Help me study for my Philosophy class. I’m stuck and don’t understand.

In 3 pages, I’d like you to state what an education means to you. I’d like you to compare what an education means to you with what an education means for Machiavelli and Descartes. Consider this passage from the “Letter to Vettori:”

When evening comes, I return home and enter my study; on the threshold I take off my workday clothes, covered with mud and dirt, and put on the garments of court and palace. Fitted out appropriately, I step inside the venerable courts of the ancients, where, solicitously received by them, I nourish myself on that food that alone is mine and for which I was born; where I am unashamed to converse with them and to question them about the motives for their actions, and they, out of their human kindness, answer me. And for four hours at a time I feel no boredom, I forget all my troubles, I do not dread poverty, and I am not terrified by death. I absorb myself into them completely.

Machiavelli says there comes a time every day where he sits and talks to the thinkers of the past, trying to understand why they wrote, thought, and acted as they did. How is he educating himself? What does an education mean to him? How does this relate to the world he lives in?

I would like you to consider Descartes. This passage is from the Discourse on Method, which we didn’t read:

From my childhood, I have been familiar with letters; and as I was given to believe that by their help a clear and certain knowledge of all that is useful in life might be acquired, I was ardently desirous of instruction. But as soon as I had finished the entire course of study, at the close of which it is customary to be admitted into the order of the learned, I completely changed my opinion. For I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance. And yet I was studying in one of the most celebrated schools in Europe, in which I thought there must be learned men, if such were anywhere to be found. I had been taught all that others learned there; and not contented with the sciences actually taught us, I had, in addition, read all the books that had fallen into my hands, treating of such branches as are esteemed the most curious and rare. I knew the judgment which others had formed of me; and I did not find that I was considered inferior to my fellows, although there were among them some who were already marked out to fill the places of our instructors. And, in fine, our age appeared to me as flourishing, and as fertile in powerful minds as any preceding one. I was thus led to take the liberty of judging of all other men by myself, and of concluding that there was no science in existence that was of such a nature as I had previously been given to believe.

Descartes doesn’t merely say “I didn’t really learn as much as I wanted to at school.” He says “there was no science in existence that was of such a nature as I had previously been given to believe”–in other words, school, in some way, was promoting delusional thinking.

Papers that receive high marks will state what an education means, then explore what an education might mean for Machiavelli and Descartes. Good papers should wrestle with the problem that there are different values and different demands at stake, and they may all be equally valid in some way.