Monday, September 24, 2007

The Obligation of Schooling

On September 14, Patrick Higgins wondered "What is the duty of a school in the life and development of a person? "

My Current Events students (grades 9 -12) came up with these answers:

"It should be safe. The school shouldn't let any serious thing just go by. Kids should feel safe when they're somewhere they are forced to be. If people say they will bring guns to school and shoot someone, something should be done about it. Bullying should also be handled harshly."

"The obligation is to get us to learn. The purpose is to get us ready for the world."

"My opinion is that the obligation of schooling is to prepare us for life and the job. It should be more than just lecture and homework. We should learn about life skills and job skills through trial and error, by actually doing things. But we must be well-rounded people. So we should have to learn about Shakespeare and historical things."

"I think it's something everyone needs. Without it [education] we can't get jobs. How to add, subtract, multiply and divide, read and write - that's all anyone needs to do. I think school should let us wear what we want, say what we want, and we might want to come put up with it."

"We have to get up way too early. We have to stay here way too long."

"The purpose of education is to make the world a better and smarter place for the future. For example, there will be more advances in many fields in the future if education keeps advancing. 13 years of schooling should be educational. But it should also be fun for the students so they keep interest. If they keep interest, the more they'll pay attention and learn. The more they learn, the smarter they'll be."

"To me, the purpose of education is to prepare young adults for their futures. Education also gives students an excellent advantage in career opportunities. I think that for a student to be able to learn properly, there should be something fun involved, or something for the student to strive for. If there is no goal for a student to look forward to, they will be much less likely to want to learn."

"I think that school is good the way it is now: a 6 hour day, 40 minute periods. Lunch should be longer, but everything else is good. Students should learn about important stuff that they would actually use in life."

"The purpose of education is so that when we get out into the real world we can make smart and well-educated choices. Like when you go to choose your career or when you go to vote, you can make a smart, educated decision."

"The purpose of school is to get us ready for a job. We will get a better job. We will also get paid more. The job [employer] would not be worried about finding people right for the job. The week should end Thursday. We should have more hours only if you get to learn what you want. You should learn what you want."

"The purpose of education is to teach children all the things they will be needing to know in their adult lives. Most students are benefiting from education even if it's only basic things, but it will give them knowledge to interact with the work field. The job of teachers is to teach students basic knowledge that maybe one day will expand into something great. Educational gaming should be used in education because most of America's kids are into video games. It would draw them into education (slowly). They'll think of it as a game, but the benefits are that they will be learning at the same time as having fun."

A safe environment, job-related skills, a bit of culture, a lot of fun: that's what students want. Can we meet "our" goals while respecting their desires?

"Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself."John Dewey


Patrick Higgins said...


These are fantastic! I took the liberty and commandeered an AP Language and Literature class and asked them the same question.

It's great to hear the student voices on this issue, because it is one that we debate often in various forms. Your students asked for basic things: safety, engagement, adequate preparation. Hearing what they want makes it seem that our process of educating them is far too complicated, and that our system is muddled when it should be simplified.

I will post our student responses shortly. Great stuff and I am so happy we did this.

diane said...


I agree that this was a valuable interaction.

The candor and eloquence of some of the responses really surprised me. This is a very mixed group of students, and the consideration they put into their comments was unexpected and gratifying.

These kids trust me to broaden their horizons, and I don't plan to disappoint them.

I look forward to reading your student responses. Maybe the kids can cross-comment.

BTW - the photo is of my late father's second grade class (c. 1925). He was five years old, and had learned to read and write English at age four, when his immigrant parents were studying for American citizenship. He eventually received his degree in Chemical Engineering and always encouraged his children to make reading and learning a part of their lives.