Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Purpose of Education

I've been following the discussion/call to action on the Purposed.org.uk site. Started by Doug Belshaw and Andy Stewart the idea is to get educators and others to write 500 word on this question,
"What is the purpose of education?"

I've started a post in response to this questions a number of times thinking it would be an easy question to address. After all, as a father, teacher and learner I spend a large portion of my time immersed in its trimmings, the purpose of all of it should leap fully formed from my brow, right? But, every time I started a post it seemed I was making a laundry list to be checked off:
  • Education provides experiences they might not have otherwise.
  • Education develops skills students can use later.
  • Education builds productive, involved citizens.
  • Education [Fill in your favorite edu-cliche here].
I was disappointed in my uninspired responses to this simple question expecting something more meaningful. So I did what I usually do, I asked the kids. I asked about a dozen 14-16 year olds what was the purpose of their education. This thing that they've spent an inordinate amount of their lives in, but probably was never asked, to what ends. I did get a couple, "Nothin'. " responses, but most were thoughtful, reasoned, and sounded like something we might say,



Their responses were are as varied as the students giving them and generally reflected thoughts similar to many of the educators addressing the same question. So, after going back and forth I decided that my response to the purpose of education (not in any formalized brick and mortar sort of way) is to set up the individual to be able to build an answer that question for him or herself.

For me the purpose of education . . .
. . . as a father is to model the ability to achieve happiness, whatever tat might look like to them .
. . . as a teacher is to get students reflecting on themselves as learners and develop the skill and willingness to teach themselves what's needed in the pursuit of their own 'happiness.'
. . . as an educational institution is to steward the well being of these children, allowing for mistakes and providing opportunities otherwise not possible.
. . . as a society is to impress upon kids an appreciation of their community, develop a desire to give back and ultimately value each other.