Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What is school for?

Let me put it out there: I am frustrated with public education. I agree with Ken Robinson that schools can and often do destroy the creativity of young people. So we have to think about school differently. We have to ask zany questions like, "What would school look like if we were starting over on the moon?"

Seth Godin asks the most fundamental question about public education that never gets asked:

What is school for?

The scary thing is that your local school district doesn't know the answer to that question. They don't even know that they don't know the answer to that question. They have never asked themselves that question.

If school is about teaching kids to learn, then why do we use textbooks? If school is about teaching kids the skills they will need to get good jobs, why don't we use more internships? If school is about preparing kids for college, what do we do with the kids who don't want to go to college?

Public school is an enormous opportunity. But we're squandering it by doing the same things that we've always done without asking ourselves if it makes sense.

So, I ask you the question: What do you think is school for?


  1. Maybe its purpose is to produce well-rounded human beings so we're not a nation full of idiots. What if through language, math, the arts, and learning social skills we're more effectively socializing people into our society?

    1. Good point. The hard thing is to define what we mean by "well-rounded human beings." I'm not against school as an idea, of course. I just think that traditional K-12 education has lost its way. It doesn't know what it's trying to do, so it doesn't really do anything.

      If we want to create well-rounded human beings, that's a great objective. But we have to know what that means specifically and then make sure that our efforts advance that objective. Do school assemblies and textbooks create well-rounded human beings or human beings who are willing to sit and listen to drivel if they are forced to?