Sunday, October 9, 2011

What is the Purpose of Education?

This is the question that any educator, at home or at school, should be asking themselves.  This article touches gently on the subject, and the answer for Home Educator's Family Times at least, seems to be in this paragraph:

"More challenging, perhaps, is the following conundrum sometimes attributed to defiant educators:  'I taught a good lesson even though the students didn’t learn it.'  Again, everything turns on definition.  If teaching is conceived as an interactive activity, a process of facilitating learning, then the sentence is incoherent.  It makes no more sense than 'I had a big dinner even though I didn’t eat anything.'  But what if teaching is defined solely in terms of what the teacher says and does?  In that case, the statement isn’t oxymoronic – it’s just moronic.  Wouldn’t an unsuccessful lesson lead whoever taught it to ask, 'So what could I have done that might have been more successful?'"

It is perception and reflection.  Nothing is more frustrating to a teacher than planning an elaborate lesson that flops completely, and nothing is more frustrating to a student than a teacher who plans an elaborate lesson that doesn't take anything about the student into consideration (interests, learning style, level of ability, etc).  A teacher who dismisses his or her students is not actually teaching anything.  Teaching cannot be defined by the teacher's actions alone, and I would argue that it cannot even be defined by the teacher + the student.  The community of the school, the community of the family and the world at large all have a hand in teaching and learning.  The symbiotic nature of the relationship means that if one is off, the whole beast struggles.

Perhaps this is not just a question for educators.  If a parent truly believes that teaching is defined as preparation for a standardized test, then they should feel right at home in our current system.  If not, it is time for everyone to get involved in sweeping changes to education, including how we define teaching.

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