In his manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School For?, Seth Godin highlights how our current school system was developed for the purpose of training young people how to be productive labourers in an industrialized economy. Acknowledging that we are no longer an industrial age, Godin states:
“If school’s function is to create the workers we need to fuel our economy, we need to change school, because the workers we need have changed as well.” (2012)
While I would agree that the work of 21st Century economies is quite different from that of the previous hundred years, I do not believe that the sole purpose of school should be to create workers for any economy. I believe school must do more.
In a previous blog post, I referenced a Google search of the term “What is the purpose of schools?”. The first link I followed outlined the need to provide students with the skills necessary to compete in a global economy. That stance on the role of education made me shudder then. And it still does. While it may be naive to think that global competition is not a driving force in our society, I want more for my kids. (Lasher, 2012)
Gardner outlines five minds which he believes should be cultivated for our future (2010). Three of these are in the cognitive realm: The Disciplined Mind, The Synthesizing Mind and The Creating Mind. I whole-heartedly agree that developing skills in different disciplines, skills in synthesizing knowledge and ideas, and skills that develop creativity are essential, and would place all three of these concepts in any description of the purpose of schools. The Respectful Mind and The Ethical Mind fall not in the cognitive realm, but more in the human dimension of character. My response to the purpose of schooling question would most certainly include such elements of the human dimension
It is perhaps not possible to define the purpose of education in one sentence. Godin posted a starter lists of 27 purposes of school, which included such things as “become an informed citizen” and “teach problem solving and creativity” as well as more prescriptive and perhaps derivative things like “give kids something to do while parents work” and “minimize public spelling mistakes”. (2009). My own list would probably align more closely with Wolk (2007) who suggests that schools should develop knowledge of self, a love for learning, caring and empathy, environmental literacy, multicultural community, social responsibility, peace and non-violence, media literacy, creativity and imagination, global awareness, and money, food, family and happiness.
In whatever way the purpose of schools is defined, I hope that at the core, schools serve to meet the needs of the students, and not merely focus on the needs of society.
Gardner, Howard. (2010). Five Minds For the Future. In Bellanca, J & Brandt, R. (Eds), 21st Century Skills, (pp. 9-31). Indiana: Solution Tree Press.
Godin, Seth. (2012). Stop Stealing Dreams (What Is School For?). (Free Online Publication, 2012). Retrieved October 2012 from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/02/wwwstopstealingdreamscom-my-new-manifesto-is-now-live.html
Godin, Seth. (2009) What is school for? [Web Log Post]. Retrieved October 2012 from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/01/super-bowl-laziness.html
Lasher, K. (2012, July 13). What’s It All For? [Web Log] Retrieved from https://kelashblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/whats-it-all-for/
Wolk, Steven. (2007) Why Go to School? Phi Delta Kappan, 88(9), 648-658. Retrieved October 2012 from http://elsegundomiddleschool.edlioschool.com/ourpages/auto/2011/9/2/46739993/Wolk-Why%20Go%20To%20School%20.pdf