The purposes of education extend far beyond the narrow “achievement” which is measured on standardized assessments. Mike Rose reminds us of some of the most important purposes of education on pages 36-38 of his wonderful book, “Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us.” He writes:

Reading and writing gave me skills to create with and to act on the world… through assignments like these I was learning how to marshal evidence and frame an argument. And I was also becoming more adept at handling a sentence, folding information onto it, making a complex point without losing the reader. These skills played out again and again on different topics and in different settings, leading to the ability to write a research article, a memo advocating a course of action, a newspaper opinion piece, an essay like the present one… All of the forgoing helped me develop a sense of myself as knowledgeable and capable of using what I know. This is a lovely and powerful quality– cognitive, emotional, and existential all in one. It has to do with identity and agency, with how we define ourselves, not only in matters academic but also in the way we interact with others and with institutions. It has to do with how we move through our economic and civic lives. Education gave me the competence and confidence to independently seek out information and make decisions, to advocate for myself and my parents and those I taught, to probe political issues, to resist simple answers to messy social problems, to assume that I could figure things out and act on what I learned. In a sense, this was the best training I could have gotten for vocation and citizenship.

My Parker
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Every student deserves opportunities to be empowered and equipped for citizenship in the ways Mike describes in these sentences. Some of my most ardent wishes for my own children are that they would define themselves, in their own identities, as readers, writers, communicators, and actors in the great play of life. Those abilities to research a topic, organize a written essay or oral presentation, and share it effectively with others are all skills I learned best on my college debate and forensics team. Mike Rose’s reflections on what a QUALITY education means inspires me to maintain my hope in educators and education amidst our dark days of misdirected educational policies. It also motivates me to continue developing our Storychasers projects. Many of the skills Mike describes are ones I think storychasers can and do develop. I think there is great potential for students to develop their senses of self and personal identity while refining their research, communication and literacy skills. The type of empowerment and equipping Mike describes here is exactly the sort of education I hope ALL students can experience.

The key to this is not a mandated policy or a rigorous curriculum, however. The key is a great teacher.

My Parker
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  • http://www.parentella.com Aparna Vashisht

    I would only add one thing to this post. I agree that great teachers are key. I’d personally like to see more resources for teachers so they can become great.

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