The Purpose of Education Today

School is a period of training where children learn the skills they need to function productively and responsibly within society at large.

It is not merely a reproduction of what has gone before, of old ways made new. It is a conscious, orchestrated effort to bring children together, outside of their family environment, to establish patterns of behavior, skills, and knowledge that will be useful to them as adults in any society.

Technology has brought us farther than most people could have imagined, and it shows no sign of slowing that trend. In light of this fact, education must teach processes, as well as facts. It is not enough to memorize the multiplication tables, or to learn the use of a calculator. Children must leave the school system able to use numbers and math in a variety of ways, to manage their finances and their future employment.

History is a process that has trends and patterns like any other continuing process. It is not a matter of simply teaching names and dates. Students need to graduate from the education process with a working knowledge of human history: where we’ve been, what we are, where we are, and where we may be headed. Children need to be trained to make their own changes in our society. They need to be taught that individuals can, have, and do make a difference in the world. It is up to teachers to show students how they can make improvements in themselves, in their families, their communities, their country, and in the world.

There has been too much fluff and fantasy and not enough genuine cause and effect training in our nation’s educational process. Children are isolated from so many natural processes that they have come to expect and demand instant gratification without thought to what really goes into bringing something to be. The natural “programming” that causes children to be attracted to television, to be demanding, and their developmentally appropriate self-centeredness have left parents vulnerable to the “easy way out” of buying-off and bribing good behavior. Children have come to expect to be entertained throughout their every activity. These unrealistic expectations lead to many societal ills that shall only be compounded in the future as our planet becomes more densely populated.

In a system dealing with millions of children, it is impossible to provide for everyone. By doing so, we are defeating the initial intent of the education process. Not everyone is ready, able, or willing to learn at a specific level, simply because of their birth date. Families of limited-ability children need to take a realistic view of their child’s future and act accordingly. Far better to give a low intellect individual the skills they need to maintain an apartment, keep a simple job, pay their bills, have and keep friends, and be able to take care of their own physical needs than to force feed them through an educational program neither suited to their abilities, nor to any future they may realistically expect to have.

Developmental and educational research are providing information faster than professionals can integrate it into their lesson plans. Change does not occur overnight. It is a process that takes time, goes through its own phases, backs up, moves forward, and eventually continues toward something else. In light of the new research, many teachers are being drawn to the teaching manuals that were published during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. These manuals admonish teachers to keep in mind that the purpose of education is to prepare children for responsible adulthood within society. While what we know about the details of how people learn and develop has changed, the overall truths of human behavior have not.

What is appropriate?  What constitutes good assessment?  What is good for society and the individual?