Let’s find out the meaning of education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
This quote is by the much loved Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde.
This line is one of the nineteen maxims published anonymously in London weekly newspaper called Saturday Review: Of Politics, Literature, Science, And Art in 1894.
Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
(A Few Maxims For The Instruction Of The Over-Educated, Saturday Review Vol. 78, November 17, 1894, P. 533) source
There are people who disagree with this cynical-sounding maxim in some online discussion platforms.
For instance, one commented that since most of the knowledge each of us possess, has been taught to us, if not by others, then by our own experiences.
I think he doesn’t the understand the popular English phrase “experience has taught us“.
In this quote, Oscar Wilde is comparing the school education and real life lessons.
Education Is An Admirable Thing Meaning
Anyway, let us explore the quotation and see what it means.
Mr. Wilde starts off by saying, education is an admirable thing.
In his context, education means formal education or schooling.
Then he adds that there are things that worth knowing in life which cannot be taught.
Oscar Wilde agreed that education is excellent or commendable.
He then interposes “it is well to remember“.
It means it is sensible or wise to take into consideration.
The reminder: “nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
This part of the sentence structure can be a bit tricky for non native English speakers.
You may find it difficult to wrap your head around this phrase.
Worth knowing means things or matters that is valuable to one’s life.
What it means is everything that is invaluable to your life cannot be taught by your teachers in the classroom.
I agree some values can be taught, but not all of them,
For examples like maturity, perseverance, rationality, judgement, discernment or appreciation.
So are moral values, integrity and honesty.
They are intrinsically learnt.
Someone can teach or tell you and you can even read them from books, but you still could not grasp or fathom their essence.
You must experience or feel them yourself.
In short, you need to get your feet wet, so to speak.
Not all the useful and dependable life stuff that you need to know can be picked up from formal learning (schooling).
Everyone has to discover lessons of life experience for themselves.
These is this quotation which share similar message:
“What a misfortune it is that we should thus be compelled to let our boys’ schooling interfere with their education!” – Grant Allen
(Post-Prandial Philosophy by Grant Allen, London: Chatto & Windus, 1894, Ch. XV, Eye Versus Ear, P. 129) source
(The quote is also found here.)
Formal education or schooling is equally important, but it focuses merely on facts, theories and formulas, and not forgetting passing exams.
From your own day-to-day living, you know life needs different kinds of knowledge or wisdom that is not found in your school textbooks or test papers.
Remember when you were still schooling, you had already need to handle your daily life situations that your teachers have never taught you in the classroom.
In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test.
But in life, you’re given a test first that teaches you a lesson.
That’s is what we called life lessons.
Oscar Wilde Life Lessons Quotes
These are just some of life lessons found in Oscar Wilde’s writings:
“…we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde
(Lady Windermere’s Fan: A Play About A Good Woman In Four Acts By Oscar Wilde, London: Samuel French, Ltd, 1893, Act III, P. 37) source
(The quote is also found here.)
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance…” – Oscar Wilde
(An Ideal Husband By Oscar Wilde, London: Leonard Smithers And Company, 1899, Third Act, P. 123) source
(The quote is also found in: An Ideal Husband By Oscar Wilde, Massachusetts (US): Courier Corporation, 2012, Act III) source
“…every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde
(A Woman Of No Importance: A Play By Oscar Wilde, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1919, Act III ) source
(The source is also found here.)
“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” – Oscar Wilde
(The Picture Of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde, London: Simpkin, Marshall Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd, 1891, Ch.II, P. 26) source
(The quote is also found in: The Picture Of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde, US: Prestwick House Inc., 2005, Ch.II, P. 25) source
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde
(Intentions: The Decay Of Lying, Pen, Pencil And Poison, The Critic As Artist, The truth Of Masks, New York: Brentano’s, 1905, The critic As Artist: With Some Remarks Upon The Importance Of Discussing Everything, P. 185) source
(The quote is also found in: Intentions By Oscar Wilde, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1905, The Critic As Artist With Some Remarks Upon The Importance Of Discussing Everything, P. 185) source
Well, I hope my clarification of the quote education is an admirable thing meaning is helpful to you.