What is the purpose of schools?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by LastPlaceJason, Nov 13, 2010.

  1. LastPlaceJason

    LastPlaceJason Rookie

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    Nov 13, 2010

    This is primarily a philosophical question. Throw out your answer. For brevity, try to distill your ideas into a few sentences.

    BTW- I'm experiencing some cognitive dissonance about why we're doing what we're doing and reformulating my own ideas about the nature of education in general and the school system in particular.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    To help students to become life long learners and educated citizens.
     
  4. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Nov 13, 2010

    That's what it used to be. I'm not sure about the purpose of public schools anymore.
     
  5. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Nov 13, 2010

    I view it as (or at least my part in it) giving students the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in life.
     
  6. LastPlaceJason

    LastPlaceJason Rookie

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    Mopar- to push further- how would you define "educated citizens"?

    Sshintaku- how would you define "success"?
     
  7. Sshintaku

    Sshintaku Comrade

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    Independent from government aids (welfare, food stamps, etc). If not pursuing higher education, then the ability to find placement in a career track job. No criminal activity.
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    educated citizens--able to think for themselves and make decisions to better their lives (get a job to support themselves, find companionship, be able to vote, etc).
     
  9. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    I've read a lot of theory about the purpose of schools. I think one purpose is to provide a safe and predictable place for children to go while parents work. Our society offers little support for parents to make child rearing much more than a hobby. It's more important to our economy to make sure everyone is employed.

    The logistics of school reflect the industrial workplace. At one time, schools helped to prepare youngsters for work in industrial factories.

    Since we are trained as teachers to do what is measured, schools today are meant to teach children how to do well on reading and math tests; the kind that can be scored by machine.

    One thing that disappoints me the most is that almost NOTHING in schooling is implemented from start to finish with children's learning as the non-negotiable goal. Programs and policies start out and end up with what's most convenient for the adults in the system (administration, teachers, parents).

    One example is the swiftness of removing recess from the school day when its children are not scoring well on machine scored math and reading tests.

    Question: "How can we help children learn this and have that learning translate to the test scores?"
    Answer: Spend more time teaching them in ways that mirror the tests!

    A better question might be, "How can we help these children learn this?" We could make a grammar game to play outside with beach balls! "But stop; that kind of understanding won't necessarily result in marking the right answer on the test." "Right... well, we could give them answer sheets and have them play the beach ball game and write the answers on the test paper!" "Tried it. The paper got wrinkled up by their feet and the ball. Plus they were too amped up by being outside to concentrate on the paper." "Oh... well, the ball and the outdoors and the high activity are not conducive to test taking. Cancel the ball, outdoors, and bring them inside to practice taking the test."

    The test was convenient for the adults, regardless of the student learning, and the test was the final criteria for judging the activity, rather than whether it helped kids learn.

    I'd like to see the whole education system started over with kids' learning in mind as the non-negotiable instead of how much it will cost and how difficult it will be to implement being powerful enough to turn out solutions that don't teach well.
     
  10. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    This is exactly how I feel. Over the last couple of years, I had come to the conclusion that I was just burned out and needed to retire. However, I now think that I am not burned out, just indignant over the path that our education system has taken.
     
  11. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    I thought it was to nurture children so that they can grow intellectually, emotionally, and academically, ie, educate the whole child. If you can't get through to them emotionally, you will never get to them academically.

    The reality, in my experience, is it is about test pushing, raising test scores, tracking, data-data-data, endless competition, bubbling in a tests, raising a generation of test takers who do not think critically for themselves and are not given enough opportunity to explore the world for themselves. It went dramatically downhill from that time I entered school until I found a job.

    This district has a 50% drop out rate, and it's one of the largest districts in the nation. When I taught 5th grade, the district people would remind us of this horrible drop out rate, and want to know what they demanded we do on the Elementary level in order to help decrease the drop out rate???

    Spend more time preparing for the standardized tests! I can't see how that would help the drop out rate. And in fact, I think it contributes to a portion of the drop out rate. The district never allowed us to give any input or suggestions though we spent the most time with the students.

    Parts of my spirit died so many times that short time I taught.

    Basically, it's all about state tests and numbers and nothing about children and their many many needs that they deserve to have schools at least attempt to meet.
     
  12. LastPlaceJason

    LastPlaceJason Rookie

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    Nov 14, 2010

    Shelly and Webmistress- those are a few of the conclusions I've come to lately. I taught high school psychology for 11 years. I was more or less left alone to do my own thing. I was given the freedom to develop an entire program based around the needs of my students. The classes were fun, interesting, and engaging.

