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While many purposes ofeducation exist, and many people have their own ideas of what education should be, listed and explained below are several generally accepted purposes for schooling that spring from our educational history in America and modern beliefs about education.
1. Education for Intellectual Attainment: the belief that schools should concentrate on activities, exercises, and courses of study that develop one’s mind or intellectual ability. This belief is based upon the assumption that the brain is like a muscle that develops with mental exercise and schools should challenge the learner with tasks that stimulate the brain. General Purposes:
2. Education for Citizenship: the idea that schools serve the larger society by producing students who can function in the American democracy . This purpose recognizes that an educated citizen is essential to maintaining the American economic and political system.
3. Education for Vocational Preparation: this is the belief that schools should produce students who can go into the work force and become productive. It is the recognition that a “practical” aspect of schooling must be satisfied. In an educational system attempting to educate all citizens, it is recognized that not all graduates can go to college and trained workers are needed after high school.
4. Education for Individual Development: this is the belief that education develops the potential of each person. Each person is unique and education uplifts the individual intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Education is seen as the vehicle for personal development and success in life.
In 1918 the National Education Association’s Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education identified seven specific goals for the public schools. These goals have influenced education throughout the 20th century and still have great influence today. The seven cardinal principles were designed to articulate the goals for the comprehensive high school at a time when the high schools and the public school system in America grew during the period after World War I. The seven cardinal principles recognized that schooling had a larger purpose than just preparing students for colleges and universities. Listed below are the seven principles.
1. Health: the recognition that as public education grew and compulsory school attendance laws were passed in all the states, the health of the population could be impacted by paying attention to health issues in schools. Courses in health, nutrition, and physical education were instituted. Modern courses include the study of such social issues as AIDS, sex education, and alcohol/drug education.
2. Command of Fundamental Processes: this is the old “reading, writing, arithmetic” approach to education, the belief that educated people must have a firm command of reading, mathematics, and writing ability. We hear a lot of talk today about the “basics” in education and the need to make sure that all children can read when they leave public schools.
3. Worthy Home Membership: the belief that schools should prepare students to establish a healthy, stable home. Here is where courses in “home economics” started, with an emphasis on preparing young women to cook and maintain a house. Today, both young men and women take courses in this area.
4. Vocational Preparation: the belief, explained above, that schools should produce workers for the growing economy.
5. Citizenship: the belief, explained above, that democracy depends on an educated citizenry , and schools, as the institution charged with the responsibility for education everybody, is in a unique role to “maintain the Republic.”
6. Worthy Use of Leisure Time: as the work week began to shorten, it was recognized that Americans would have more leisure time. This principle supports the notion that schools should prepare young people for a healthy life style, including physical activity and participation in healthy leisure activities.
7. Ethical Character: the belief that schools should address issues of “right or wrong” and “moral” concerns. Recently, a national debate has arisen over the teaching of religion in schools and the proper role that schools should play in moral/ethical education.
While the seven cardinal principles of education continue to influence what we teach in schools, a few other aims of education are beginning to influence education in America, particularly regarding “how” we teach in schools. Your work in the schools of tomorrow will certainly engage you in these areas.
1. Learning to Use Information: educators recognize that students cannot be expected to learn everything about a subject. In fact, information is growing at a rate far faster than at any time in human history. So, learning to use information becomes as important as learning certain “basic” information. Acquiring, analyzing, and reporting information become important skills. Applying one’s knowledge becomes as important as learning certain information about a subject. Of course, the computer becomes an ever increasing tool in school classrooms.
2. Concept Development: since we cannot possible learn all that is known about a subject, and information is increasing ever faster, then, learning the important ideas becomes more important. The modern emphasis on learning content is to concentrate on the big ideas and not allow student to become mired in minutiae.
3. Problem Solving: along with the emphasis on big ideas is the belief that students need to apply their understanding of information to “real life” problems. The problem solving approach draws heavily on the scientific method, where information is generated, analyzed, and applied to a question of importance.
4. Constructivism: this approach gets students involved in using information, even constructing information that is applied to their understanding of concepts and generalization. Students do more than memorize facts. They construct meaning from the information acquired or given.
5. Inquiry: a method of instruction where students collect, analyze, and apply their understanding to problems or issues. Inquiry is the basis for all science and relies heavily on using data rather than suppositions or opinions.
6. Social Concerns: Americans tend to look to their schools to solve issues that plague society. When auto accidents kill thousands each year and inflate insurance rates, then schools institute driver education courses. When Americans are concerned about manners, then schools launch programs that address proper social behavior. The list of issues that schools are required to address seems to grow.
Schools that education young people fall into two general categories: Private or Public Schools. Recently states have allowed parents to educate their children in a “home school” setting. In Kentucky the public schools are referred to legally as the “common schools.” Our discussion pertains to the organization of public(common) schools only.
Public schools in America are primarily funded at the local and state levels. Since no mention of education is made specifically in the United States Constitution, then the states under the “reserve powers” have taken on the responsibility to fund and run public schools. The power to run public schools at the local level is vested in a Board of Education, duly elected from the community, and given broad authority to govern the schools in its district.
The chief administrator in a local school district is the superintendent, who is appointed by the Board of Education. The superintendent is allowed to hire other administrators, including supervisors, office staff, and the principals of the local schools, which are all approved by the Board.
In Kentucky, each school, unless it fulfills a few special characteristics, is required to have a “School Council” that is given some significant powers to operate a local school. The School Council operates under a plan approved by the Board of Education that is in line with Kentucky law. School Councils are composed of teachers, parents and administrators, under a ratio of three teachers, two parents, and one principal. The composition of the council can be changed as long as this ratio is maintained. School councils in Kentucky have considerable power and have jurisdiction over such areas as discipline policies, curriculum, staffing, and scheduling, to name a few. Each council develops a policy on how to administer the powers allowed under the law.
While we tend to view schools and their characteristics as monolithic, in fact, schools vary widely, even in the same school district. Some schools are large, others small, and their clients vary, from middle class, to lower classes, in terms of family income. Some schools have a high degree of parental involvement, while others struggle to get input from parents. Other schools are located in areas where property values are high and the public allows a high degree of monetary support for the schools, resulting in a disparity among schools regarding the money available to support education. Recently, as a result of research, educators realize that significant educational change usually occurs at the school level as a result of the educators in a particular school building with the support of the parents and the community.