Minister Louis Farrakhan

The Purpose of Education

By Minister Louis Farrakhan | Last updated: Apr 19, 2016 - 9:39:03 AM

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[Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted from “A Torchlight for America,” chapter 4, pages 47-53, written by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, 1993.]

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.

Let’s deal with what education is supposed to be as opposed to what it is in America. One of the things that separates man from beast is knowledge. Knowledge feeds the development of the human being so that the person can grow and evolve into Divine and become one with The Creator. It’s not one’s maleness or femaleness, being Black or being White, rather it is our growth and reflection of knowledge that distinguishes us from the lower forms of life.

Education is supposed to be the proper cultivation of the gifts and talents of the individual through the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge satisfies our natural thirst for gaining that which will make us one with our Maker. So true education cultivates the person—mind, body and spirit—by bringing us closer to fulfilling our purpose for being, which is to reflect Allah (God).

The second purpose for education, after self-cultivation, is to teach us how to give proper service to self, family, community, nation and then to the world.


The problem in today’s education is that the root motivation is the acquisition of wealth and material things rather than cultivation of the human spirit. In a study conducted by Dr. Harold Stevenson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan (in which he compared American schools to those in East Asia), the educational deficiencies of America’s youth were traced to the motivational forces promoted by America’s culture. In response to a “wish” question, Chicago children tended to wish for money and material objects, while Beijing children wished for educational goals. Dr. Stevenson concluded that “clearly, a challenge in the U.S. is to create a greater cultural emphasis on education and academic success. But we must also make changes in the training of teachers and in their teaching schedules, so that they, too, will be able to incorporate sound teaching practices into their daily routines.”

Put God first

True and proper education starts with the knowledge of God. And yet, God is taken out of the schools. It is ridiculous that the school day does not begin with prayer. God is the author of all knowledge, so why should He be taken out of the schools?

Recognition of God is the proper beginning point for understanding every discipline. If we cannot honor God, the Supreme Teacher, then how can the children honor their teachers? We have this thing all backwards. You don’t pledge your allegiance to a flag, which is merely the symbol of a nation. You pledge allegiance to God, and you work for your flag and country.

A while ago I coined the phrase, “he who gives the diameter of your knowledge prescribes the circumference of your activity.” If you gain a limited knowledge, then you restrict the possibilities of what you can and will achieve. The capacity of man’s brain is infinite. Therefore, the greater one’s knowledge grows, the greater becomes one’s sphere of activity until it encompasses and reflects mastery of self and mastery of the universe.

The knowledge of God is infinite. I would argue that leaving God out of our schools limits our education and confines the scope of what we are equipped to do and achieve.

As an example, in the recent movie on Malcolm X, we saw a young man who looks like many young men today, except that he rose from a low-life of crime and ignorance, into the man who a great many now admire. Malcolm rose to his heights because he was taught the knowledge of God, self and others by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Because Malcolm was taught outside of the sphere of White supremacist teaching, he never lost a debate, even against the most learned of the society, and even though he had just an eighth-grade education. God was present and foremost in Malcolm’s “true” education, and this is why he achieved what for others would be an impossibility.

Teach the true knowledge of self and others

Every human being requires a knowledge of self as part of the proper cultivation of the divinity that is in them. Additionally, and if we hope to live together in peace with others in the society, we must know something of the cultures that make up this so-called melting pot.

A new public school system should relate the curriculum to the self. When we see the curriculum as an outgrowth of self, then we can identify with the curriculum, giving us an incentive to learn. In the Muhammad University of Islam school system, our students’ learning is facilitated because they identify with the subjects. They are taught that they are the subject. They are taught, “I am chemistry.” Not, “I am a student of chemistry,” rather, “I am biology. I am economics. I am history. I am mathematics.” When we relate the forces within self to the forces that lie outside the self, this connects us to subjects we are studying in a manner that we can ultimately master these subjects.

Our bodies are controlled by the mind. So mastering economics should not be as difficult with this thought in mind. This body takes in and separates what is useful, puts it to productive use, and eliminates what is wasteful. Therefore, this body is economics and since I am the master of this body, I can master economics.

