According to Perry, the aim of a liberal education is for one to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed and reasonable decisions. Any other consequences should be treated as merely incidental. He explains that the first means to this end is through the simple gaining of knowledge by memorization of certain key facts, such as the periodic table. This is often necessary, and should not be avoided, but too often it is seen as synonymous with learning. In his essay, “Examsmanship and the Liberal Arts: A Study in Educational Epistemology,” William G. Perry, Jr. uses the term “cow” to describe “writing on the assumption that `a fact is a fact.’ … presenting evidence of hard work as a substitute for understanding…” while using the somewhat more traditional term “bull” to mean deception as to the presence of actual data.
I definitely agree with Perry’s opinion on what education should foster, the purpose of education is to enable students to learn for themselves, not to spoon-feed them every fact they will ever need in their lives. Current day teachers have a huge influence on how education is nurtured. I believe that the problem nowadays is that many teachers feel a need to have students undergo the same thinking process as them, and to arrive at the same conclusion in the same way. Many teachers have made students hate reading because when asked about a certain aspect of the book, the teachers never really wanted to hear your thoughts but rather, what they thought it was.
Because of this, one finds many students lacking the ability to think for themselves. The students get in the mindset of “what would the teacher want me to say”. The “cows” are unable to look beneath the bare facts in order to understand why something has taken place. Not only do they lack imagination, they lack the ability to truly think. Therefore, one would be robbing himself of his education and soul. Unfortunately, this approach to learning is held by many, both students and teachers. Education should encourage students to learn how to make connections between facts, and give them the ability to use this process throughout life.