Sunday, October 9, 2011

If the School Won't Customize...

...Then Take Your Kid Out. Just one thing I am reading this morning from a homeschool parent who believes (and I agree) that students shouldn't be standardized along with their education.

This morning, I am also reading about how schools are filling kids up with sand and water before they have dealt with the big rocks, and I extrapolate this to education reform in general; we are dealing with smaller things like teacher tenure, class size and shifting standards when we should first be looking at the culture of education in this country, our philosophy of schooling and the changes in what schooling should be.

And finally, this morning from the Huffington Post comes a big question, or a big rock if you will, that has been floating around the blogosphere with increasing velocity this past year: why education? Eleanor Roosevelt answered thusly in 1930, and she's a pretty astute chick:

What is the purpose of education? This question agitates scholars, teachers, statesmen, every group, in fact, of thoughtful men and women (bold mine). The conventional answer is the acquisition of knowledge, the reading of books, and the learning of facts. Perhaps because there are so many books and the branches of knowledge in which we can learn facts are so multitudinous today, we begin to hear more frequently that the function of education is to give children a desire to learn and to teach them how to use their minds and where to go to acquire facts when their curiosity is aroused. Even more all-embracing than this is the statement made not long ago, before a group of English headmasters, by the Archbishop of York, that "the true purpose of education is to produce citizens."

What do you think is the purpose of education? This is the educator equivalent of "why are we here?" and it requires at least a personal answer if one is to be effective regardless of their setting (homeschool, public or private). ER thought we educate to produce citizens, and there is a lot of buzz about digital citizens, global citizens, etc.  Does our current public education system educate either of these types of citizens? Not intentionally or evenly across the country (and race and income level).

I believe the purpose of education is to help every person become the best version of themselves. Education should support and empower each student's individual interests, challenge how they think and push them to work through struggles. Education should also teach students how to balance a checkbook, live on a budget, write a decent letter and understand everything that they read, even if they have to look closely and read it more than once. Students should know, at a minimum, how to add, subtract, multiply and divide w/o a calculator, and they should understand estimation, weights and measures. Students should know where they are in the world in relation to other cultures, geography and ideas.

Education's job should also be to introduce thoughts and ideas that a student might not encounter on their own; education should help a student explore the digital world beyond YouTube and Google+, and it should involve some type of action that helps people who are less fortunate than the students themselves. Education should be joyous, even in the struggle, even when it's boring. Education should help students win arguments and clarify their position on an issue, beyond simply restating what their parents said. Education should produce independent thinkers who look to multiple sources for information and then synthesize them.

Do you agree? What do you feel is the purpose of education? Does your current educational setting match?

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