Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Educational Philosophy/Purpose

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Education: What is its purpose?

By: Karen Herndon




Introduction[edit]

Have you ever asked yourself what the purpose of education is? It is believed to be a question that is highly thought about but in reality it is not. We tend to focus on the tasks at hand rather than the overall goal. Many will find that when asked specifically what education’s purpose is, the answer in return is nothing outside of the course curriculum (Bass, 1997). Well you may be questioning why this is. In order to provide an answer we need to consider both sides of the topic. On one hand the government controls the educational system which enforces the use of mandatory testing to evaluate each student as well as the educational institution. In other words, emphasis is placed on providing students with the skill that they will need to succeed. On the other hand, there is the belief that children should not only be presented with the abilities to learn but they should be able to expand what is given through individual growth and development beyond materials obtained from the classroom. Their inner talents need to be brought out and polished (Minor, 2007).

“Do not then train youth to learn by force and harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each." ~Plato (Minor, 2007)


Government Effects on Education’s Purpose[edit]

If one looks closely at the government’s heavy involvement in what to teach and what not to teach children it’s the administering of assessment tests. These tests do not allow a child to form opinions on subjects which in turn impedes social growth and development. The government forces school districts to meet certain minimal requirements so unfortunately the focal point has become mainly to teach material that students will need to know in order to obtain passing scores on standardized tests (Bass, 1997). This is attributed to the government’s implementation of laws such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006). Students are expected to follow certain guidelines and curriculum; however teachers are pressed for time. In order to ensure they achieve all of the mandated guidelines and curriculum they teach only what they are required to. This leaves little time to introduce material to students that may be beneficial to them in the long run (Bass, 1997). For example the NCLB has received strict criticism for focusing too much on testing and not enough on actually teaching and allowing the student to further their knowledge. It has been brought up that the NCLB’s ignorance towards equity has caused problems. For instance one school system may possess funding which would make it easier to obtain the minimum passing score versus a school system that lacked funding. (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006).


Social Development’s Role in Education[edit]

Education is not only being presented with material to learn but to also expand one’s knowledge of themselves and their surroundings. It appears that the growing trend today in school systems is to teach students particular course work with little to no regard to instruction on how this material could relate to life. Since most subjects utilize textbooks they are heavily relied upon and do not allow the student much freedom to think outside the box (Lim, 2005). Children will naturally form opinions from the material that is presented and being able to express these opinions will only help them to grow socially and eventually fit in with the rest of the world. Social growth is very important because when it is time for the child to become independent if they have not developed that part of their life then interaction with other people and situations could be quite daunting. Most parents and parental guardians do want their child to follow a structured curriculum; however, they still want their child to have time for recreation and family. Childhood is an important part of everyone’s life. It encourages social interaction and development as well as teaching them to be independent. People that are deprived of their childhood regret it when they grow up which could negatively impact their lives and the lives of others (Lim, 2005).


“The only purpose of education is to teach a student how to live his life-by developing his mind and equipping him to deal with reality. The training he needs is theoretical, i.e., conceptual. He has to be taught to think, to understand, to integrate, to prove. He has to be taught the essentials of the knowledge discovered in the past-and he has to be equipped to acquire further knowledge by his own effort. ~Ayn Rand

(Yero, 2001-2002. p.1)

Thomas Jefferson’s View[edit]

With regard to the purpose of education Thomas Jefferson was one of the biggest advocates of the principle that ignorance and political liberty could not co-exist. Jefferson believed the purpose of education was to properly prepare young minds so they would be able to make educated decisions and uphold the integrity of the country. He insisted on providing four main subjects to elementary school students. Geography, arithmetic along with reading and writing made up these subjects. These subjects were deemed crucial for the proper development of children in order to function later in life. One example of this is that Jefferson believed that children needed to be given proper education in order to become informed voters. He supported free education through taxation as well as equal opportunity education. Jefferson believed the purpose of education was not to segregate but to educate (Jewett, 1997).


Evaluating Student Assessment[edit]

Getting back to assessment and student evaluation drives one to consider if whether we are going about education wrong as a country by placing so much importance upon standardized tests. As previously stated, it has been debated whether The No Child Left Behind Act does little to expand the constantly developing minds of our youth (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006). A child’s mind can be compared to a sponge, in that they need to soak up information and substance in order for it to expand, otherwise, it dries out. If you observe the examinations and how students are generally evaluated in today’s school systems, you will see that the vast majority of them are made up of multiple choice questions. Since there is typically only one correct answer, it is almost impossible for the child to reflect upon the question and develop a view that they can grow from or share with others if they so choose (Yero, 2001-2002).


In Summation[edit]

When considering both sides of the purpose of education you may want to reflect on the words of Plato when he said: “Do not then train youth to learn by force and harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each (Minor, 2007).” However, the government’s involvement in education has had positive impacts on students since the NCLB has forced teachers and other school officials to focus on all children including those with special needs (A Firsthand Look at NCLB, 2006). No matter what side of the river you are on with regard to your opinion on this topic, it is hard to discredit the fact that one purpose (if not the main purpose) of education is to prepare the youth for their future and ours.


Questions[edit]

1. Thomas Jefferson believed that

   A.  Awareness and political liberty could not co-exist.
   B.  Awareness and tyranny could not co-exist.
   C.  Ignorance and political liberty could not co-exist.
   D.  Ignorance and tyranny could not co-exist.

2. What does NCLB stand for?

   A.  No Child Left Backward
   B.  No Child Left Behind
   C.  No Children Left Backward
   D.  No Children Left Behind

3. Thomas Jefferson affirmed that the purpose of education was not to segregate but to?

   A.  Educate
   B.  Estimate
   C.  Intimidate
   D.  Procrastinate

4. What plays an integral part in everyone's life?

   A.  Childhood
   B.  Happiness
   C.  Upbringing
   D.  Wealth

5. Generally student evaluations in today's school systems are primarily made up of what?

   A.  Essay questions or topics. 
   B.  Multiple choice questions.
   C.  Short answer questions.
   D.  True and false questions.


References[edit]

A First Hand Look at NCLB. (2006). Educational Leadership, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ766269) Retrieved February 2, 2008, from ERIC database.


Bass, Randall V. (1997). The Purpose of Education. The Educational Forum 61. 128-32. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/jumpstart.jhtml?recid=0bc05f7a67b1790e1e9c442f93fe94fd41479b00e75d7c18b3344ea852044009af47f7afa8bcd3df&fmt=H


Jewett, Thomas O. (1997). Thomas Jefferson and the Purposes of Education. The Educational Forum 61. 110-113. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.proxy.lib.odu.edu/hww/jumpstart.jhtml?recid=0bc05f7a67b1790e1e9c442f93fe94fd41479b00e75d7c18b3344ea852044009ceb909ea41cb5644&fmt=H


Lim, Mike. (2005). What is Education? The All I Need. Retrieved February 2, 2008 from http://www.theallineed.com/family/05032602.htm


Minor, Summer. (2007). The Purpose of Education is… Mom is Teaching Blog. Retrieved February 2, 2008 from http://www.momisteaching.com/the-purpose-of-education-is/+purpose+of+education+summer+minor&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us


Yero, Judith Lloyd. (2001-2002). The Meaning of Education. Teacher’s Mind Resources. 1-3. Retrieved February 2, 2008 from http://www.teachersmind.com/pdfdirectory/Education.PDF



Question Answers[edit]

1. C

2. B

3. A

4. A

5. B