First, David Warlick wrote after watching - and participating - in our videoconferencing with Daniel Pink:
On several occasions, lately, when working with teachers and administrators at independent schools, I’ve been asked, “What is the purpose of education?” It’s not a question that comes out of public school conversations very often. We already know what education is for. The government told us.Then yesterday Seth Godin wrote:
Education is about:
We don’t even ask any more — and even in this season of Change (http://change.gov/), we’re still not asking that question.
- Covering all the standards
- Improving performance on government tests
- Meeting AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress)
- Producing a competitive workforce
Now I generalize when comparing different types of schools, and to be sure, independent schools are also governed by testing, as many of their students attend so that they can get into Harvard, Yale, or Duke (Go Blue Devils). But, again, there is a palpable sense of confidence in the conversations I witness when away from public schools — a willingness to ask tough questions.
I’ve had a ready answer to the question.
“The purpose of education is to appropriately prepare our children for their future.”
There are some implied, but essential questions in that answer:
Today, I have a new answer. My old one is still good. I’ll continue to use it. But if you ask me, “What is the purpose of education?” today, I’ll say,
- What will their future hold? What will they need to know?
- What are appropriate method, materials, environment, activity?
- Who are these children? What is their frame of reference?
"The purpose of education is to make the world a better place!"
What drew me to this answer was Karl Fisch’s teleconferencing activity last week (see A 2.0 Sort’a Day: Part 2). As I thought more about the experience, it occurred to me that this was an almost singularly unique activity — beyond the fact that students were interacting with an internationally renowned writer, exchanging thoughtful insights, and the really cool use of technology.
What struck me in hindsight was that these students were earning respect. They were respected by each other, by their teachers, by the instructional support professionals, and by the internationally renowned figure, Dan Pink. Their engagement in that activity will continue to be respected by people, young and old, who will read the archive of those multidimensional conversations.
Those students were full partners in their learning, and they were entrusted to go beyond just what was expected. They were encouraged to freely extend and develop their own thoughts, skills, and knowledge, building on their own frame of reference, pushing and pulling through conversation, and being responsible for their part of the endeavor.
So, a starter list. The purpose of school is to:Both David and Seth, coming from different backgrounds, have some fairly negative views of what some folks think school is for, as well as some more positive views of what school should be. If you've read my blog for any length of time you most likely know the general trend my thoughts take on this, so I'll spare you my own ranting and raving (for now, anyway). But I thought these were worth posting on the same page as a good starting point for discussion, as Seth suggests:
- Become an informed citizen
- Be able to read for pleasure
- Be trained in the rudimentary skills necessary for employment
- Do well on standardized tests
- Homogenize society, at least a bit
- Pasteurize out the dangerous ideas
- Give kids something to do while parents work
- Teach future citizens how to conform
- Teach future consumers how to desire
- Build a social fabric
- Create leaders who help us compete on a world stage
- Generate future scientists who will advance medicine and technology
- Learn for the sake of learning
- Help people become interesting and productive
- Defang the proletariat
- Establish a floor below which a typical person is unlikely to fall
- Find and celebrate prodigies, geniuses and the gifted
- Make sure kids learn to exercise, eat right and avoid common health problems
- Teach future citizens to obey authority
- Teach future employees to do the same
- Increase appreciation for art and culture
- Teach creativity and problem solving
- Minimize public spelling mistakes
- Increase emotional intelligence
- Decrease crime by teaching civics and ethics
- Increase understanding of a life well lived
- Make sure the sports teams have enough players
If you have the email address of the school board or principals, perhaps you'll forward this list to them (and I hope you are in communication with them regardless, since it's a big chunk of your future and your taxes!). Should make an interesting starting point for a discussion.Please leave a comment or do as Seth suggests and contact a school board member, superintendent, school administrator, teacher, student, parent, state legislator (Colorado), community member, congressperson (Senate, House, or possibly this link for both), or President Obama and ask them for their thoughts, without the spin.
What's the purpose of school?