What School is Missing

The End of EducationWhy do we go to school? The prevailing concern regarding education today is employment. We are to learn something “useful” which can be applied to earning a comfortable living. No one would argue that this is unimportant. The question, or the problem, is if it is ONLY about employment.

How much of the modern malaise is a consequence of this very thinking. We push our children to do well in school, to join activities and be involved – the primary motivation being to get into a “good” college, not to build character (a welcome benefit, but not essential). College looks the same (but with alcohol), the focus now is on attaining the first rung in the career climb. After that, still more of the same in pursuit of a rapid advancement toward increased income and ….”happiness.” This often leaves us depressed, confused and angry. We achieve “it all” and feel dissatisfied. As Styx sang in the song Grand Illusion:

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition
Get yourself a brand new motor car
Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder what on Earth’s this spell we’re under
We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are

What’s the point of life? The error, perhaps, in our modern approach to this question is that we are each seeking our own, personalized, answer. Whereas, we once had a narrative provided in school and a complementary one taught in church – we now have neither. Large numbers of people are rejecting any form of faith (or seeking their own, personalized, belief system). School is now focused on differentiated learning (success for you rather than an objective standard met by all). We are each bopping along in our own sphere – building a silo of beliefs, music, movies, books and news sources. These tell us what we want to hear, reinforcing our own “rightness.”

While some individuality is good, maybe hundreds of millions of individuals will be our undoing. Without a narrative to help us bridge our differences, we never will. The red and blue states will further divide. The goals, dreams and aspirations of our country will diverge to an even greater degree.

The message of The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School is the need to recognize that finding work is not an end. Works is a means of support. Meaning comes from a story that explains how we should live (ethics) and why we are here (purpose). Unfortunately, it seems we may be too far along, too divided to even agree on a narrative to teach. What to do? The answer’s seem obvious – return to the Church and go “old school” in the classroom. It is unfortunate, however, that those in positions of power are unlikely to agree. 😦

Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.