Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Purpose of Education

"The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." 
 - Sidney J. Harris, journalist and author

Our schools are failing us. They have lost their sense of purpose. T. S. Elliot in The Aims of Education states that education will always reflect the sense of purpose that dominates a culture.

Apparently our purpose for being has become no more than earning money, rather than living a balance life. We create schools that offer little in the way of personal development. The emphasis is on academic skills that can be measured by a test.

How much more successful could our children become if they learned how to be good people. What if we taught life skills with as much emphasis as language and math skills?

Too many students end up hating school because they find no sense of purpose in their studies. For them the curriculum is "a meaningless hodgepodge of subjects." (1)

 All too often the schools are expected to only "teach to the test" because funding is based on test scores. What if, instead, we taught kids how to think. What if we taught problem solving skills, decision making skills, stress management skills, effective communication skills, empathy, conflict resolution, family dynamics, goal-setting, values clarification? We can teach these along with language, math, and science. Help the kids discover a sense of who they are and who they want to become. Make their academic subjects have personal meaning for their lives.

I remember a little girl telling me how much she hated school. She had no sense of why she needed to know fractions or reading. She just wanted to be a wife and mother. Of course, school wouldn't teach her anything about relationship or parenting skills.

When I worked in the prison system, part of the program I worked in taught life skills to some of the adult male offenders.(2) Their poor decisions in the past had landed them in prison. They were unclear about their own values. Their families were fractured. They had no idea how to set and achieve good goals. Problem solving skills were limited by their black and white thinking. They had never been taught how to think critically.

How different would our country/world be if kids learned all this BEFORE they graduated and would see better futures and not just their past. Maybe instead of merely memorizing the dates and places of world conflicts in the past they learned to examined the problems the led to them and explored what possible solutions could have avoided the wars. 

(1)Neil Postman, Technology: The Surrender of Culture to Technology 

(2) Sadly, this program mo longer exists due to funding cuts.

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