Should there be a Nobel Prize for Education?

Yesterday’s news that Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University and Oliver E. Williamson of the University of California at Berkeley won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences marked the conferring of the sixth and final Nobel Prize for 2009. The Nobel Foundation’s honors are, most people would agree, the most prestigious and widely known international awards. They inevitably succeed in bringing a great deal of recognition and celebrity to little known scholars and often spur a great deal of conversation and controversy, as was the case with this year’s Peace Prize going to Barack Obama and Prize in Literature to Herta Müller. I find it interesting that only six prizes are given each year. Why literature but not visual art? Why not peace but not conservation? Why not any of many of life’s noble pursuits? For that matter, why not education?

We here at A.C.E. are of course a little biased because, well, we’re educators, but we think we have a valid point. Stop to consider how many Noble Prize winners have also been educators. The prizes in the sciences systematically go to research scientists affiliated with a University. It is not uncommon for Peace and Literature recipients to have some teaching experience under their belts, either. In my mind, education is the bottom line of every Prize, as they are largely won as a result of an academic endeavor. And just as the fields of Chemistry and Physics grow, so too does the field of education.

Thus we state our case: there should be a Nobel Prize for Education. Alas, though, the six prizes are deeply rooted in tradition–the Nobel committee probably doesn’t take adding a new category lightly. But wait! There were originally only five prizes given–Economics wasn’t added until 1969 with funding from Riksbank, the Swedish bank, in honor of its 300th anniversary. (The first prize was shared between Ragnar Frisch of Oslo University and Jan Tinbergen of the Netherlands School of Economics.) If that’s the case, maybe we should lobby some large, wealthy Swedish University to fund the prize?

Until such a time comes, however, we’ll have to make due with the Broad Prize. My only complaint is that this prize is exclusively focused on urban education in America. Don’t get me wrong–it is an excellent award that confers a great deal of respect and recognition to the field–but is there any award out there for folks with their educationally-minded eyes peering over borders? I couldn’t find one.

In any event, we’re all interested in hearing what you might have to say on the matter. You are therefor invited to open the comment thread below and share your thoughts on the idea of a prize for international education. Who would you give it to? What would be your criteria? Please let us know.

One Comment on “Should there be a Nobel Prize for Education?

  1. I strongly agree that there should be a Nobel prize for Education. Educators all around the world share a great deal in shaping every tiny little detail in our life, by influencing their students. I Love the quote that says” A teacher affects eternity, he can never tell where his inflience stops”.
    However a criteria is what we should work on. It has to go beyond academics, cause that’s the real goal of education, changing lives for the best. Why don’t we establish a comittee of those who are interested in education to start working on this criteria, and start voting for having a Nobel prize for education.

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