Common Goals for Schools

All schools have different goals and purposes for their being, In this post, we will look at some of the different goals and views schools have for themselves.

Intellectual

People who see the goal of school as intellectual development believe that the growth of the mind and reason is one of the chief aims of schools. Students who are well-rounded mentally are able to function in various challenges in the real world as people who support an intellectual purpose may say.

The development of the mind often happens through the study of the humanities and the “Great Books” of the past. Since the great books provide examples of the sound reasoning that students need, reading these books will help students to develop their own reason and thinking skills. These beliefs are drawn heavily from perennialism and its focus on the past to prepare students for the present and future.

Economic

The economic view sees school as a place to prepare students for the workforce. This means attaining relevant skills and knowledge for employment in the world. As such, students are trained to competency in various areas that they show at least some interests in such as accounting, plumbing, computer science, etc.

With the focus on job skills and the development of the economy, it is clear that the economic view has less tolerance for the study of “Great Books” compared to the intellectual view of the school. Reading irrelevant classics does not benefit industry and is not necessary. However, developing reason and critical thinking is beneficial to industry and should be encouraged in the context of problem-solving of real-life challenges and not intellectual debates. These views are similar to essentialism and its focus on developing practical skills for the application in the real world.

The economic development view of school seems to be the primary mover in education today. Almost everything is focused on the economy and the need for properly trained workers to help the economy grow. Rarely, does industry mourn the ignorance of its workforce in matters relating to the humanities and arts. For people who are not motivated by money and building the national economy, it can be intolerable to study in such a context.

Social/Character

Others view that the purpose of schools is in helping students to conform to the norms of society. This social view believes that a teacher’s job is to help students to find their place in the social structure. What society wants is what the child should become. This echoes the views at least partially of John Dewey.

This belief can lead to a large amount of social stability but a growing undercurrent of resentment from the pressure to conform. For example, the high conformity of the United States in the 1950s was followed by the rebellious 1960s and ’70s.  In addition, this view is seen by many as being oppressive today. Society now is pushing heavily the idea of inclusion of everyone. This means that all people are accepted as they are and the norm taught today is conformity to tolerance which is now the standard.

A social purpose is also related to political activism in a democratic context. Schools should be seen as places to develop skills in democracy in order to participate in civic life after graduation. This is important because democratic participation is critical to the success of the nation in the minds of many.

A related idea to social development is character development. Character development is focused on having certain traits as an individual. Whereas in secular education these ideas are often called social traits in religious education this concept is frequently known as character. The difference being that social traits and skills can vary whereas character in the religious context is thoroughly defined by some religious text.

Multi-Purpose

It would be naive to say that any school only has one purpose. Rather, schools serve multiple views. The views listed above are present at most schools in one combination or another. For example, some schools may emphasize intellectual views while also considering economic views. Since schools have a diverse student population it makes it necessary to have diverse views for schools.

One of the dangers a school may face is having a view that is out of harmony with the local community. If people want their kids to get jobs and want the school to focus on economic purposes it would be detrimental for the school to focus on other aspects of education as if they know better. Schools are there to serve the needs of the community and need to keep this in mind when supporting students.

Conclusion

Schools are a part of a society to provide a service to the families that make up the society. Therefore, it is not surprising that different schools have different goals for themselves. The primary responsibility of a person should be to identify the local vies on education in order to understand how to function in that particular context.

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