanks to the internet. As we update our skills with each learning activity, we become wiser to turn our mirrors into windows for the overall benefit of all mankind. Indeed, there are costs associated with education but in the words of Andy McIntyre, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”

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