Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What is the Purpose of Education?

What is the purpose of education?  I've been an educator for over twenty years, and I continue to ask myself that question.  When I started my career as an educator at Furman University in the Biology Department, I felt certain I had a good understanding of what my purpose was.  I modeled myself after the many professors I had throughout my years at university and tried to emulate their goal of imparting knowledge to students in a lecture-style format.  While I prided myself on being able to explain complex metabolic pathways or complicated molecular concepts to students in a way that made sense to them, I now know that I wasn't really teaching students how to think.  I was merely an extension of the textbook.

Fast forward to the start of my career at Carolina Day School.  I knew that sixth grade would be a whole different ball game.  There was no way that eleven and twelve year-olds would be able to sit still and be lectured to for forty minutes at a time, and it dramatically shifted my approach to teaching. It is in this environment that I truly learned to teach.  It didn't take long to realize that students learn best when they are engaged, asking questions, and discovering things for themselves.

As educators we have accepted the idea that we are preparing children for jobs that don't even exist now.  Having "knowledge" is less important than being able to use that knowledge in a novel way.  I now believe that one who is truly educated is not only a person who has been exposed to a lot of different disciplines and content but a person who continues to ask questions, seeks new knowledge, and is willing to accept new ideas in the face of shifting evidence.  As I reflect on my teaching in this blog, I will continue to ask "What is the purpose of education?"  And in trying to answer that question, I will continue to evolve as a teacher.

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