Last semester my Philosophy of Education course culminated in a final paper in which we were asked to devise a societal goal for education. In other words, what type of society would our educational system produce? Branching outwardly from this goal are various objectives which are skill sets, understandings, and abilities which our educational system will have to develop in its students in order so that this goal can be achieved. Finally, branching outward from these objectives are specific teaching methods which develop the student’s capacity to meet these objectives and thereby the goal.
This class meant so much to me and ultimately I put all my effort into this final paper because, in the end, this is what I want to do with my life. There needs to begin a serious movement in this country to radically reform the way America looks at the purpose of education in the broader view of society. I wrote this paper not just as another assignment for another class for the purposes of getting another grade. Education is the one institution that could transform this country and ultimately the world but first it needs to be transformed. This is not the whole paper just part of it.
Remember, I love comments and opinions.
The most glaring problem facing the current American educational system is that it fails to have a viable goal for society. In his essay, entitled The School and Social Progress late nineteenth century educational philosopher and professor, John Dewey said “Whenever we have in mind the discussion of a new movement in education, it is especially necessary to take the broader, or social view. Otherwise, changes in the school institution and tradition will be looked at as the arbitrary inventions of particular teachers, at the worst transitory fads, and at the best merely improvements in certain details—and this is the plane upon which it is too customary to consider school changes.” (Lewis, Grinberg, & Laverty, 2009, p. 98). As a student mired in the quagmire that is American education, I can identify with Dewey’s sentiment that a contrived and arbitrary education is a pointless one not only for the individual but for society. How many times does one hear a frustrated and disillusioned student ask his or her teacher some variation of the question, “What is the purpose of my learning this information?”? Indeed, what is the purpose of learning every single subject from calculus and trigonometry to biology and chemistry and ending with art history and the works of Shakespeare? Teachers, administrators, and guidance and college counselors all tell us that the purpose of exposing us to such a broad subject-based curriculum is to fashion us into more well-rounded people. The question is what does the phrase “well rounded” actually mean. Apparently it means that students are supposed to be schooled in a generalized knowledge of various subject matter so that they will be better equipped to choose a career path. There are two problems with this goal. Firstly, it does not address a goal for society but merely for the individual. Secondly and most importantly, the idea that bombarding our youth with subject-based curriculum translates to them being equipped to better cope with the trials and tribulations of the modern world and find a job is ludicrous and demonstrates the inherent disconnect between the goal and the objective. As it stands, school is an institution that remains extremely isolated from not only the realities of the world outside its walls but also the needs and interests of the students forced to occupy its corridors and classrooms. This fact must change. Our educational system must recognize the constant struggle of humanity to thrive in this world and adopt a societal goal based on bettering the human condition. It is due to this belief that I believe the purpose of education should be to create a mutually supportive society.
The ultimate goal for a compulsory, publicly funded educational system should be to create a society of mutually supportive individuals.
A mutually supportive society is one in which each and every member recognizes the common conditions that unite them, but just as well respects the differences that may separate them. By this creed, the notion of one for all and all for one becomes self-evident in a mutually supportive society. The society supports each of its individual members with their inherent differences and the individual members support society as a whole. By support I mean working together for the common good of the individual and society, because ultimately these two should never conflict with one another. When we live for one another, we live for ourselves and this is why the good of the individual and the good for society should never conflict.
A society of mutually supportive people would be devoid of economic and social stratification and therefore much of the hatred that fosters conflict. Goods and services would be exchanged on a fair basis with everyone being treated equally except in regards to their individual personalities. What I mean by this is even though everyone is committed to supporting one another, each still retains individuality so society does not become lifeless and robotic. An individual in a mutually supportive society would be devoid of any sort of bias that creates division in society whether racial or ethnic or anything else. They would view their fellow individual as an equal in terms of deserving of respect and basic rights and services.
I chose this goal over To create a more peaceful society because a peaceful society may be devoid of war and conflict but just as well it may be lifeless and people may not care about one another. There may be stark differences but no one chooses to recognize them and therefore every individual lives within their own little sphere of influence and there is no mutual support or societal values.
In order for education to attain its ultimate goal of creating a mutually supportive society, it needs to develop, in its students, an ability to critically think as well as an understanding of what it truly means to be human. Education must also cultivate, in each of its students, an exceptional self- awareness as well as historical awareness.
To think critically is to recognize what harms society and the individual and what benefits society and the individual and why. These could be institutions, systems of government, economic systems, cultural practices, and a variety of other things present in our everyday life and our world. The ability to think logically, seek new and innovative ways of thinking, as well as exercise excellent value judgment is necessary for critical thinking.
Critical thinking increases our ability to create a mutually supportive society by providing us with the necessary tools to constantly evaluate how society is functioning with regards to the ultimate goal of mutual support. It is useless without things to critically think about. Institutions, systems that govern us, and our way of life must be understood and analyzed, so that we are able to change and evolve them for the betterment of society and the individual.
Now as espoused previously, critical thinking is useless without things to think critically about. Therefore the educational system must address and develop a certain type of historical awareness in its students. By awareness, I mean a deep understanding of how the superficial classifications we attach to each other and place such undue importance such as race, ethnicity, wealth status, and others have directly caused nearly all human conflict and suffering. This type of awareness increases our ability to create a mutually supportive society by helping us to transcend these differences and work together to solve problems without there being any type of prejudice or bias to affect our decisions.
To understand what it truly means to be human is to recognize the common thread that binds us together as a species. This involves taking an objective look at the human being from a spiritual and metaphysical point of view, and is pivotal in building a mutually supportive society. To identify and respect the common threads that bind all human beings and to recognize how they affect our everyday lives, the lives of others, and the progression of human civilization as it stands will make us realize that despite all our superficial differences and the problems that have sprouted as a result of our willingness to identify with these differences so strongly, we have more in common than we may yet choose to realize right now. Naturally, once we are able to respect our commonalities over our differences, we will be more capable and willing to support one another.
Lastly, an educational system aimed at creating a mutually supportive society, will need to develop, in its students, an exceptional self-awareness. By self-awareness, I mean the ability to identify one’s individual passions and dreams and recognize how cultural and political norms have influenced them. Also, students will need to recognize how their dreams and passions fit or do not fit into the larger framework of contributing to a mutually supportive society.
To be truly self-aware one must not only know what one is passionate and convicted about, but also how outside influences have shaped those convictions. Criticism of one’s self is essential to being truly objective and therefore not being subservient to the cultural and political environment in which you live. Change for the individual and therefore change for society with the goal of mutual support is impossible without being able to look in the mirror and criticize one’s self.