So What Is The Purpose of Schools?

Taylor the Teacher makes some good points about our education system…

If schools are for parenting, dietary management, public safety, sex ed, driver’s ed, football, lifelong memories, values, morals AND learning, that changes the equation significantly.

If schools are about learning only when learning doesn’t confict with the culture war, get in anyone’s political path, or become too expensive, then the equation is even more drastically changed.

If they are about all of those things plus learning, but we’re going to keep saying they’re about learning, schools are a farce.

But learning still rocks.

The political issues aside, I think the biggest problem lies in kids’ attitude toward school in general. Many see school as all of things Taylor mentioned besides learning. Many more view the completion of their 12 year sentence in the public indoctrination education system as the sum of education of their lives. After that, they’ve “finished”.

Where does this attitude come from? My guess is either their parents, or the schools themselves, who have to tout themselves as the end all beat all of intellectual development in order to justify their place in our communities. Winning football games seems to go a long way in being considered a quality school as well.

Taylor is right. Learning does rock. And learning starts at birth and ends at death. The 12 years between ages 6 and 18 are just a small piece of a real education.

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7 Replies to “So What Is The Purpose of Schools?”

  1. Love this post. I love this whole conversation. It needs to be had.

    I do have some comments on what you said,

    “My guess is either their parents, or the schools themselves, who have to tout themselves as the end all beat all of intellectual development in order to justify their place in our communities.”

    I think it’s a combination of both parents and schools plus at least several other things. I do have to point out that you’ve mentioned “communities” as though the places we live could imagine such a thing existed without school. I don’t see much that could qualify as a community that isn’t centered around the school. There are good and valuable things currently being offered by the school that have nothing to do with learning. They should be provided by the community. Why does school have to completely consume a kid’s life? A teacher’s life? A parent’s life? A community’s life?

    Which leads me to….

    “Winning football games seems to go a long way in being considered a quality school as well.”

    Well said. And way too true. Is there nowhere else to play football? Or have friends? Or have adult supervision? Or eat breakfast? If there were something positive to send these kids home to in their communities, I’d be thrilled as cake.

    Then we could concentrate on learning. And kids would be happier and more fulfilled, in addition to being smarter.

  2. Taylor, I couldn’t agree more about the fact that we tend to base our communities around schools–how ridiculous. I actually posted about that exact situation locally a while back.

    I feel another post coming on–here’s a little preview…

    How many dad’s are at every practice and game looking over the shoulder and analyzing the decisions and tactics of the head coach? How many do this for math, science, and history teachers?

  3. @sadcox: So a linebacker sacks the quarterback. A thing of aesthetic violence, all smashing and crunching.

    Job well done, right? And what does the linebacker do, post sack?

    He does a dance. He gesticulates. He stomps the ground, pushes fists to the sky, shakes his torso. In essence, a celebratory dance. How exciting to know that he has, quite simply, done his job.

    I’ve imagined finishing that lesson, the one that proverbially sacks the students into learning. And the bell rings, time to end class, and I stomp the ground, push my fists to the sky, shake my torso. My celebratory dance. And for what?

    Doing my job.

    I wish (sometimes) that sports and education could switch, Freaky-Friday style. Parents would abandon the bleachers for the bookshelves. Linebackers would hardly utter a word at any success and teachers would cavort, superbowl style, for a well-rounded lesson.

    But then I remember that I am a season ticket holder for the Eagles. And at every home game, as thousands make their way to their seats, they pass the Eagles Book Mobile.

    Pass, pass, pass right on by.

    And they cheer from the stands.

    Not for literacy, but for violence.

    Education does ‘rock’, but it sure as poop will never do prime time.

  4. Let me say first of all how encouraging it is to me that there are actual teachers who read my opinions and don’t take them as teacher bashing. That’s not my intent at all, but it is often inferred to be.

    Ken–do your dance! You may be surprised at the reaction you get. I was lucky enough to have one teacher who was really excited about teaching us, and even more excited that we wanted to learn. Her enthusiasm was contagious and has stayed with me for almost 20 years, minus a small lapse for a couple of years in college. 😛

    I think I may have been a little too negative in this original post. I think kids (and adults) have a natural desire to learn. My frustration lies in the fact that it is contantly attacked from all sides by entities that depend on stifling it.

  5. Exactly. Education reporters should ask why…. why in spite of money spent, we don’t see change… why everyone crows about reform, and we still don’t see change…

    they should ask: Who depends on stifling education. That is the place to look.

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