The True Goal of Education
I am an educator – a facilitator – an inspiring figure – a teacher. 187ish days of the year, I pack up early and head to my alternative high school, ready and willing to work with teenagers who don’t succeed in traditional school settings. Make no mistake – these aren’t dumb kids. They are often extremely bright. My kids are the type that “waste” the education offered to them by the experts at the front of the room. They don’t pay attention – many simply can’t, even if they wanted to. They don’t take notes. And yet they have vast stores of knowledge. It just isn’t always the knowledge traditional teachers want them to have.
Working with at-risk kids since 2002 has taught me more about effective teaching than I could ever teach the kids. What’s most interesting to watch is how these “at-risk” kids are redefining the typical school. We define an at-risk kid as one who is in danger of dropping out or not completing his education. This is usually doing to poverty, family situations, language barriers or medical conditions. I challenge you today to find a group of ten children who don’t have a broken family, struggles with bills or a diagnosis of some kind. It’s virtually impossible.
While well and good in theory, the concepts behind No Child Left Behind are forcing schools to abandon the true goal of education. We are drilling skills and facts into kids that will help them make it to the next level or pass a test, but our children are changing as a result of many things, and a test based on antiquated ideas and a fact-based educational process is failing our students today.
Your students can pull out their phones and have the answers to virtually any question you ask them. They no longer see the implicit reasons for education. Why do they have to know the names of the original colonies? They have the information in hand before you even finish telling them, and technology is only going to get faster. Does this mean we should give up on facts? Of course not – kids need to understand everything in the world around them, and the first part of that is knowing the basics.
Too often though, we’re missing the point. Skill and drill on the facts or a basic skill is great for helping them remember. But the real goal of education is to teach children to learn and explore. Give them facts and let them grow. Teach them to think and see what they can discover. Show students the way to higher levels of thought and reasoning, not by preparing them for a test you’re giving Friday, but by challenging them to reach beyond what is immediately visible and create.