Great Education Quotes

I have been collecting quotes about learning and education for many years. Here is a collection of favorite quotes on lifelong learning, learning and freedom, unschooling, institutional schooling, homeschooling and general truth about learning by speakers from C.S. Lewis and Albert Einstein to Aristotle and Mark Twain. Enjoy!

Education and Freedom

There is no neutral education. Education is either for domestication or for freedom. – Joao Coutinho

It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives. — John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756

Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. – Henry Peter Broughan

Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing. –Albert Einstein

Only the educated are free.–Epictetus

A well-informed mind is the best security against the contagion of folly and of vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. –Ann Radcliffe

To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. –Theodore Roosevelt

The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? ― Charlotte M. Mason, in School Education: Developing A Curriculum

The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.― B.B. King

Government will not fail to employ education, to strengthen its hands, and perpetuate its institutions.” – William Godwin

We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free. Epictetus

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. –George Washington Carver

Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development. –Kofi Annan

The entire object of true education, is to make people not merely do the right thing, but to enjoy right things; not merely industrious, but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love knowledge. –John Ruskin

As we all learned from the sorry experience of state-sanctioned bureaucracies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, decentralization is crucial to both freedom and excellence. –Jerry Brown

The more subsidized it is, the less free it is. What is known as `free education’ is the least free of all, for it is a state-owned institution; it is socialized education –just like socialized medicine or the socialized post office –and cannot possibly be separated from political control.” – Frank Chodorov, “Why Free Schools Are Not Free,”

Self-Education / Learning by Doing / Lifestyle of Learning

For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay - A favorite

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature. ― Charlotte Mason

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. - John Cotton Dana

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. — Plato

The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom. – Henry Ward Beecher

Few have been taught to any purpose who have not been their own teachers. – Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” ― C.S. Lewis

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. –Albert Einstein

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ―Aristotle, from The Nicomachean Ethics

Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.― E.M. Forster

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. –Will Durant

Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.  Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.  ~Henry L. Doherty

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How Children Learn (Classics in Child Development) by John Holt

Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us. A child learns such fundamental things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress, and so on without being taught these things. Adults learn most of what they use at work or at leisure while at work or leisure. Most of what is taught in classroom settings is forgotten, and much or what is remembered is irrelevant. –From The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching by Russell Ackoff

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.~ Pablo Picasso

All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.— Sir Walter Scott

What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child. –George Bernard Shaw

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.
―Martha Graham, American dancer and choreographer

The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue.  –Antisthenes

Change is the end result of all true learning.― Leo Buscaglia

To develop a complete mind: study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. –Leonardo da Vinci

The best of my education has come from the public library… my tuition fee is a bus fare and once in a while, five cents a day for an overdue book.  You don’t need to know very much to start with, if you know the way to the public library.  –Lesley Conger

Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity. –Aristotle

Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself. ― Paulo Coelho

Teaching Methods

Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte MasonThere is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent. ― Mahatma Gandhi

Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.”
―Charlotte Mason, from The Original Home Schooling Series

If children haven’t been read to, they don’t love books. They need to love books, for books are the basis of literature, composition, history, world events, vocabulary, and everything else. –Edith Schaeffer

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction. –Albert Einstein

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn. ―Phil Collins

If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.  Linda Darling-Hammond

Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively. –R.D. Clyde

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”
― Alexander Pope, from an “An Essay on Criticism”


In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it. –Sir William Haley

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ―Benjamin Franklin

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education  by Douglas Wilson

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners. – John Holt

If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way. –Mark Twain

It is what we know already that often prevents us from learning. ~Claude Bernard

It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.  ~Jacob Bronowski

Almost anything can become a learning experience if there is enough caring involved.–Mary MacCracken

Do not train children in learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. –Plato

Every man…should periodically be compelled to listen to opinions which are infuriating to him. To hear nothing but what is pleasing to one is to make a pillow of the mind. –St. John Ervine

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  –Henry Ford

The group consisting of mother, father and child is the main educational agency of mankind.  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better. ― Sidney Sheldon

The most necessary task of civilization is to teach people how to think. It should be the primary purpose of our public schools. The mind of a child is naturally active, it develops through exercise. Give a child plenty of exercise, for body and brain. The trouble with our way of educating is that it does not give elasticity to the mind. It casts the brain into a mold. It insists that the child must accept. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning, and it lays more stress on memory than observation. ― Thomas A. Edison

