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What is the Purpose of Education?

Time for you, readers of Class Notes, to comment with your opinions. What is the purpose of education?

To learn to think?

Is it to learn knowledge --reading, writing, and arithmetic?

To learn to be a productive citizen of the world?

Or something else?

"Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own. . . " says renowned linguist, philosopher, historian, and scientist,  Noam Chomsky.

For years educators based the purpose of education on the definition by John Dewey, restated by Gene Carter , Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of ASCD, " —that the general purpose of school is to transfer knowledge and prepare young people to participate in America’s democratic society." But, says Carter, that definition is insular and inadequate in the 21st century. Instead he'd rather that "purpose of schools must be preparing children to compete in the global environment." (Click here for a .pdf of The Purpose of Education from ASCD.)

Our Mom Congress delegates weigh in:

Ilina Das Ewen of North Carolina: "To teach creative and analytical thinking. To spark curiosity, imagination, and love of lifetime learning. I see education as a lifetime journey, not a destination or a transaction."

Kathie Green of Indiana: "The purpose of education is to teach the basics so everyone has a shot at life :) but more than that to create the "spark" - the curiosity, the creativity, the confidence, the zest for further knowledge that helps a person grow beyond what they believe they can be. It's a lot to hope for - but I have watched it happen time and changes the scope of the world. 

Yolanda Gordon of South Carolina: "The purpose of education is prepare our children for higher education, teach them to navigate social interactions with peers from different backgrounds, and to help them become tax paying members of society. It is to provide them with the building blocks to figure out what they want to do with their lives and to spark their curiosity to learn more and to build on the skills that they already have. In the case of children with disabilities it is also to teach them functional skills so that they can function on their own once they leave school behind and to potentially obtain and keep a job for those that are high functioning."

Myrdin Thompson of Kentucky: "Creating compassionate caring adults means treating children with compassion and care. Education is but one cornerstone of creating a vital, sustainable community. Each of us have a role to play in helping the very youngest of our citizens grow and thrive and fulfill their potential. By providing a solid foundation (the basics so to speak) we can then help our children reach for their dreams. Working together as partners in this effort is essential. Parents (families) are the constant in the equation, schools/teachers are the variable (as they change over time). Only by creating a shared vision and pathway to success will our children be able to achieve their goals."

Dalinda Alcantar of Texas: "I think it is simple: the purpose of education is grow children into productive citizens that use their knowledge, talents, and learned skills to sustain themselves and help others while pushing the human race forward in areas of equality, equity, and harmony." 

Felisa Hilbert of Oklahoma: "The value of education is to ignite the spark that develops creative thinking skills and the value of reasoning for yourself. EdEducation teaches and prepares children and youth to meet the future needs to function in a society not only academically, but emotional, socially, spiritually and economically. Education gives you the power to believe in yourself and the knowledge to feel accepted value and love. Parents are the first educators to developed this confidence and self esteem to believe in education, letting kids know that every child is smart, capable of reaching their dreams and goals. Teachers are the other part this puzzle; they need to believe that every child is teachable and set high expectations for them and for themselves."

Stacey Kazakis Weigler of New Hampshire: "The purpose of education is to develop students’ desire and ability to think and learn about the world around them. Further, the purpose is to learn how to develop relationships that will enable students to work with their peers, throughout their schooling and beyond."

Melissa Bilash of Pennsylvania: "To ensure growth and build community that allows meaningful post secondary outcomes regardless of ability."

. . . 

Eleanor Roosevelt argues that education depends on us, not the schools. "The school alone cannot teach citizenship, however, any more than it can really educate a child. It can do much in directing thought and formulating standards, in creating habits of responsibility and courage and devotion. In the last analysis our home surroundings are the determining factor in development, and the example of those dear to us and constantly with us is what makes the warp and woof of our lives . . . remember that on the public school largely depends the success or the failure of our great experiment in government "by the people, for the people.""  

Well said, Mrs. Roosevelt. Well said.

Which definition resonates with you? Comment now.