It’s imperative to teach people about themselves, their history, their bodies and their nature so that they can become self masters. Mastery of self is the key to mastery of all disciplines, because in some way every discipline is present within ourselves.

Once we have a mastery of self-knowledge, it’s important to be taught the true history of the other people who make up this country. This promotes mutual respect for the members of the human family, lending to a peaceful and productive society.

This is why Black history should be studied, not only by Black people, but by White people. As we have developed a respect for White people by knowing their history and great accomplishments, Whites will develop a respect for Black, Native American and Hispanic people and all the peoples of the Earth when they know the histories and contributions of others to the onward march of civilization in a pluralistic society such as they claim this is.

It is absolutely a vital necessity that the people who make up America should be a part of the study of those who call themselves Americans, and in that way we grow to respect one another. Even if we never grow to love one another, mutual respect is all that is really required to make the nation truly great.

If America believes in pluralism, a new system of education must be developed that gives all human beings their proper due. The current study of American history is nothing more than the indoctrination of Americans in the ideas of White supremacy and Black inferiority. At best, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans learn how to use wit and skill to maneuver in a hostile environment, but they are not taught how to create new circumstances that make freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness realities instead of just words on a piece of paper.

The fundamental philosophies of Western civilization are rooted in White supremacy. You can’t bring a Black child into that kind of educational environment and produce a child who loves and respects itself. You produce a child who bows down to White people and looks at White people as being God. I’m not saying it’s wrong to respect another human being, but it is totally inappropriate to worship another human being—who is no better than yourself—as though they are a god beside Allah (God).

If Whites patterned themselves after God then we could follow them. But they have done quite the contrary. And so we can’t follow their example and permit our children to be destroyed with false knowledge that breeds in White children a superior attitude and breeds a sense of inferiority in Black children and an attitude that says we cannot accomplish what we will.

This is why Malcolm X left school and went into criminal life. There seems to be a practice of identifying young, brilliant Black children, particularly Black boys, and casting in their minds suggestions that stagnate their development and kill their upward movement. Evil suggestions were made to Malcolm, to me (and others in the past) as students in the school system. I know that these same evil suggestions are being made to tens of thousands of today’s young Black children.

One of America’s greatest crimes was and is depriving us totally of the knowledge of self. This is a crime of immeasurable dimension. Having been deprived of the richness of our history deprives us of the springs and motives of human action that would tell us the possibilities that are within us. If you know what your forebears did, then you know the realm of possibility for you. If you are deprived of that history, then you have nothing to connect yourself to as a person. You are left vulnerable to attach yourself to the circumstances you are given, and in a White society everything that is given to us has a Eurocentric perspective that has historically been hostile to Black people.

We as Black people never, therefore, get a root in ourselves, but focus instead on White people—their vision and accomplishments—as the standard by which we judge our possibilities. Further, we are subtly and overtly taught that we can never measure up to them and achieve their level of accomplishments because, by nature, we are inferior beings.

Honor the profession of teaching

Teachers are the stewards of the proper cultivation of the people. Without teachers, we have an underdeveloped people. With an underdeveloped people, we set the stage for a backward society, which we are witnessing in the present-day reversal of America as a world power.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that education is the torchlight of civilization. If the educational system is declining, this is a sign that the whole of the civilization will follow into a state of decline.

What are we going to do about a country that can give a man millions of dollars to throw a ball into a hoop and will not pay an educator an adequate salary? What does this say about our understanding of education and its importance? We have a serious misplacement of values and priorities that needs to be corrected.

Teachers must be compensated commensurate with their role in society. We have to restore honor among those who choose and are employed in this noble profession. Better compensation of education professionals at the public school level can help us attract and retain those whose talent is otherwise channeled into corporate America and other endeavors that pay more and provide lifestyles that are treated with respect and honor. In so doing, the school system can be more selective and use only those teachers who have a genuine love for people and a desire to bring the best out of our children. Surely, with all of the recent layoffs in corporate America, there must be an abundance of qualified people who can provide our children with better education.