Purpose of Education?

I recently heard a speaker at a conference that talked about the purpose of education.  He made several points but here are a few for framing my thoughts today.

1.  Education needs to leave the “factory” model behind.  The system was set up and work well for our country 65 years ago but today we need something different.

2.  Students use very little of the information that they learn in school.  Who really knows that the 100 years war was 116 years?  And who really cares.  I think about my high school experience.  Physics…not using it.  Pre-Calc…not using it.  Chemistry…not using it. 

3.  Students do not need to be hindered by “grade level.”  We are way to caught up in some kid reading at “grade level.”  And if they are at grade level…..then we basically leave them alone instead of encouraging them to excel.

4.  Consider this from what the business world wants from employees.  Employees must be able to think creatively, to communicate both verbally and in writing, must be able to organize, must be able to allocate time, allocate money, to multi task, work cooperatively and many more.  Where do most kids get these kinds of experience in school?  Anyone…….anyone……Bueller…….Bueller…….Students get most of these experiences in extra curricular activities. 

After digesting the thoughts of this speaker I did realize one thing.  Computer games put students in an environment in which they will think critically, where they will work cooperatively, where they will problem solve and use oral and written communications.  I don’t think I do anything in the classroom that addresses more of what the business world wants in an employee at a single time than playing computer games. 

However, do schools still need to teach physics…..yes.   Not every one needs or will use it but the ones that will use it need to start the learning process as early as possible.  Not everyone uses a foreign language in their life but more and more schools are introducing foreign language early in the educational process instead of waiting until high school.  So I guess all of this is just another plug from gaming in the classroom.  It does change the way we do school.  It encourages kids to use skills that employers want.  And it does not have any consideration for “grade level.”  I will have some more thoughts this summer as I prepare for a speaking engagement that I have in July. 


5 responses to “Purpose of Education?

  1. I agree with everything you say, although the second point can sometimes make education sound more utilitarian than it really is/should be. I don’t use a lot of the ‘stuff’ that I learned at school, but what I learned through working that ‘stuff’ out is part of what makes me who I am and what I am capable of learning today.

  2. Ewan

    What you learned by working through stuff is very important, more important than the stuff itself. In a rapidly changing world, where the amount of stuff known doubles every year or two and Google can index all that stuff in under a second, equiping students to be life long learners should be the goal.

    We should be very careful in chosing the stuff we teach, because it is as you say, working that stuff out is the important thing, not the stuff itself.

  3. It’s a pleasure to stumble upon your blog. Those are great points. I especially like the second. I sense that anything useful that I got out of school could have been had as a side effect of a more relaxed, fun, personal approach to education. What’s the use in spending all this time accumulating information that’s not useful or relevant? If I spend a few hours a week learning in a way that’s fun and meaningful to me, the benefits will far exceed any benefits acquired spending 35 hours in school every week.

    Another thought: the skills you mention are certainly valuable, but also, not everyone will want to be an employee. I’m one of those people that feels more satisfied when I’m in control of my own time. I wish school had given me the skills and confidence to create meaningful work opportunities for myself. It’s been a long and hard process gaining those skills and that confidence. But as you say, the skills necessary to be an employee are rarely taught, and skills to create one’s own work even less so…

    I wrote an essay as a junior in high school about how I learned more from a computer game than I ever learned in history class. That game was Civilization. Games can be wonderful teachers. And how about young people creating their own games! That builds all sorts of skills as well, and I think, challenges thinking on even deeper levels.

  4. Great points on education and thanks for sharing. I have been writing about education for years and it’s nice to know there are others out there.


  5. I do agree what you pointed. Educational games help kids and students grow while I think the key is to provide high quality ones to them.

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