sinisterdevices: (Default)
[personal profile] sinisterdevices
A recent BBC program raised the question, and I've been poking at it in my head for the last day or so. I'm curious what you folks think.

What's the goal of education? After all, pretty much all societies* today are expending massive amounts of resources on providing education or -- in the case of poorer societies, wishing they could do so.


I'll expand the question: What is the goal of our education system as it currently stands, and what *should* be its goal (if the two are not the same)?

Multiple priorities are OK.

Or you could also take this in a completely different direction and argue that the goal of *education* doesn't correlate with the goal of *the education system*. But if you do, please expand on why you feel the current system isn't meeting the needs of the society :)



*The issue of women's education in more traditionalist Muslim societies (as well as some fringe Christian groups, for that matter) can certainly be discussed, but I would argue that this is a case of educational priorities being overridden by other, more powerful, societal drivers -- and even those societies devote a lot of resources to education. Just not for women.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 06:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eavanmoore.livejournal.com
"What is the goal of our education system as it currently stands"

Whose "our?" American, Canadian, North American, English-speaking, Western World, Developed Countries...

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
Whichever you feel is most deserving of your comment.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dagibbs.livejournal.com
I feel that the goal of a society's education system should be to provide adults that will be functional and productive within that society and to provide society with adults with the broad set of skills that the society needs to continue to function.

Also, I do not think a "society's education system" can (or should) be narrowly defined. Public schools and universities are one, very visible, component of the education system, but so is parents reading to children, informal apprenticeships, self-education through books borrowed from libraries, and many many more things.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-03 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selki.livejournal.com
I think that is an excellent goal, whether or not it's the agreed-upon goal.

Historically in the US, arguments for public education included Jeffersonian ideals of educated citizenry as well as practical (economic).

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 07:29 pm (UTC)
curgoth: (Goth beard)
From: [personal profile] curgoth
Have you heard the recent This American Life podcast on education? It's pretty directly relevant to your line of inquiry.

I think the theoretical goal of the education system is to make children "successful". This seems to be interpreted as "get these kids to college/university". In practice, we're focusing on technical skills, and mostly leaving the other stuff (ability to organize, life structuring, etc.) to the parents. So if the parents are in rough shape, the kid has a can of knowledge soup and no can opener.Which in turn tends to mean that the poor kids are fucked. Which is maybe on purpose?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
I haven't; I don't actually listen to the radio (he confessed sheepishly). Do you mean the most recent one here? (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/tag/77)

In return, this (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00yc3qr) is the one that prompted the post.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 10:19 pm (UTC)
curgoth: (Goth beard)
From: [personal profile] curgoth
I'm thinking of this one.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
I note that you're not including college/university as part "education." Why the distinction?

As far as whether it's on purpose, one of the experts in the BBC program mentions that she feels one of the goals of education is to *sort* the students. Not everyone can be a prize-winning physicist -- and we need Wal-Mart greeters too.

Whether that being one of the education system's goals is a good thing or not is a different question.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 11:01 pm (UTC)
curgoth: (Goth beard)
From: [personal profile] curgoth
Mostly because I am thinking in terms of the TAL podcast. :) Certainly, I get the impression that the high school system assumes a kid has been dumped into the "not a successful person" bucket if there's no college or university involved.

College/university seems to be a) get the person to spend money on a piece of paper improving their job prospects and b) turn a percentage of them into academics.

I think the point of school should be to teach kids critical thinking skills (logic!), life management skills (managing time, formalized social stuff), and the basic knowledge stuff. I get the impression that up to high school, right now we're just focusing on the last item because it's the easiest to test and measure. If you make it to the post-secondary level, you'll get more exposure to the first item, and to actually graduate you need to have picked up the second item somewhere.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 04:08 pm (UTC)
clarentine: (cavalier)
From: [personal profile] clarentine
I think the point of school should be to teach kids critical thinking skills (logic!), life management skills (managing time, formalized social stuff), and the basic knowledge stuff. I get the impression that up to high school, right now we're just focusing on the last item because it's the easiest to test and measure.

Not to mention that a lack of critical thinking skills benefits electoral parties which gain power by preying on the fears of the electorate.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 02:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eavanmoore.livejournal.com
one of the experts in the BBC program mentions that she feels one of the goals of education is to *sort* the students.

Was she European? That sounds like such a European idea.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
British, I believe. I did learn a very interesting bit, though: Finnish students aren't graded until the end of secondary school. I presume that means *at all.*

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eavanmoore.livejournal.com
Holy shitfuck! That is amazing.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
That's not the only thing that's amazing.
The OECD country rankings for education, 2009. (http://ourtimes.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/oecd-education-rankings/)

Finland is 3rd in reading, 6th in mathematics, and 2nd in science. Compare that to the US: 17th, 31st, and 23rd respectively.

