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The Purpose of Education

Submitted by sgrainger on

Part 2 of a 2-part blog series

Last week, thanks to a coincidental and interesting combination of a re-reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and reading an online blog post by an educational consultant (Ian Symmonds & Associates), I was prompted to reflect on the purpose of education or, in other words, “Why do kids need to go to school?”

I should be more specific and change the question slightly to read, “Why do kids need to go to high school?” By doing so, I am then speaking more to a Senior School student’s experience at TCS, rather than education in a broad sense that considers all forms of learning, at any stage of life, no matter where a person is in the world.

For the record, I do not believe the purpose, or “the why” of high school education, should ever change. The “how” and “what” might change, but not the “why.” I also stand by our school’s mission to develop habits of the heart and mind for a life of purpose and service. And, for those who might not be aware, as a school we have identified five key habits of heart and mind: perseverance, integrity, compassion, creativity and courage.

With all that in mind, considering the purpose of education, here is my Top 5 List:

  1. Values: In addition to TCS’s five identified habits, I would add the values of honesty, respect, grit, discipline and kindness when measuring the purpose of education. All of these values, and many others, resonate with people around the world. Values should guide us all, and this includes our institutions.
  2. Purpose: All kids are searching for, and will need, a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. TCS provides a sense of place for kids where they have the potential to discover and launch what will become their lifelong interests and motivations.
  3. Lifelong education: Today’s young people will need to re-tool, re-learn and re-invent themselves over the course of their lifetime. Hence, learning and education should be engaging, meaningful, interesting and, yes, fun. When learning is fun, the motivation to learn new skills and talents will be ever-present.
  4. Emotional quotient: Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, time management, critical thinking, ethics and, yes, manners, will distinguish humans from artificial intelligence and from one another.
  5. Friends: Having a network of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances will be critical for each person’s wellbeing, sense of community, support, meaning in life, career advancement, and, ultimately, happiness.

So there it is. My Top 5.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss, advocate and champion these assertions about the purpose of education at any and all times! And please feel free to leave your thoughts on the purpose of education in the blog comment section below.