Can we get real about the purpose of education?

I was reading through some of my favorite bloggers’ posts of last month, which I missed and came across this powerful and troubling post by Renee Moore, Lessons From My Fathers. It tells the story of black men in her family, who played by society’s rules and pursued their education, only to end up with low paying jobs that do not allow them to adequately support their families.

She concludes,

“The men in this family are black fathers who have tried so hard to do the right things.

Go to school. Study hard. Pass the tests. Graduate. Get a job. Get married. Work hard. For what?  To watch as their dreams crash, and their familes suffer? In America?

This is about real education.

We’ve drilled a generation with the lesson that the purpose of getting an education is to get a job. Yet, many young Black look at people they know and respect, like the men in my family, and ask, ‘Why bother?’

Maybe it’s time to teach the rest of the lesson. That the purpose education in a free nation is to prepare well-rounded, intelligent citizens who can work together to find real solutions to the problems in our society.”

My response:

Wow. How does this reality fit with the “no excuses” rhetoric of “closing the achievement gap”?   You’re right. We need to reframe our narrative about what we are educating our youth to be able to do. The society children enter into, after completing their education, is not set up for everyone to be successful. It is full of problems ripe for fresh minds to dig in and solve.  That is something we need to prepare students to do–look at the big picture, and become problem-solvers and collaborators.  Otherwise we are lying and failing to prepare students for the realities of the adult world.

This theme seems to be coming up more and more lately.  Steven Lazar writes in the Washington Post about the faulty implementation of the new Common Core Standards in Social Studies. An early supporter of the standards themselves, Lazar finds the new draft of NY State 9-12 Common Core aligned curriculum framework sorely lacking in preparing students to fullfill their civic duties as adult citizens in this country.

Our country is far from perfect. However, I see little to no recognition of this fact in our education system today. We are feeding students (and teachers and parents) an unreal story about the role of education and failing to do the job of preparing the next generation for the real world.

[image credit: veggiesmith.com ]