Heed The Call: How Western Civilization Continues to Change Under the Precepts of Locke’s “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”


Heed The Call:

 How Western Civilization Continues to Change Under the Employment of the Concepts of John Locke’s “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”


John Locke, the 17th Century English Philosophe held steadfast in his opinions about education’s pivotal role in the character of the human spirit as well as a multitude of important aspects of life.  Published in 1692, John Locke’s “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”, was quickly revolutionizing the western world and its relationship with education.  The author seemed to be an expert on an array of various intellectually based disciplines.  In this way, “Locke was very much ahead of his time” (Parker, 2004).  His works helped to pave the way for academic arenas not yet as embedded in society as they would eventually and inevitably become.  Physical health, social and civic dynamics are all realms that can frequently attest to the words and works of Locke.

The Philosophe John Locke believed first and foremost that physical well-being was of significant importance to a person’s mental state and education.  He maintained that “he, whose body is…feeble, will never be able to advance” (Locke, 1692).  According to Dr. Stephen Hicks, Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College, John Locke emotes that “physical health leads to mental health and well-being” (Hicks, 2011), which in turn, frees us up to take on academic pursuits.  Recent studies reaffirm the cyclical nature of this argument;  “The well-educated have lower levels of…physical stress” (Ross & Willigen, 1997).  This evidence suggests that the two realms of education and physical health are correlated in a snowball effect of sorts for those who live by such concepts.  Further evidence of this concept is Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (Maslow, 1970), a mid-20th century psychological study that lends to Locke’s understanding of human needs.  Maslow maintained that “Physiological needs are the very basic needs such as air, water, food, sleep, sex, etc. When these are not satisfied we may feel sickness, irritation, pain, discomfort, etc. These feelings motivate us to alleviate them as soon as possible to establish homeostasis. Once they are alleviated, we may think about other things” (University of Tasmania, 2010), such as education.  As seen on Figure 1, education comes much later on the proverbial totem pole of human priorities.  Ensuring that these primitive needs have been met is particularly instrumental in obtaining more cerebral goals like ones concerning education and learning.


Figure 1–via RuralHealth.UTAS.edu.AU


Like the cerebral nature of learning, other changes education may induce in oneself may be equally intrinsic.  Locke is quite adamant about the importance of being a productive member of society and what that means exactly.  “He that knows not…what reason tells him is fit to be done…is in danger never to be good for anything” (Locke, 1692).  This is perhaps most true of social or communal understandings of ways of life.  Although caste systems are largely considered to be somewhat archaic and limited in their meaningful understanding of human dynamics, there is no denying that classes of people are often distinguished by their respective levels of education.  Thus, education has a firm foothold in the evolution of society and social workings.  Today, “most countries are building up their higher-education systems because they see educated workers as a key to economic growth” (Cyranoski, Gilbert, Ledford, Nayar, & Yahia, 2011) and overall social prosperity.  This concept of education and its effects on society is important, because it offers crucial building blocks for improving quality of life for people all over the world.

The most significant aspect of education is arguably its ability to transform the human spirit.  In particular, the sense of purpose that is derived from one’s extended awareness through education as well as other invaluable life lessons that are vital to successes.  For instance, the lessons of “persistence in the face of difficulty” (Dowson, McInerney, Nelson, & Vickers), that has become so near and dear.  The way we see the world is affected greatly by our respective level(s) of education.  It has a way of inspiring great things in its subjects, like some kind of wonder drug or miracle specimen.  According to a 2006 study, “The top educational benefits identified by U.S. adults reveal a rich mix of pragmatic, personal, and altruistic motivations. They said that getting more education would help them… gain a personal sense of accomplishment… Gain respect at their job…Overcome disadvantages they have experienced in life…Gain respect from family and friends…Have a greater positive influence in their community” (Capella University, 2006).

Locke’s findings ultimately lead to the idea that the overall quality of life is enhanced by education.  “75% [of adults] agree that the education they have received has made a positive impact in their lives. Those with degrees are even more likely to agree — 89% of those with bachelor’s degrees and 94% of those with post-graduate degrees.” (Capella University, 2006). It is perhaps important to cling to the notion that these life-enhancing qualities that are possessed by seekers and receivers of education is not secluded to that of the higher sect alone.  But, rather the foundations of education are what matters most; the kind that begins early in life.  “Early learning leads to [a] productive life” (Debolt, 2011).  In fact, much of Locke’s “Some Thoughts Concerning Education” is aimed distinctly at this education that begins even earlier than one’s entry to school itself.

The idea that one’s quality of life is enhanced by education is not a new one.  But, as the chasm between those with an education and without widens, the world is beginning to take more notice of the implications of such observations.  In places of the world where poverty, disease and death are most prevalent, education is traditionally thought of as all but completely absent.  In contrast, the developed world owes much of its wherewithal to the outstanding accomplishments of a relatively educated few.  “John Locke’s ideas on…the rights of citizens were considered a challenge” (The European Graduate School, 2010) to conventional wisdom.  Human rights were the manifestation of the concept of quality of life.  Education had come full circle. 

Without the works of John Locke, the study of education itself would be delayed by centuries.  Because he held steadfast in his theories about the transformative nature of education and its associated practices, Locke has invigorated the world by a new found fervor for learning.  Today, the world is hurling through an “information age” (Alleyne, 2011).  We are the most intelligent and advanced global civilization the world has ever known.  Luckily for humankind, philosophers like John Locke did a great deal to understand and document their findings in our education.  Without such forward thinking, our progress towards globalization and growth would likely have been stunted; which would make life considerably less meaningful for all.

Works Cited

Alleyne, R. (2011, February 11). Welcome to the Information Age – 174 Newspapers a Day. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from Telegraph.co.Uk: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8316534/Welcome-to-the-information-age-174-newspapers-a-day.html

Capella University. (2006). Degrees of Opportunity: A Study on the Value and Feasability of Pursuing Higher Education as an Adult. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from DegreesOfOpportunities.ORG: http://www.degreesofopportunity.org/depth_benefits.html

Cyranoski, D., Gilbert, N., Ledford, H., Nayar, A., & Yahia, M. (2011, April 20). Education: The PhD Factory. Retrieved October 9, 2011, from Nature News: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110420/full/472276a.html

Debolt, D. (2011, June 29). Early Learning Leads to Productive Life, Educator Says. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from The Daily Republic Fairfield, California: http://www.dailyrepublic.com/news/business/early-learning-leads-to-productive-life-educator-says/

Dowson, M., McInerney, D. M., Nelson, G. F., & Vickers, M. H. (n.d.). The Psychology of School Leaving: Motivation, Sense-of-Self, Values and Aspirations. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from The Australian Association for Research in Education: http://www.aare.edu.au/05pap/dow05379.pdf

Hicks, S. (2011). WN.com. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from World News, Inc.: http://wn.com/John_Locke_Lectures

Locke, J. (1692). John Locke: Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from Fordam University: Modern History Sourcebook: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1692locke-education.asp

Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Parker, K. I. (2004). The Biblical Politics of John Locke. Canada: Canadian Corp. Studies in Religion.

Ross, C. E., & Willigen, M. V. (1997). Education and the Subjective Quality of Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior Vol. 38 (September), 275-297.

The European Graduate School. (2010). John Locke Biography. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from The European Graduate School Library: http://www.egs.edu/library/john-locke/biography/

University of Tasmania. (2010, March 10). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Pyramid. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from University Department of Rural Health – Tasmania: http://www.ruralhealth.utas.edu.au/comm-lead/leadership/maslow-diagram.htm



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