When formal education was introduced, it was done so for a purpose, when parents take their children to school, they do so for a purpose. Children also go to school because they have a specific purpose. The purpose of education may therefore change depending on the perspective from which it is looked at and who is looking at it. But overall, education has the purpose of promoting knowledge, interaction, spirit and experience. These points will be proved by materials derived from two articles; ‘‘Graduation” by Maya Angelou and “School is bad for children” by John Holt.
One of the purposes of education as appreciated from ‘‘Graduation” by Maya, is promoting interaction amongst the students. As students go to school to learn, they are expected to interact with each other and make friends. They are supposed to live like an extended family. Maya says, ‘‘ ….the student body which acted like an extended family, knew who did well, who excelled and what piteous one had failed….’’(Maya 1). This quote by Maya means that school is supposed to be a place where students can interact in a manner almost similar to the way they do while at home. Through interactions and care for one another, the students are supposed to be each other’s companions. Also, the interaction provides the students with learning opportunities of interacting with members outside of family. For instance, as depicted by Maya, children gain diverse cultural knowledge and appreciation while at school (Maya 2). John criticizes schools for failing to fulfill the important purpose of interaction. Some schools discourage classroom interaction something that denies children the rightful opportunity of learning through interaction. Especially in China, interactions in class and outside class room are not encouraged. It hinders the purpose of education. One of the influential factors that motivate children to go to school is to be with their friends.
From the two articles, it is also clear that education has the purpose of bestowing knowledge to students. As students go to school, they are supposed to gain knowledge from the teachers, from books and even from their fellow students. This is clearly depicted in this quote from ‘‘Graduation” by Maya “the academic work was among the best of the year. I could say the preamble to the constitution even faster than Bailey’’ (Maya 2). From this phrase from the article, it is clear that the narrator (Maya) had gained knowledge from school. She is now able to quickly say the preamble to the constitution, something that she was not able to do before she started going to school. In other parts of ‘‘Graduation’’, Maya who is the narrator displays a rich knowledge of various historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Columbus both of who immensely contributed to the rich political history of the United States of America. To gain knowledge on various subjects is a major purpose of going to schools. Only with knowledge, individuals are able to succeed in their careers.
The articles also underline the purpose of education in imparting skills in students. Maya talks a lot about games and other extracurricular activities. Maya admired one of her classmates because he was good at games. She says, “on the playground, he chose to play the roughest games. I admired him’’ (Maya 5). This indicates how important games are to students. Other than games, students are also supposed to engage in other activities like cleaning and singing as part of their educational activities. These activities and games have educational experiences. Skills like cleaning and singing are skills contributing to a good life style. With cleaning skills, students can always keep their room clean and their stuff organized. This is a very important skill. This skill can be learned in school through education. One purpose of education is to learn these necessary skills for life.
Education also has the purpose of nurturing the spirit of autonomy and independence. As students move from home where they are under close supervision of their parents to school where the teacher assumes the role of the supervisor, they are supposed to gain some sense of autonomy. Especially in boarding schools, students have to make decisions on their own. The freedom grants them the responsibility of making decisions independently without the guidance from their parents as they are away at home. They are expected to make decisions more independently. Education in school serves this purpose. It gives the students an environment to practice their decision making skills independently.
In line with the above-mentioned purpose of education, John suggests three different ways through which autonomy can be promoted in schools. One is that teachers should provide the students with more activities for their own learning (John 68). The second way is through promotion of peer collaboration among the students. John says that teachers should facilitate students in a way to enable them to work together and learn from each other. This way, students learn independently from the teacher hence promoting the spirit of autonomy. The third way through which autonomy can be promoted among the students in line with the purpose of education is by allowing the students to critic and judge their own work. He says that children learn to walk, talk and play games in their lives by imitating others and by trial and error. The same concept, John suggests should be applied in schools. John argues that instead of pointing out student errors “as if we thought he would never notice a mistake unless it was pointed out to him,” teachers should provide him with the appropriate tools to discover the correct answer by themselves (John 69). All these in an effort to fulfill the purpose of promoting autonomy among students.
Education also has the purpose of helping student to gain experience with the outside world. John suggests that teachers should promote the experience of students in the outside world by facilitating both lessons within the classroom and in the community as well. John notes that rather than “shut them up in brick boxes (John 67),” teachers should allow students to acquire first-hand experience with the real world. This he says can be achieved through collaborative or individual visits to various relevant industries or locations so as to feed their curiosity. He also proposes that schools should involve professionals in their classrooms so that they can share their life and work experiences with the students.
One of the popular arguments given by the critics of education is that it is a purposeless and an un-necessary process in life. Some critics have even cited some of the people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who became successful even after quitting school. There are also claims of some people who are successful but did not acquire formal education at all. While these allegations may have some basis, they are not entirely true. Some of the successful people who dropped out of school were able to succeed in life because they put to use some of the knowledge and skills they had acquired earlier in their educational lives. They also put to use some of the networks of friends they had acquired through interaction in schools earlier in their educational lives. As for the case of the isolated few who have been successful and have never acquired any education, the truth of the matter is that they could have been more successful if they had acquired more skills, networks, knowledge and experiences through education.
Education is a broad idea, and thus it has various purposes. First of all, education promotes knowledge. Students know very little about society, science and humanities. Education provides the opportunity for students to study these subjects and gain the knowledge. Education also promotes interactions. Before receiving education in schools, students primarily deal with family members. Education in school is a great opportunity for students to learn how to interact with people outside of family. Besides, education promotes positive skills, experience and autonomy.
Holt, John. “School Is Bad for Children.” (1969). Rpt. in The Blair Reader. By Laurie
Kirszner and Stephen Mandell. Tennessee: Pearson. (2010): 64-69. Print.
Maya Angelou “Graduation”.
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