The Aim of Education Is the Knowledge, Not of Facts, But of Values

William Ralph Inge? William S. Burroughs? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been attributed to two very different people: William Ralph Inge and William S. Burroughs:

The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.

Inge was a professor at Cambridge and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Burroughs was a member of the Beat Generation best known for authoring “Naked Lunch”. Should either of these figures receive credit for this remark?

Quote Investigator: In 1917 the collection “Cambridge Essays on Education” appeared. Inge wrote a piece titled “The Training of the Reason” which included the following passage. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The ideal object of education is that we should learn all that it concerns us to know, in order that thereby we may become all that it concerns us to be. In other words, the aim of education is the knowledge not of facts but of values. Values are facts apprehended in their relation to each other, and to ourselves. The wise man is he who knows the relative values of things. In this knowledge, and in the use made of it, is summed up the whole conduct of life.

William S. Burroughs was born in 1914; hence, he clearly did not coin this expression. He died in 1997, and he implausibly received credit in 2005 as indicated further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1919 “A Handbook of American Private Schools” credited Inge with the quotation: 2

W. R. Inge in “The Training of the Reason” tells us that “the ideal object of education is that we should learn all that it concerns us to know, in order that thereby we may become all that it concerns us to be. In other words, the aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.

In 2005 “The Consistent Consumer: Predicting Future Behavior Through Lasting Values” by Ken Beller, Steve Weiss, and Louis Patler employed the saying as a chapter epigraph. Mysteriously, William S. Burroughs received credit instead of Inge: 3

The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.
—William S. Burroughs, American Writer

In 2015 “3000 Astounding Quotes” by James Egan included a section of quotations attributed to Burroughs. Here were three: 4

2453. The face of evil is always the face of total need.

2454. Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

2455. The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.

In conclusion, William Ralph Inge should be given credit for this statement based on the 1917 citation. The ascription to William S. Burroughs is spurious.

Image Notes: Picture of many books from Free-Photos at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Samuel LoPresto whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. LoPresto noted the dubious dual attribution to William Ralph Inge and William S. Burroughs at Brainy Quote.)

Notes:

  1. 1917, Cambridge Essays on Education, Edited by A. C. Benson (Master of Magdalene College), The Training of the Reason by W. R. Inge (Dean of St. Paul’s), Start Page 12, Quote Page 12, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1919 Copyright, A Handbook of American Private Schools, An Annual Survey 1920, Fifth Edition, Educational Literature of the Academic Year 1918-1919, Educational Reconstruction in England, Start Page 72, Quote Page 77, Porter E. Sargent, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 2005, The Consistent Consumer: Predicting Future Behavior Through Lasting Values by Ken Beller, Steve Weiss, and Louis Patler, Part 1: The Values of a Nation, Epigraph to Chapter 1: The Value of Values, Quote Page 3, Dearborn Trade Publishing: A Kaplan Professional Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)
  4. 2015, 3000 Astounding Quotes by James Egan, Quote Page 220, Lulu Publishing Services at Lulu.com. (Google Books Preview)