(and, to make me feel special, Canada: 6th, 10th, 8th)
Edited Date: 2012-10-02 04:14 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-03 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selki.livejournal.com
Finland's the one that's all hot on economic equality as regarding its kids, right? (vague memories of an article about Finland's educational success I read this summer)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-03 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
Best I understand it, the Scandinavian countries as a whole are about as close to functional socialism as any place I'm aware of -- without descending into totalitarianism, that is.

If you happen to recall the name or source of the article, I'd love to take a look.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] icedrake.livejournal.com
By the way, why do you think it's a European notion? Or rather, why would you say the same thing doesn't happen here? I know when I was finishing high school in Ontario, the teachers were pushing everyone who had the marks to go to university. College (community college for you, southerner :) was a very distant second, and not doing either? Well, that was for those who just couldn't hack it. They would end up working in the family convenience store or something.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eavanmoore.livejournal.com
See, that sounds kind of like the US system, which I think is not explicitly a sorting system. School may sort students into those who work in convenience stores and those who will become research scientists, but those who believe this is the purpose of education, in my experience, speak as cynics or as critics. Our school system is supposed to put students on an equal footing with one another, so that they can develop as they can. Ideally, everyone would be going to university or community college. I know that there are vocational high schools for kids who just don't have an academic bent. And there are people who argue that not every kid needs to go to college. But that's so different from the UK system with its multiple levels of certification. Or the German system, which (at least when I was there) tested kids at only 13 or so to determine whether they'd continue to the school that graduated them at 16, or to the school that graduated them at 19 and led to university.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 09:19 pm (UTC)
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (cat teacher)
From: [personal profile] sabotabby
What should be the goal: To inculcate critical thinking skills, provide a baseline of common knowledge, create engaged, informed citizens, level the playing field in terms of opportunity, and aid in basic socialization in a diverse society.

What is the goal: Shut up, sit still, pass the standardized test, produce data.

I am cynical because Chris Spence visited my school today and didn't visit any tech classes.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 04:03 pm (UTC)
clarentine: (cavalier)
From: [personal profile] clarentine
The goal of our educational system, as I understand it, is to produce the workers needed by our economy. I suspect that goal is shared by most, if not all, of the nations who have mandatory education (well, so long as you substitute “their economy” for “our economy”).

Should that be its goal? I suppose that, insofar as it’s the government dictating that there be mandatory education, it makes sense that the defined goal be one that actually benefits the government – which I believe this one does, because part of the role of the US government is to increase the US GDP, which is the economy in a nutshell.

Does such a goal really benefit the educated? Most of them, I would guess. So long as we don’t forget that an economy needs blue collar workers as well as cubicle queens. ::grin::

Does the stated goal really match our educational system? I don’t think so. When we made education big business, and thus beholden to its own bottom line, we corrupted the process. Now families bankrupt themselves and their futures forcing their kids to pursue ever higher degrees so they can compete. And there’s a thriving adult education system in large part because so many of those kids forced through the college system (a) should never have been there in the first place and (b) now have figured out what they’d like to do when they grow up or (c) have been forced by economic conditions to pursue other career avenues. All of which feeds the Big Business aspect of secondary education, and none of it which really responds to the larger goal of creating workers for our economic benefit. (Unless we really want to be the world’s paper-shuffler and lose the rest of our production economy overseas, while turning an increasingly blind eye to the influx of undocumented aliens into our borders who will take care of all of those jobs our oh-so-educated workers are too good to handle?)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-02 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foms.livejournal.com
Don't forget child-care.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-04 03:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] realsoonnow.livejournal.com
It's a tougher question than it seems. I've been thinking about it a lot - for the last 5-6 years, I've volunteered as a tutor with a group, Pathways to Education, with the goal of getting the kids in one neighbourhood to finish high school and move on to appropriate post-school education/training/apprenticeships. The basic logic behind the program, which comes out of Toronto public health, is that poverty is the biggest contributor to poor health, and education (and seeing how that education applies to one's goals) is the best way to alleviate that poverty. So, I tutor a lot of kids, and a large part of the tutoring is teaching what I've heard called "meta-cognitive skills" (A subset of what the TAL podcast called non-cognitive skills). These are things like internalizing that yes, math is hard, but it's something you learn, not a talent you were born with (something I have come to believe more and more as the years go on).

So, in this view, education is a very useful thing, which has as one of its purposes to allow every child to have as many options as possible as a young adult, and teach them the skills they need to do so.

I also like, and see when I spend time around these kids, the goal of making them think about their values, their goals, and generally becoming less passive about life in general. I may not be explaining it well - It's a fuzzy goal, but to make people challenge ideas a little more.

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