The Purpose of Education…

Beware of conformity

By John Rajcic10:11 a.m.May 12, 2016

What is the purpose of the public school? The Purpose of Education…

“Big Brother” tells us “the mission of the public school is to prepare today’s learners for tomorrow’s world.” “Tomorrow“ reminds me of the sign on a saloon that reads “free beer” with the tagline around the corner — “tomorrow.”

Further, it is said the mission of the school is to prepare students for success in college and the workforce. Eighty percent of college students change their major, on average, three times. Many of the jobs that were available to me no longer exist. Today people change their job, on average, 12 times. In this environment, how does the school train/educate for jobs that do not exist or students who change their major so often?

At the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today, different types of knowledge have different rates of growth, but on average knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

Fifty years ago I sat in on a medical school graduation. The speaker mentioned to the soon-to-be graduates, “half of what you learned today is wrong; the problem is we do not presently know what half.” Everything seems to significantly change — except the school and the way education/schooling is delivered, and the costs exceed inflation.

A survey of 300 people inside and outside of education asked the question, “What is the purpose of the public school?” Responses were arranged into 20 groups from “Teach skills for passionate advocacy” to “Teach students what it takes to meet educational goals.” Only one person stated “reading, writing and math.”

Education historian David Tyack has argued that from a historical perspective the purpose of schooling has been tied to social and economic needs. More recently, some sociologists have argued that schools exist primarily to serve a practical credentialing function in society. Expanding on the pragmatic purpose of school, DeMarrais and LeCompte outlined four major purposes of schooling that include:

Intellectual purposes such as the development of mathematical and reading skills;

Political purposes such as the assimilation of immigrants;

Economic purposes such as job preparation; and

Social purposes such as the development of social and moral responsibility.

I would add critical thinking skills, which hopefully would be embedded in the intellectual, political, economic and social purposes noted above. I was taught and still firmly believe the purpose of public education is to perpetuate the culture through a common language. It would be tragic if the main function of education was to train hands for industry and college entrance, as important as that may be.

The professional teacher has a personal responsibility to be current in pedagogy and content.

All it takes to accomplish the task is an effective teacher, a willing student and supportive home. The great innovative and creative teacher (Ramona has many) fills in the gaps if any. The volumes of paperwork brought about by Common Core, Local Control Accountability Plan (whose recommendations are a dream), Local Control Funding Formula, and the volumes of codes, laws and policies are suffocating the teacher.

Interest/grit trumps test scores. Outrageous expectations must be the standard for all students. Beware of conformity. Conformity leads to mediocrity, mediocrity leads to regression to the mean, and therein lies the great abyss.

When will the circuit take your job? No, you are not paranoid. That is a robot following you with an eye on your job.

John Rajcic, a Ramona school board member, stresses that this is his opinion as an individual and he is not representing the board.