    This year, I was involuntarily moved to a required world history class complete with a state-mandated curriculum. Our district requires common assessments, so what I teach has to mirror what my colleagues teach. These facts, combined with a few other contributing factors, have dramatically decreased my freedom to tailor my classes to the students.

    That has led me to revisit a lot of educational theory, then compare what we are doing in schools. The more I dig, the more disturbed I get. Based on the very structure and operational guidelines, schools more or less do exactly the opposite of what we are trying to do in the classroom (foster creativity, critical thinking, solve problems, etc.)

    Here's an example- we often complain about the lack of parental involvement. Why aren't parents involved? Both parents work long hours. Why do they both work long hours? They are chasing the idea that work = the ability to acquire stuff = happiness and/or success.

    Where did they learn this idea? Schools! We constantly tell kids if they work harder they will get better grades, which will allow them to go to college to get a better job in order to (implicitly) buy more stuff. We don't tell them their own children will feel the pain of parental indifference. We are the cause of our own problem.

    Homework is another example. Again, we complain how unsupportive families are, but we monopolize their potential family time by assigning homework.

    [sigh]
     
  13. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    Nov 15, 2010

    IMO, the primary objective is to prepare a work force for the country. Right now, the push is for a 100% college educated work force which I think is a mistake....we WILL need craftsmen and college doesn't make sense for 100% of our kids nor are 100% of them interested in doing it.


    Doing so requires a LOT of things including academics, but also including a lot of things that many kids just don't get at home anymore. (Not all kids mind you, but a FAR larger percentage than in previous generations and a percentage that is growing.)

    Those things include the teaching of work ethics, social skills, and dangers of destructive behaviors. The basic need for food, physical health care, emotional health care, and protection from predators (both adult and teen/children.)

    As I said before, I'm not painting a broad stroke and many of our kids get what they need at home. However, a frightening percentage of them are showing up unfed, unable to see the board, unclean, pregnant, doing drugs, and with any number of emotional issues. All of which interfere with the learning and we can't expect a kid who doesn't know where his next meal is coming from to be interested in factoring a quadratic equation.
     
  14. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Nov 16, 2010

    A study done at MIT some years back followed a graduating class to see how they did on their first job. MIT is not a school for dummies.

    65% of graduates either quit or were fired first year not because they couldn't do the work rather they couldn't get along with co-workers and bosses.

    If scoring well on tests = smart, = college, = better job, = buy stuff we might want to take a closer look and ask "Is this really getting us anywhere?"
     
  15. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Nov 17, 2010

    Biologically, schooling is to excite neurons and encourage and maximize growth during developmental years. More you learn, the more you're able to learn!

    As a taxpayer, I want schooling to generate responsible, knowledgeable, and productive citizens.

    As a science teacher, I want my students to have skills, a foundation of knowledge, and a sense of appreciation and wonder for the natural world.

    As a parent, I want schooling to be safe and welcoming for my daughter, enriching, inspiring, and helping her to maximize her potential.
     
  16. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    Nov 18, 2010



    MIT??? The TOP engineering college in the world.


    Don't you think this comparison is a big skewed???? The people who graduate from MIT are less than 1/10th of 1 percent of engineers in the world and engineers (like me) aren't known for their people skills to start with.


    Don't go to a neurosurgeon with the expectation that he/she will be a good socialite a your party. Don't go to your average person and expect them to understand brain neurology.


    Do you want an engineer who can make people feel all warm n fuzzy or an engineer who can design a bridge that doesn't collapse?

    Did the study you quote follow these engineers beyond their first year and ask where they ultimately wound up? I doubt you will find many (if any) of them on unemployment.
     
  17. LastPlaceJason

    LastPlaceJason Rookie

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I like this. I like it a lot.
     
  18. G00d d00bie

    G00d d00bie Rookie

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    My own children (average intelligence) say they learn nothing, day after day after day..... Many people around here home school their children. The schools around here give a lot of busy work - after the students learn it they still have a lot of practice. I know some schools where the admin. encourages if not insists on 30% credit just for effort, one as high as 50%.
    It seems anymore like it is a place that a bunch of egotistical politicians want to rule - usually democrats but probably a lot of republicans, just anyone who knows it all and wants everyone to know all about the great things they learned in their little world.
    Higher up they want want to look good by saying "NCLB."
    Still higher up they feel pressure to be better than other countries that want to rule the US.
    At the teacher level, everyone is trying to act like good doobies under the guilt of NCLB on their minds.
     

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