EDUC 275: Schooling in the United States
Social, political, historical, and economic forces that shape U.S. system of public schooling (P-12).
The final essay for this course was a research-based paper about my views on the purposes of schooling, and is as follows.
My first ideas about the purposes of schooling are not drastically different than my current ideas after experiencing this class; however, they are much more developed, specific, and well-rounded. Exposure to a variety of texts, philosophies, and perspectives has greatly broadened my knowledge and awareness of education-related issues. Discussions with everyone in the class have contributed to this beneficial result just as strongly. I have also gained a mass of data and factual knowledge throughout the course, as well as key concepts and well-articulated thought processes found in the various readings, which are an enhancement to my final paper that was absent in the first draft. Overall, though, my ideas have remained the same. I think that most people who want to be teachers have similar ideas about the purposes of education and the best ways to achieve those results; the difficulty is actually implementing those ideas in real situations. Experience is the best way to reinforce these ideas and figure out how to best advance the best goals of education.
1. What was, is, and should be the purpose of schooling in the United States?
There are numerous overlapping components of the past, present and ideal purposes of education in the United States. Education’s most obvious purpose is to teach basic information to students, with an emphasis on the information that they can use in their specific place in the workforce. It used to be almost exclusively focused upon just filling students’ heads with factual information and testing them to determine how much they remembered. Schooling still has this purpose, but to a lesser degree; educators have realized that this approach leaves students severely lacking in critical thinking skills and unable to learn for themselves.
Additionally, this approach is often not an accurate assessment of cognitive abilities, as the multiple intelligence theory suggests. Throughout the past, as well as currently, education in the United States has been “heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well” (Lane, n.d., p. 1). However, it is still difficult to break out of this format, because factual knowledge is such a core purpose of education; with so many students in America’s school system, it is difficult to efficiently assess it in any other way than standardized testing. Another purpose of schooling at the present is to provide equal opportunities to people from all cultural and social spheres. Segregation and low expectations from teachers are factors that harm these areas of education (Huerta, 2009, p. 99). While there are numerous goals that schooling should seek to achieve, the main purpose should be to teach students life skills such as how to learn for themselves and with other peers, while simultaneously communicating necessary curriculum.
2. What is your role as a future teacher in fulfilling that purpose?
As a future teacher, my role is to create a classroom environment that is conducive to fulfilling this goal. I will have to communicate clearly and effectively for students to learn and retain valuable information. Furthermore, my role will include facilitating discussion and basing my teaching style upon dialogical pedagogy. This will allow students to develop critical thinking skills that will be necessary throughout their lives, as opposed to learning how to navigate the system of monological pedagogy, which is very rarely encountered in life after schooling (Fernandez-Balboa & Marshall, 1994). In an art class, I can also engage students one-on-one by discussing strengths and weaknesses of their artwork, and encouraging them to ask questions and think critically about suggestions that I make. Because I will be an art teacher instead of math, science, or English, I will have a different approach to multiple intelligences. Most of my focus will be upon Visual-Spatial learning, because it involves “thinking in terms of physical space, as do architects and sailors” (Lane, n.d., p. 1), which is the entire focus of the visual arts discipline. Another major component of ensuring student success is creating an environment that is conducive to social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL is a vital component of students’ development. It centers around building moral character, work ethic, emotional awareness and expression, and social skills, all of which are crucial to successful learning and a better educational experience (Zins, 2007). Along with this, I will strive to create an equal opportunity learning environment, in which every student respects each other’s differences and is open to new ideas. By making connections to these significant life lessons, I can better fulfill the goals of education.
3. How does schooling continue the existing order?
While schooling does provide people with many skills that they would otherwise lack, it contributes to having a mass of relatively apathetic citizens with a very small minority controlling social, political, cultural, environmental, and economic elements in the United States. Similarly to a classroom setting, many adults are disengaged and simply accept what they are told; due to the system of monological pedagogy, students “become silenced entities who lack the active citizenship skills required in a participatory, democratic society” (Fernandez-Balboa & Marshall, 1994, p. 25). “Doing well in school” is a term that really refers to having good grades and scoring well on tests. This perpetuates the idea that nothing else matters in the educational process; it is entirely focused on the product instead of the process. When school is over, therefore, people engage minimally in decision-making processes, because there are no more assessments. This apathy also applies to an acceptance of the media’s cultural prejudices, politicians’ intentionally misleading statements, and bosses or supervisors telling them what to do.
Schooling also continues the existing order of racism and prejudice through the common misconception that the colorblind approach is the best cure for racism. Because of the unequal opportunities in various cultural groups’ histories, however, this approach "fails to function as a practical strategy to improve race relations or mitigate discrimination through our public schools” (Burkholder, 2007, p. 31). Additionally, a cycle of poverty is perpetuated through the existing order because of a lack of funding in areas of low socio-economic status, as well as high teacher turnover rates. Teachers rarely want to be in a struggling inner-city school, because students are usually harder to manage, funding is extremely low, and the location is far from scenic or pleasant. Unfortunately, many factors contribute to the socio-economic struggles in our existing order.
4. How can schooling transform the existing order?
Schooling cannot transform the existing order until it is transformed first. A static school system will just perpetuate the current order. Education would have to be changed to better reflect the skills necessary in everyday society. This includes dialogical skills, self-motivated individual and peer learning abilities, critical and creative thinking, and a love for learning. Building personal, individualized relationships with each student is the most important part of creating an environment that can further these goals (Marzano & Marzano, 2003). Furthermore, SEL learning can be used to bring about a stronger sense of ethics and morality in society, which would create people with a stronger desire to correct any negative elements of the existing order. This also provides students with social and emotional skills that they need in the workforce for interacting with their co-workers and peers (Zins, 2007). These components can transform the existing order by bringing more rapid positive developments overall. If adults are pursuing deeper answers and comprehension of all of the factors that affect their lives, it will allow for better, more fair, and more universally beneficial decisions to be made across all levels of society. This is at least as important as providing students with general knowledge and eventual expertise in their content area, which is the more commonly addressed purpose of the education system.
Burkholder, Z. (2007). Because Race Can’t Be Ignored. Education Week, 27(9), 29-31.
Fernandez-Balboa, J. M., & Marshall, J. P. (1994). Dialogical Pedagogy in Teacher Education: Toward an Education for Democracy. Journal of Teacher Education, 45(3), 24-34.
Huerta, G. C. (2009). Educational Foundations: Diverse Histories, Diverse Perspectives. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Lane, C. (n.d.). Multiple Intelligences. In The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide.
Marzano J. S., & Marzano, R. J. (2003). The Keys to Classroom Management. Educational Leadership, 61, 6-13.
Zins, J. E., Bloodworth, M.R., Weissberg, R.P., & Walberg, H. J. The Scientific Base Linking Social and Emotional Learning to School Success. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 17(2-3), 191-210.