The Goal(s) of Education

After staring at the paper for about ten minutes and realizing the utter impossibility of such a task, I finally made some sweeping judgments: one area was of crucial importance, three of minor importance and four of little to no importance.  Here are my explanations:

50% -- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. I know, I blew half my wad on this one area, but it's my own personal crusade: one of the things I wish I could change about the inhabitants of Earth is their inability to think -- I mean really THINK -- about the full implications of their actions and ideas. Regardless of what you learn -- oboe, quantum physics, balancing a checkbook -- that knowledge is useless if you can only apply it in one specific situation.  Can you teach yourself to sight-sing using the same scale?  Can you look at your company's budget and tell whether they're solvent?  If you can't think critically about it, you didn't really learn it in the first place.

10% -- Arts and Literature. If I had to choose between teaching a child Algebra or watercolor, I would choose watercolor.  Because beauty is truth, truth beauty.  (And don't dare try to tell me Algebra is beautiful.)

10% -- Preparation for Skilled Work. This may sound a little like the point of view I lambasted a couple of days ago, but I do think children need to learn a trade, whether it's keeping a home, building furniture or arguing in front of a jury.  They need to be able to support themselves and any future dependents. This is a very old idea, with or without the sense of entitlement that most students have today.

10% -- Social Skills and Work Ethic. This was bumped up to the second tier because of the first three words: "Good communication skills." Why, just this week, I fell headlong into a huge mess at church that was centered around a lack of communication with the correct people and a glut of communication with the wrong ones.  Avoid both extremes whenever possible.

5% -- Basic Academic Skills. The general public rated this first, at 22%.  But despite (or maybe because of!) my career in education, I firmly believe that basic academic skills are only useful insofar as they contribute to a growth of critical thinking.

5% -- Citizenship and Community Responsibility. This is important, but I don't think it's an educator's job to teach it.  Government is a necessary evil, not something to dwell on.

5% -- Physical Health. Also important; also not the job of an educator (unless the educator is also the parent.)

5% -- Emotional Health. We have more than enough emotional health in this country.  We are highly skilled at finding ourselves, treating ourselves and loving ourselves, and it is destroying our homes and families..  Thinking back, I'd actually like to give this a negative number in order to give more weight to the other categories!

An interesting observation, as we discussed this in class, was the fact that each respondent's life experience unfailingly influenced his or her choices.  A student who had been abused rated Emotional Health first; students who were active in sports rated Physical Health first. Being constantly exposed to plodding, linear thought, I focused on Critical Thinking.

One more comment: when my professor presented us with the public's answers, he had mistakenly copied them down wrong, putting Arts and Literature first instead of last.  We were all dumbfounded, and I experienced a fleeting moment of pride in my fellow citizens that was quickly dispelled when I looked it up online and discovered the mistake . . .