Goals of American K-12 Education
Begin with the end in mind. I have brainstormed this topic many times over the years — especially when I was involved in writing K-12 curriculum. The list will be long. So much to “cover,” don’t you know. But at some point, we will have to cull it. That’s been one of the unresolved issues in American education.We have to teach so much content that we often end up teaching superficially and too broadly. What content must students understand in depth? What can we leave out? As Sam Chaltain says in his blog on Huffington Post: “Of all the things we can do together, what must we do?” Not only does this quotation fit decisions about curriculum, but it is quite fitting for the school reform movement as well.
Goal #1: Students must graduate prepared to be responsible citizens in a democracy. (Assuming that most of you agree with this one — you better — I am not trying at this point to get the wording “just right.” You are free to offer suggestions as to a better way to write these goals.)
Goal #2: Students must be able to read critically and think critically. They must be able to distinguish fact from opinion. from D. Roane (see his comments below in the Comment section). If you go to the link above, you will notice that I include two opposing points of view regarding critical thinking. Some people, like Dick Cheney’s wife Lynn, fear that if American students learn to think critically that they will not be as patriotic as she would like. Just because I included an item in the list does not mean that I agree or disagree with it. All of the items are there because we need to have a national conversation about what the goals of American education should be. (If you read Diane Ravitch’s Life and Death of the Great American School System, you know that Lynn Cheney was largely responsible for putting the skids on school reform many, many years ago — so pay attention to what I just said above.)
As an observer of the school reform debate, I wish to add these words to those of D.Roane: and how to find and recognize those who are authorities in their field who can provide credible,useful information. One example close to home? It’s been quite unsettling to see that the media do not seek out teachers and principals and parents for their panels — the very ones who work “in the trenches” and know exactly what’s going on. (theschoolprincipal)
Goal #3: Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.William Butler Yeats
and along with this one: A life-time love of learning
Goal #4: I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship. Aeschylus
Goal #5: Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. Malcolm Forbes
and in similar vein:
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle
Goal #6: No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure. Emma Goldman
and let me add this word to #6: Empathy – the ability to walk in another’s shoes; the ability to put oneself in another’s place
Goal #7: The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives. Robert M. Hutchins
Goal #8: The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. Sydney J. Harris
Goal #9: The one real goal of education is to leave a person asking questions. Max Beerbohm
Goal #10: Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. Voltaire
Goal #11: “Students come to us having sat around for twelve years expressing attitudes toward things rather than analyzing. … They are always ready to tell you how they feel about an issue, but they have never learned how to construct a rational argument to defend their opinions.”
R. Jackson Wilson, professor, Smith College
So: Students can construct a rational argument to defend their opinions.
It’s your turn. If I don’t see another new one soon, you can bet I will add more. This is one of my favorite topics.