The Purpose of Education
What is the purpose of education? What do we want from our schools? Do we want them to produce a product? These important questions are seldom asked. Lists of expectations are long, varied, and different for each person. Most people don’t realize the burdens placed on our educational system.
When I was young I was taught that public education was necessary for a democracy to function. An educated public makes better decisions while voting. Education is the great equalizer, helping poor people rise up above their socioeconomic level. Schools help people develop ethics. Schools teach us to communicate, cooperate, and work with others.
Basic education needs to begin with reading. Language, fluency, and writing flow out of this. Communication. If someone can read, they can find books to read and teach them the wisdom of millennia. Basic arithmetic is important too; being able to count, measure, and use proportions are daily necessities. Learning about the natural world and how it works – Science – is worth knowing. Most people believe in the same basic education.
By the time students get to high school, they start to specialize by taking more of the classes that they like or are good in. Most subjects are good at developing the brain and developing higher levels of thinking even though we may “never use that information.” Subjects like arts and music not only help the brain to develop but may also lead to appreciation later in life.
Physical education is important too. Developing muscles, balance, and coordination are useful for living. Learning different forms of exercise we can use over a lifetime is good when boredom or injuries limit us later in life. Teamwork can be learned but in many sports it goes over the line into dictatorial relationships that become harmful. Our big money sports leagues use schools too often as farm systems for their greedy money making machine. Still, many people choose where to get their education by the opportunities in professional sports provided by a school.
Ask a businessman the purpose of education and the reply would be to produce employees. The important traits to be learned are to be on time, follow instructions, don’t complain, don’t get sick, and work hard. Thinking for yourself is frowned upon. Indoctrination like saying the pledge of allegiance every morning is their goal for education. Schools also allow more mothers to enter the work force, providing a larger pool of labor allowing them to pay less.
The role of schools in public health is a great benefit to government. Screening children for immunizations, identifying diseases and disorders, treating injuries, and training them to take care of themselves are just some of the responsibilities of schools.
These are a few of the purposes of schools. I know that this is just a short list. Think about your list and let me know some of the more important reasons for education. I believe enthusiasm for learning, imagination, and critical thinking are near the top of my list.