Institutional Education

The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.” – G.K. Chesterton

The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading. ― Charlotte Mason

“For centuries it was never discovered that education was a function of the State, and the State never attempted to educate. But when modern absolutism arose, it laid claim to everything on behalf of the sovereign power….When the revolutionary theory of government began to prevail, and Church and State found that they were educating for opposite ends and in a contradictory spirit, it became necessary to remove children entirely from the influence of religion.” – Lord Acton

Academies that are founded at public expense are instituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them.— Baruch Spinoza

If the only motive was to help people who could not afford education, advocates of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies. – Milton Friedman

The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions. ~ Noam Chomsky

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.— Thomas Jefferson


Deschooling Society by Ivan IllichSchool is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is. –From Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich (link is to a general summary of the book)

What is the purpose of industrial education? To fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence? Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States and that is its aim everywhere else. – H. L. Mencken

We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought. –Bertrand Russell

Historically, much of the motivation for public schooling has been to stifle variety and institute social control. – Jack Hugh

State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly alike one another, …in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body. – John Stuart Mill

We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause. – Horace Mann

Though the academic authorities are actually proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to describe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern State has educated its citizens in a series of ephemeral fads. –G.K. Chesterton

“…Modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:

1. Obedient soldiers to the army;
2. Obedient workers to the mines;
3. Well subordinated civil servants to government;
4. Well subordinated clerks to industry
5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.”

–John Taylor Gatto

An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life. –Author Unknown

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto

It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated. –Alec Bourne

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.” –Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher

What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all. –John Holt

I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room. ― Barbara Kingsolver

The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn. ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Education is only a ladder to gather fruit from the tree of knowledge, not the fruit itself. –Albert Einstein (attributed)

It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy. – Albert Shanker

There are two kinds of charlatan: the man who is called a charlatan, and the man who really is one. The first is the quack who cures you; the second is the highly qualified person who doesn’t. G.K. Chesterton

His studies were pursued but never effectually overtaken.  ~H.G. Wells

If it would be wrong for the government to adopt an official religion, then, for the same reasons, it would be wrong for the government to adopt official education policies. The moral case for freedom of religion stands or falls with that for freedom of education. A society that champions freedom of religion but at the same time countenances state regulation of education has a great deal of explaining to do. – James R. Otteson

The school is a political prize of the highest importance. It cannot be deprived of its political character as long as it remains a public and compulsory institution.–Ludwig von Mises

[The public school system is] usually a twelve year sentence of mind control. Crushing creativity, smashing individualism, encouraging collectivism and compromise, destroying the exercise of intellectual inquiry, twisting it instead into meek subservience to authority. ― Walter Karp

The anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know. – John Holt

One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure. ~ John W. Gardner

Creativity, Habits, and General Education Quotes

Educating the WholeHearted Child -- by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson

  • Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio, or looked at television. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work. –Carl Sandburg
  • Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. –C.S. Lewis

The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot a wrong question.– Anthony Jay

The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil. –Thomas Edison

I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas. ― Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible. ―Richard P. Feynman, American physicist

We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous children, whose guardians we are, and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention. Read not the Times. Read the Eternities. –Henry David Thoreau

Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning. –William A. Ward

A great curse has fallen upon modern life with the discovery of the vastness of the word Education. –G.K. Chesterton

Many hours of solitary occupation and enjoyment, will lead to the development of the highest intellectual and moral traits of character; in fact, his mental resources may be considered entirely unknown and unexplored, who cannot spend his best and happiest hours alone. –Jacob Abbott, c. 1850

Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school. –Wendy Priesnitz

The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. –Charlotte Mason

Good teachers are those who know how little they know. Bad teachers are those who think they know more than they don’t know. –R. Verdi

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem.  That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.  ~Thomas Szasz

There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes. –G.K. Chesterton

Certainly, some will oppose competition-just as AT&T once fought the breakup of its monopoly. Others will reflexively resist the redistribution of power to poor families. Still others will wave their worn-out ideologies to defend a system of educational apar-theid while demonizing anyone who promotes a parent’s right to choose. – Andrew Young

Ah, child and youth, if you knew the bliss which resides in the taste of knowledge, and the evil and ugliness that lies in ignorance, how well you are advised to not complain of the pain and labor of learning. ― Christine de Pizan

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