Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What is School For?

This week I'm wrapping up my first Masters course - Introduction to Curriculum Theories! Man. I wonder how long my teacher training would have taken me if it was all online, at my own pace. Probably like 45 minutes because those classes were largely repetitive and barely useful in a real classroom environment. (Get it together, BYU Education Program! More Classroom Management and actual teaching, less theory and methods!)

To finish the course, I have to write an opinion/personal philosophy paper, and I want YOU to weigh in. Yes you. My dear friend. You. Read the following brief summary and tell me what you think.

This class focuses on the four main ideologies held regarding education as a whole. Here is what these four ideologies generally support as the reason we have education:

Scholar Academic - school is for students to learn the collective information we've accumulated over hundreds of years in academia (math, science, history - below, language, humanities, etc), putting kids in college and making them experts in various disciplines. There is a set curriculum they need to know and will be tested on.

Social Efficiency - school is to prepare potential workers with skills, knowledge and behaviors they need to contribute and succeed in society. This is the Ron Swanson approach - we turn them into the workers that the market needs using a factory-like method: they go in as raw materials, they come out as polished, completed commodities (employees).

Learner-Centered - school is to help kids discover and self-actualize. These are the schools where kids individually decide what they want to learn and when, and kids are allowed to be kids.

10 Extra Awesome points if you get this reference

Social Reconstruction - society is ill, and school is how we heal it. We educate kids on the problems of the world (i.e. Kony, hunger, racism), teach them critical thinking and problem solving skills and then encourage them to take it forth into the world to turn this bus around.

Realistically, our public schools today are generally Scholar-Academic with more and more Social Efficiency as they get older (think MATC, Wood Shop, FFA, etc). We work in Social Reconstruction wherever we can, but especially in Utah we can't push too hard on social issues. Utah has several Montessori-type schools, and one self-proclaimed Learner-Centered school in Murray called Sego Lily School.

I have to write a paper on my personal philosophy of curriculum, referencing these four main ideologies. I'm on the social side - Social Efficiency and Social Reconstruction, but grounded in Scholar Academic. I think the way our society and education system is headed, if we can't get kids jobs and limit their student loan debt, we're gonna collapse in on ourselves! We need to be teaching kids skills the market needs - no more useless English degrees with $50,000 in student loans. We also need to be talking to them about social inequalities, demographic issues and horrors that need to be corrected - they are the future! Only they can control what happens when we get all old and decrepit. But still. I know my kids hate to hear this, but I USE MATH. Maybe not trig, but I still use everything up to Geometry and Algebra 2. Maybe even College Algebra. They need to know about our history, even if it won't apply to their future jobs because THEY LIVE HERE GOSH DANGIT. They need to know WHO THEY ARE. I'm just the teensiest bit biased here, obvs. Learner-Centered is great in theory, and I do try to incorporate their choice and interests wherever possible, but in reality it just doesn't work for most people/teachers/schools.

So I want to know, as I prepare to write this paper - what do you think? What is school for? 

Is school for learning information and ideas?

Is school for learning skills so you can get a guaranteed, good job?

Is school for discovering yourself and growing?

Or is school for preparing a generation to take on the world and fix all of societies problems?

Should we focus on information or skills? Thoughts or feelings? 

What is the most important? Can you choose just one?

Let me know! I want to get perspectives from parents, students, non-teachers and teachers alike. Love you all!


  1. OK, I'm trying not to take it personally that you called an English degree useless and then proceeded to say that math and history are useful. I certainly find value in what I teach and in my degree. And I've been told that you can pretty much do anything with an English degree, and go in any direction as it increases literacy, writing, and other communication skills. I haven't used geometry to my knowledge, though I will say basic algebra has been useful. So I guess there are several angles to that issue.

    I don't think it's worthwhile to discuss what things/subjects should be cut out and what things should be included. In my opinion, the more knowledge, the better. Knowledge is power. I may not enjoy math or be very good at it, but I recognize its importance and the thinking skills it promotes. I recognize that knowing how to do those things sharpens my abilities. I think that's awesome. Why not learn how to play an instrument?

    I feel like school is for all of the above, and maybe that's where we go wrong. Certainly, information and ideas are necessary as references to solve current issues. Definitely, school should provide necessary skills for employment. Hopefully, students are growing and discovering themselves.

    The way we accomplish this is by exposing them to everything possible. The idea of allowing exploratory and elective courses is a great way to do this.

    I think the ideas we discuss in English are valuable in gaining self-awareness and in becoming a productive citizen who can help to cure societal ills, in an articulate and powerful way.

    In short, I certainly can't choose just one. I think school is for all of these things, and that's why I get so sad when physical education, art, and music programs get cut: We lose the chance for a student to discover a talent or passion, or just for them to be exposed to different things.

    My students need to get to know themselves better. But they also need to get outside of themselves and consider other perspectives. They need skills in comprehension, writing, arguing, and presenting. These things will help them in society and as skills for work... I'm rambling. Sorry.

  2. I think school is for getting a job and changing the world.
    I like the idea of discovering yourself too but I think that can happen just as much outside of the classroom as it can inside. It may happen along the way but I don't think it should be the purpose of school. I think school is where future leaders are taught the base of things they need to know to be a leader and change things.
    Maybe I don't really understand but I think the first two theories kind of go hand in hand. You learn information that helps you develop skills to get a job.
    But I hate theories. Theories suck.