Purpose of Education? Accomplishment Based!

Another year is about to open, so thinking esoterically.  The BIG IDEAS, before reality hits…

With thanks, appreciation and gratitude to the late Dr. Joe Harless.

Let’s give these questions some thought:

  1. What is the ultimate purpose and goal of education?
  2. What are the student accomplishments desired as a result of the educational process?
  3. What is the gap between the current accomplishments and the desired accomplishments?  What are the root causes of the gap?  What interventions are therefore indicated?
  4. What content should be taught?
  5. How should education in our schools be re-designed and delivered?  How should it be evaluated?

I would suggest that the overall purpose of our individual schools and therefore, our system, is to produce graduates who have skills, knowledge, information and attitudes to become accomplished citizens.  Accomplished in this context is intended to connote that the student (citizen) has acquired and practices certain abilities valued by the greater society.

Certain questions immediately come to mind:

  1. What are these abilities?
  2. Who should specify them?
  3. What needs to be learned to facilitate them?
  4. How should they be taught?

In order to begin to formulate answers to those questions, and others like them, we must clarify the definition of accomplishment.  In this context, accomplishment is a valuable output of a process, or actions or behaviors.  A human accomplishment is the end result of a person doing/thinking something.  Skills, knowledge, information and attitudes are inputs in education.  Given these, we want our students to be able to perform processes such as problem solving, finding information, and making decisions so that they produce accomplishments of value to the identified goals.

To move to an accomplishment base for education from the current model of quasi-standards based will require a major shift in philosophy for most of us.  Despite decades of educational reform, the content of the curriculum is virtually unchanged.  Our students still struggle to memorize facts whose near and long-term relevance seems to them to be known only to the teacher.  I suggest, if the truth were told, most teachers would be hard pressed to defend why so much of a student’s time should be spent trying to “learn” most of the stuff presented.

In addition to highly questionable content, teachers by and large still employ the same teaching and motivational techniques that have always been practiced:  I talk.  You listen.  You study.  I give tests.  I sort you into piles of A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, F’s, Intensive, Strategic, Benchmark.  Here is the next set of facts.  Literally billions of dollars have been spent to support what has become to some a hopelessly broken model.

Since I don’t have permission, I will not attach the Family Circus cartoon from August 12, 2014.  But in it, Dolly, the little daughter, looks up to her father and asks, “Daddy, how much above average am I?”  Unfortunately, this is what school has become to far too many of our students.  Value is placed on the score, not the love of learning.

Until we realize the brutal fact that what we have been trained to see as educational outcomes are actually inputs into a seamless process called life, we will continue to do nothing more than rearrange deck chairs on a sinking ship.

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