What should be the purpose of public education?
A challenge from Walt Kelley...
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
When asked, it is obvious that this is an important question. But when was the last time you considered it? Maybe it’s high time we all did.
We invite you to read the following 3 paragraphs quoted from the book that roughly lay out the author's intent...
The reason for tracing a brief outline of the history of education in America is twofold. The first has to do with human nature. As humans, we all tend to generalize based upon our own personal experiences. So when we begin to address an issue, the issue of public education for example, our frame of reference is usually a very personal and narrow one. We make assessments and ground our opinions based upon our own individual experience within the public school system. Our historical overview rarely goes beyond what our parents may have told us about their personal experiences. Having left the public school system ten or more years earlier, we may be re-introduced to it when we have school age children. In any event, our generalizations are typically grounded over no more than three generations. However, in order to understand where we are - and more importantly where we must go - requires that we go back to the beginning; that we find out what education's original purpose was, and how it slowly changed over the centuries to meet the changing needs of government, industry and society. These needs continue to change today, and will tomorrow and through the future. This is critically important if only to recognize that the institution of public education can evolve and that, in fact, it has evolved and it must continue to evolve.
Without a longer historical perspective than our personal experience gives us, we are easily seduced by education professionals who, themselves, frequently have little or no historical overview. Over the past several years this observer has spoken with scores of college students who are Education majors, with career and former teachers, with school administrators and with professors. When each was asked what the original purpose of public and higher education was in America, only one of them knew.
When we do discuss the public education crisis, we believe that we enter the fray all speaking a common language and wrongly assume that we share a universal foundation and grounding. But the personal experiences of each of us are too varied. Moreover, our historical frame of reference is far too narrow. So the first reason for this review is to remind Americans that public education has been going on here, and changing, since 1635, and to demonstrate that there was always a well understood purpose. This purpose has evolved, however slowly, over many years. The second reason is to underscore a fact that may now be just a bit clearer. The architects who were responsible for introducing what was "new and novel" into the stream of educational evolution (First, the Founding Fathers, then Horace Mann and the industrialists) were very careful not to leave out "wisdom of a previous stage..."
If this beginning conversation peaks your interest, we hope you will engage with us and with others who are concerned about public education in America and the world.
We would be very pleased to hear from you. You may reach us at: Info@CommonSenseProductions.com
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When was the last
time you thought seriously about
the purpose of
and the implications
it holds for our
A growing number of people believe that time is long overdue for a public debate about what should be the purpose of public education...