If you’ve been around edutwitter long enough (so, like a week), you know occasionally teachers and others disagree on many facets of education: how best to instruct, when to instruct, what to instruct, proper classroom arrangement, testing, play, engagement, fun, discipline, exclusions, technology, discovery, inquiry, direct, et cetera. I have engaged in plenty of these debates and the more I participate, the more I find they usually boil down to two important details:
- A disagreement or difference in definition of terms.
-For example, what is engagement? I see it from a cognitive perspective, so it deals with mental focus on a particular stimulus. Some see engagement as more of a physical activity with the material. Many times when I’m chatting with someone on this topic, the discussion becomes a stalemate of sorts because of this difference. I don’t see this necessarily as a bad thing, though. It provides a good reminder to all that we have differing views which can keep us out of the echo chamber. Also, it forces those who do participate to really know what they believe about these terms. I’m not so sure that many in our profession know really well what they believe on important topics, but that’s another topic for another blog post somewhere down the line.
2. A disagreement on the purpose of education.
-Why are we doing this? Why educate? What is the purpose? As central as these questions are to the teaching, you’d think there would be general consensus, but I don’t believe there is. Can you answer this for yourself? Why do you teach your students? If you’ve never really considered these questions, they can be a little overwhelming; trying to boil your chosen professions’ purpose into a few sentences. However difficult it may be, however, I do believe it important to know your answer. For me, it drives pretty much everything I do in the classroom.
So, what do I believe is the purpose of education?
Super big picture, I believe education is about creating a healthier/kinder/more knowledgeable world. I educate my students in hopes of providing them with knowledge/tools that enhance their life, the lives of others, and, ultimately, society as a whole. For me, though, it’s tough to boil this down to day to day teaching. It’s too big picture.
On a more practical scale, I believe the purpose of education is to teach kids stuff. Teach them content and then show them how to apply that content. Help them understand how to study/learn more efficiently and effectively. Give them knowledge they can use to then be creative and discover cures for diseases, invent new technologies that better society, et cetera. It all starts with accumulating knowledge first, though.
Since I know what I believe is the purpose of education, I can use this information to guide my instruction and focus my lessons. Without this knowledge, I don’t believe I would be as effective in the classroom and really feel like my classroom would be more like wandering aimlessly in a forest than thru-hiking the Appalachian trail. Yes, there are unexpected twists and turns, but there’s still that ultimate goal of what it’s all about to guide you.
That’s why I believe what is the purpose of education? is the most important question in education. It anchors and directs the classroom on a day to day basis. It affects instruction, which impacts the student’s experience, directly. It can change how teachers and students place emphasis on information, relationships, and assessment. To do our best in the classroom, I don’t think there’s any way around knowing our main purpose as educators.
What is the purpose of education?
Have you ever pondered this or a similar question before?
Do you agree or disagree with me? Please comment. I would love to have a conversation.