Adam Smith on the philosophy and provision of education

Thomas, Alex M. (2017) Adam Smith on the philosophy and provision of education. Journal of Interdisciplinary Economi, 30 (1). pp. 105-116. ISSN 2321-5305

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This article examines the views of Adam Smith on the philosophy and provision of education. On the basis of his Theory of Moral Sentiments and other writings, it becomes clear that Smith views education, conceived broadly to include both the learning of ‘wisdom’ and ‘moral sentiments’, as central to a prosperous or flourishing society. Education, in Smith’s view, is not restricted to formal institutions of education but also includes social learning—that between parents and children, and the learning arising from friendships. For Smith, education is a social process. Smith also discusses the important role of wonder and surprise in the process of education. The provision of education, as outlined in his Wealth of Nations, largely supports the public provision of education with partial contributions from the enrolled students. Smith favoured education for all because he believed that it would offset the harmful effects of division of labour on the workers, and therefore, education had to be accessible to the workers. The essay concludes by reiterating Smith’s position that education for all is necessary to create a prosperous society.

Item Type: Article
Authors: Thomas, Alex M.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Moral sentiments, philosophy of education, public education, liberal capitalism, Adam Smith
Subjects: Social sciences > Education
Divisions: Azim Premji University > School of Arts and Sciences
Full Text Status: Public
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