The Purpose of Education


Many children are taught overtly or subliminally that the only purpose of education is to get a job. Education exists to create a skill that you can trade for money. During our life journey, we are considered lucky if we choose an enjoyable interest that can support our needs. As adults, we are often reminded that many people have jobs they do not enjoy and this is why it is called work.My education was portrayed in this manner. In fourth grade, age ten; I was required to take an aptitude test in school. This test would inform me what skills I possessed and what type of job would be best for me to pursue. The answer came back, Truck Driver. I have never driven a truck for a living. Big rig trucks look fun to drive, but I never had a burning desire to make this a career choice. 

A different school of thought about work and education is emerging in young adults and is fueled by the Internet. Many young people are choosing work as an extension of an acquired skill in a specific subject they love. For example, the new work model invites people to find an interest that captivates, something with personal appeal. Then as the individual becomes increasingly invested and attains specific knowledge, (becomes educated) an opportunity is created to acquire money as the knowledge is shared with others. The education these young people acquire comes from many sources. Some are traditional and others are from new delivery systems on the World Wide Web.

The difference between the past and the future is choice. In the past we trained factory workers, so it was important to uncover our specific skills and how those skills would make the factory successful. Factory jobs are few and far between. Or are they? We may not be working in mechanized buildings churning out widgets but many jobs of today still benefit from this model, a model that contributes to many people being unhappy and unfulfilled.

I wonder if we have reached a point where the factory model of education needs some updating? Is it possible for education to transform into something that encourages children to learn how to learn, so they can explore different interests over a lifetime? Then as young children master skills and grow into young adults their chosen avenue of knowledge acquisition can be shared with other people directly, or by contributing to a business, in exchange for money.

Now is the time for the conversation about a shift in mainstream education to begin. We can create an environment where educators encourage learning for the sake of learning and invite children to choose areas of inquiry they find interesting. If we begin the shift away from the factory model of education then the children of today will be adults of tomorrow who are happier and more connected to their work. The adults of tomorrow could rise each morning excited to engage in activity that offers them challenge, insight, and satisfaction. 

It is time as educators to look at our practice and see where we can offer children more time to explore the possibilities the learning life has to offer. The current model of education is not going away anytime soon. The shift has to start somewhere and it can start with you and your belief in the potential of children. The learning community is about ideas, the advancement of all people, and the search to find our best self along the learning journey.