Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Choosing Your Child’s School Involves Defining the Purpose of Education

I remember when my husband and I were deciding on our daughter’s elementary school. Do we send her to the public school around the corner, the new charter school a few miles away, or the private school with the out-of-pocket tuition expenses?  Do we homeschool?  In deciding on the best match for their child, most parents wonder where she will best flourish, where he will feel that he belongs, and where she will shine rather than fall through the cracks of a large educational institution.  Bobbi Cecio, long-time educator and co-founder of The Village Gate Children’s Academy in Encinitas, California, is passionate about the child-school match.  In discussing education, she asks that we address our questions by exploring the basic purpose of education.  She says, “What is the purpose of schooling and teaching?  If we don’t know the answer to that and if we don’t know the mission and goals of schools, it’s not possible to even know if we’ve fulfilled the mission, reached the goals, or missed our target.  Interestingly, with all the focus in recent years on accountability of schools, you don’t hear much public discussion about the fundamental purpose of schools.” 
Bobbi continues, “I’ve found that two primary opposing views exist regarding the purpose of schools. Some believe that the primary purpose of schools should be to create workers who have skills and personal styles to fill and perform available jobs. Others believe schools should seek to develop active citizens, helping children develop their own capacity for personal achievement and contributing to society as an active citizen for democracy.  Over time, the goals of public education have included preparation of children for citizenship, cultivation of a skilled workforce, the teaching of cultural literacy, the preparation of students for college, the development of critical thinking and to assist students in competing in the global marketplace.

What do you think is the purpose of your child’s education?  What would you like it to be?  How much of your vision is shared by the leadership at your child’s school? 

I have heard many say that the purpose of school is to prepare our children for their future. If that’s truly the case, then I’m going to challenge that perspective and invite you to consider a few things.

Our current school systems are antiquated.  They were invented during the industrial revolution in an effort to create factory workers who did what they were told and could focus on one thing all day long. This is not the world our children are going to inhabit.  Our current system has children sit in classrooms, in identical seating, with same age children.  Children are asked questions for which the answers are already known, so there is no deep sense of discovery or challenge.  In what way does that resemble any facet of our current world let alone a world 15-20 years in our future?

At some point, we stopped asking questions and striving for a different environment in our schools because most of us were educated in similar schools.  As far as we’re concerned, it worked.  We’ve grown up to be successful adults so “what’s the problem?” The problem is that our children need us to create a school environment that meets their needs and that of the future they are growing in to.  None of us can accomplish this alone, but together, we can.”
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” 

Bobbi Cecio will be speaking in south Florida at the It Takes a Village Parenting Conference in Miramar on October 20.  You can learn more about her philosophy on education and her school, The Village Gate Children’s Academy, at VillageGateAcademy.com.