Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 2/2.3.2

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What is the Purpose of Education?

by Tasha Taylor-Davis

Learning Targets

  • Readers should be able to state the purpose of education.
  • Readers should determine the intent and actions brought about with the No Child Left Behind Act
  • Readers should be able to state a brief history of education


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"What is the purpose of education," asked Mrs. Smith to her 5th grade students as she walks around the classroom waiting for hands to go up. Johnny says, "So I can have a career instead of a job. I want to have money in my pocket, a house, and a great truck when I get older." Susan states, "No, Johnny. We have to get an education so we can learn how to live in today's society." The true purpose of education should be to educate the whole child, so as not to just have academic success but to have success in all aspects of their lives.

"The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to thinkrather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men. ~Bill Beattie (Yero, 2002)

The Purpose of Education

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Ask yourself, what is the purpose of education? No matter who you ask, everyone's answer will be different. If you ask a student, there answer will be unlike their parents whose answer will be different from a teacher's viewpoint. Education is the whole learning process of not only acquiring knowledge but, to a deeper level, for a person to discover more about himself as well as the world which he is living in (Lim, 2005). Students are taught the basics in Math, Science, Reading, and English in order to survive in today's society. Therefore, how students use the education given is the true purpose of education. Some teachers believe that the transmission of knowledge is the primary purpose of education although the transfer of knowledge from school to the real world is something that happens naturally as a consequence of possessing that knowledge (Yero, 2002). Students take what they learn from school and apply this knowledge to their everyday lives. The learning process never ends and students will continue to use the knowledge from school to become better citizens in the world today.

No Child Left Behind

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The No Child Left Behind (NCLB)Act was signed by President Bush in 2002 to improve and reform education in public schools. According to the U.S. Department of Education, No Child Left Behind act is based on stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents (U.S. Department of Education, 2004). The intent of the No Child Left Behind Act was to make sure all students were learning at the same level and become proficient in academics. Each state was required to have learning standards of where a child should be and what they should learn by the end of a school year. The NCLB act had every state test students' abilities every year for each child in grades 3-8 in Reading and Math. "Results from these tests will be made available in annual report cards so parents can measure school performance and statewide progress, evaluate the quality of their child's school, the qualifications of teachers, and their child's progress in key subjects." states the Fact Sheet: No Child Left Behind Act (The White House, 2002).

'Click link to view the four pillars of the NCLB Act.

Others argue that the NCLB Act was a great idea but need corrections. FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, states, "The law's emphasis needs to shift from applying sanctions for failing to raise test scores to holding states and localities accountable for making the systemic changes that improve student achievement" (FairTest, 2004). Those against the NCLB Act argue that the academic gap have yet to be achieved. Low-income students and minorities students are still struggling to pass the test or become equal with their fellow peers who have a higher income.

History of Education

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In the colonial days, the history of education started with parents teaching their children to read and write. In 1635, the first Latin Grammar School (Boston Latin School) is established and it is designed for sons of certain social classes who are destined for leadership positions in church, state, or the courts (Sass, 2008).

"In the one-room schoolhouse sat students of all ages and abilities. The sole teacher was usually an unmarried woman; sometimes the students were older than the teacher. Using only the most basic resources slate, chalk, and a few books teaching and learning consisted mainly of literacy, penmanship, arithmetic, and good manners. Recitation, drilling, and oral quizzes at the end of the day were the norm in classrooms across America," states (School: The Story of American Public Education, 2001).

Education's main focus at this time was to teach children about religion. Girls were taught how to run a household while the boys were taught all about plantation life....At this time only white males and females were allowed to be educated. As the years progressed, in the 19th century, the one-room school houses were built to educate all children with the help of public funds. Looking back at how education started to how well it has transgressed, education has come a long way from only a certain wealthy class educating their children to free education to all no matter race, creed, religion, gender, or color.

Future of Education

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Every learner must master communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving as well as the equally important skills of knowing how to use numbers and data in real-world tasks, the ability to locate and process information relevant to the task at hand, technological fluency, and, most of all, the skills and attitudes needed to be a lifelong learner (Thornburg, 1997). The intent behind the creation of the NCLB Act was good but the actions behind the intent weakened the overall goal. The goal was to not leave any child behind but the goal changed to who can pass standardized tests. If corrections are made, the younger generation will benefit and have more opportunities for technological advancement and academics.


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Schools that ignore the trends shaping tomorrow will cease to be relevant in the lives of their students, and will quickly disappear. We must transform all formal institutions of learning, from pre-K through college, to insure that we are preparing students for their future, not for our past (Thornburg, 1997). I continue to watch my children grow up and I wonder are we doing everything in our power to help them become the leaders of tomorrow. Teachers were respected by all and they were the reason I chose to become a teacher. Teachers help shape the world of tomorrow by educating their students to think for themselves and never stop learning no matter where you are in life. The purpose of education to me is not to just teach kids the basic academics but to teach them how to become leaders of tomorrow by taking what they have learned and applying it to their everyday lives.

Multiple Choice Questions

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1. What are the four pillars of the No Child Left Behind Act?

a)State stadards, preparing students to succeed, more freedom for states and communities, and tracking the nations progress
b)Stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states & communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents
c)Taxing schools, preparing students to succeed, proven education methods, and teacher accountability
d)Writing proficiency, less freedom for states and communities, parent involvement, and proven education methods

2. What was education's main focus in the Colonial days?

a)To teach children about religion
b)To teach children how to become leaders of tomorrow
c)To teach children how to become plantation workers
d)To teach children math, science, reading, and English

3) Johnny graduated from high school and got a job at Sonic where he had to ride on skates and deliver orders. Johnny was given the total of the order but not the change that was due to the customer. What was the purpose of his education at this time?

a)the elimination of knowledge
b)the transfer of knowledge from school to the real world
c)the transfer of knowledge from the real world to school
d)the transmission(passing on) of knowledge

4) Taylor went outside with her friends for recess after lunch. She told her teacher, Mrs. Davis, that her mother said to study during recess instead of playing. Mrs. Davis politely told Taylor, "Recess is another form of physical education." What is the purpose of physical education?

a)recess helps control the combination of the body and brain
b)recess helps encourage bad behavior
c)recess helps enhance childrens health, academic performance, classroom behavior, and social and physical competence
d)recess helps students interact with their peers


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  1. b
  2. a
  3. b
  4. c


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  1. Lim, Mike. (2005). What is Education? The All I Need. Retrieved September 22, 2008 from
  2. Sass, Edmund. (2004, May 4). American Educaitonal History: A Hypertext Timeline. Retrieved September 20, 2008 from
  3. Thornburg, David D. (1997, April 15). 2020 Visions for the Future of Education. Retrieved September 22, 2008, from 2020 Visions for the Future of Education Web site:
  4. Yero, Judith Lloyd. (2001-2002). The Meaning of Education. Teachers Mind Resources. 1-3. Retrieved September 20, 2008 from
  5. (2001). Evolving Classrooms. Retrieved September 22, 2008, from School: The Story of American Public Education Web site:
  6. (2002, Jan. 8). Fact Sheet: No Child Left Behind Act . Retrieved September 22, 2008, from The White House: President George W. Bush Web site:
  7. (2004, July 1). Four Pillars of NCLB. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from U S Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans Web site:
  8. (2004, Oct. 21). Joint Organizational Statement on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing Web site:
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