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Part of the purpos/ed project.
In a recent Twitter post, I said that I think that "the purpose of education is to develop a creative society that will ask difficult questions."
I've made no mention of children, but, in all the posts in this distributed conversation, everyone seems to assume that education is something that society does with (or to) the youngest members of that society, until such a point at which they can learn on their own.
Actually, from my point of view, we seem to do the opposite. We take children, who are literally "born learners", and we educate the ability to learn out of them, by forcing them through the sausage-machine that is our "education system".
As Lou McGill so eloquently states, from her experience, the state education system "offers a standardised one-dimensional approach that assumes a commonality of potential."
How can we expect people to be creative, if we expect them all to achieve certain, set, targets, and disparage certain areas of learning as less important than others?
The trouble is, our whole society, politically, economically, socially and educationally, is driven by competition rather than cooperation, on being seen to be better than others, rather than just being. We're all in it. There's almost no escape. It's part of our psyche. Our lives are built on becoming "better than" others.
It takes quite a major rethink about the purpose of life itself to break free of that mindset...
... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
(Philippians 4:10 - sorry to my non-religious friends, but it's relevant)
Let's say we do break free of discontentment. What then? What would be the purpose of education if we didn't have to keep proving ourselves?
It would be about achieving our individual potential. It would be about helping each other to find out what we are good at, and developing those skills/gifts/talents. Not to be better than someone else, but to be as good as we can get.
It would be about encouraging the creative minds we're born with, and developing them - not stifling them.
It would be about looking out for injustice and not accepting it.
It would be about being able to tell people how we feel, and about dealing with ourselves when we get hurt.
It would be about learning about how the behaviour of this amazingly complex universe can be described by the most simple maths (eg. E = mc2 - why???!).
It would be about imagining yourself in someone else's shoes, having compassion, and knowing what to do about it.
Stephen Downes says it so much better than me in his post: "Things you really need to learn"
So, to summarise, the purpose of education in our current society is to become better than other people. If you're not satisfied with that (and I'm not), then you need to rethink what life is about, and then the purpose of education is to achieve your own, individual potential alongside other people.
I agree, Mark. We’ve accepted politicians’ lazy rhetoric about the inherent good of competition in everything from the NHS to schools for too long.
I think that’s its real purpose. Somehow we distorted that between 250 years ago and today.
But I am hopeful that education (or maybe the word is schooling) will balance itself. Where is the equilibrium? Somewhere between what the economy needs and the needs of the individual.
Helping the individual reach his potential and, at the same time, helping him create something. Bringing his potential to reality in a form that can be of value to people.
Maybe, just maybe.
Competitions always have losers. I know a school that has sent letters to parents about their ‘underachieving’ children who just got A’s or B’s on a report but were predicted/targeted higher!? High achieving students who feel like losers by the age of 14. Madness.
Agree with this completely. My own journey from poor family into the sausage machine, into teaching and then out into community work with adults and families antagonistic to the machine that spits then out as rejects.
The machine that was ok for my bright child but left my difficult child unprepared for the rejection our society has ready for the educational rejects.
“Classrooms, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made” … enjoyed it.
So to sum up, you want the education system to make people feel how you think they should feel?
I think I’d rather go through the sausage-factory, thanks.
@Andrew, reading your blog, I think we’re probably more aligned in our thinking that you might suppose. But I’d be interested to understand what it is about my post that has upset you?
I’m not upset. Why does everything come down to feelings with you?
I’m just pointing out that “encouraging", “accepting", expressing feelings, “dealing” with hurt and having compassion are all about how people feel. I’m making the obvious point that for a lot of people, myself included, having an agency of the state (in this case the education system) whose purpose is to regulate our feelings is actually far more sinister than the sausage-factory imagery or the risk of having one’s “creativity” stifled.
Perhaps “upset” was the wrong word.
But there’s no way that I’m advocating the states “regulates our feelings". Apart from being impossible, I don’t believe that would be at all ethical.
But education is far more than just knowledge or skills. It’s also about developing behaviours that help us live and work together. It’s not about being compliant, more about being aware of the consequences of our actions on ourselves and on others.
I wouldn’t have said this is all to do with feelings though…
The purpose of education is to guide human beings to achieve the basic life goals, which is to exist, multiply and act positively in caring for the environment and contributing to the society.
Education is more than schooling and is the process of dispelling human ignorance of the world as well as developing the inherent potential for perfection. Every human being without exception is seeking for happiness in life and has the inherent potential to live happily. Also, the resources needed to attain happiness in life are in the world. Unfortunately, human beings lack a clear understanding of how to development his/her potential as well as utilize the resources in the world to attain happiness in life. The purpose of education is therefore to develop our potential and to guide us to understand the resources in the world as well as utilize our potentials and the resources to attain happiness in life.
i like this article it gives us a good reason to get out kids a better understanding !!
how do you apply the question what is the purpose of education ? into a structured essay argument . it is actually impossible and my essay isn’t going very well as i don’t know what approaches to focus on as ive never studied the subject till now :(……. nightmare
@Jordan. Take a look at http://purposed.org.uk/ - there are a lot of good starting points for your essay. You could think about who education is for? Eg. Society or the individual. And is it about developing individual potential, or providing a workforce?
ths article z somthng since it direct parentz toward the provision of education to their childrens,not only that but stil it show the need of school to the society..i don have a kid but i believe when i get 1 i’ll him/her the knwledge of life.