The Purposes of Public Education- Promoting Thinking, Building, and Citizenry
Recently the 48th Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools* was released. Joshua Starr, CEO of PDK, summarized the findings in a simple statement, “Americans don’t agree on the purpose of public education, but they like their local schools, especially when they believe educators listen to their concerns.” The question posed in the PDK Poll was: What do you think should be the main goal of a public school education: to prepare students academically, to prepare them for work, or to prepare them to be good citizens?
Here are the results:
· Fewer than half of Americans (45%) view the main goal of public education as preparing students academically.
· One quarter of Americans (25%) view the main goal as preparing students for work.
· Twenty-six percent (26%) of Americans view the main goal as preparing students to be good citizens.
· Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans felt local public schools should focus on more career-technical or skills-based classes than more honors or advanced academic classes.
Starr goes on to state that there has always been disagreement by the American public on what should be the main purpose of public education. It seems to me, then, that we should accept this disagreement, recognizing that preparing students academically, preparing them for work, and preparing them to be good citizens must all be the focus of a strong educational system. Public education can’t be a “one size fits all” system. We must acknowledge that our children come to us with a variety of interests and passions. Some love reading and book learning and listening to a lecture. Others want to dig in and get dirty- be physically active and use their hands to make and build. Our society needs thinkers and builders and those two skill sets are not exclusive from one another. They work together to create good citizens.
As I look to the curriculum developed in the Tomah Area School District, I am proud to say that we provide wonderful educational opportunities for our students in each of the goals that the American public has expressed as important. We have an emphasis on reading, writing, and math for all of our children beginning in elementary school, along with rigorous classes that promote preparation for college for those students whose passions will take them further into academia. We have a strong career and technical education program with career pathways laid out for students to assist them in pursuing health care, building trades, agriculture, child care, business, auto mechanics, or food service careers right out of high school. We build good citizens in our school district from providing character education activities, compassion projects, and community service opportunities.
Let’s focus on the purposes of public education- plural- not a main goal of public education. Each child deserves an education that meets his/her own individual needs so that personal potential is maximized. Our society can only benefit from preparing students for their role as a thinker, builder, and citizen.
If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, District Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 374-7002.
*The 2016 PDK Poll was designed, managed, analyzed, and reported by Langer Research Associates and was tested for statistical significance.