The Purpose of Schools

Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail.  What you gain at one end you lose at the other.  It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail.  It won’t fatten the dog.”  – Mark Twain.  

This post is related to the previous one.  Here are some perspectives on the purpose of schools as revealed by various individuals.  As can be expected, these perspectives vary from person to person, but there are also common elements.

What does my daughter’s style of dress have to do with her capacity to learn?”  – These are the words of an irate parent, whose daughter is in breach of the school’s dress code, to the principal.

Why do teachers get so much time off?” – This was asked by a parent who believes strongly in the baby-sitting function of the school.

Many years ago, John Dewey theorized that the purpose of schools was to transfer knowledge and equip students to participate in America’s democratic society.

George Counts argued that schools should prepare students to function well in society.

In 1982 Mortimore Adler stated in the Paideia Proposal that the objectives of schooling were:

  • The development of citizenship
  • Personal growth or self-improvement
  • Occupational preparation

In The Purpose of EducationNoam Chomsky asserts: “Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own….”

Many businessmen and politicians believe that the purpose of schools is to prepare students for the workforce and facilitate upward social mobility.

Here are some notable objectives embedded in the purpose of schools today:

  • Imparting requisite knowledge, skills, values.
  • Providing credentials for students.
  • Teaching how to think critically, solve problems, and make effective decisions.
  • Providing practical experience.
  • Socializing students.
  • Social and emotional development of students.
  • Teaching good citizenship.
  • Social role selection.
  • Preparation for life in a globalized world.
  • The pursuit of individual and team excellence.
  • National development.

Students who acquire the intended emotional, social, and professional skills infused in the purpose of schools, should eventually make a positive contribution to their own development and that of their families, communities, and indeed, the wider world.


2 thoughts on “The Purpose of Schools

  1. All excellent points. In the rush to provide skilled workers we have lost the essential goal of education. I agree with Chomsky, education is to provide the child with the skills that will allow them to learn on their own.


    • Chomsky is right on target. To give students the skills that will allow them to learn on their own is to give them the keys to all the benefits this world can offer. They will become independent thinkers and will be able to function effectively in any situation.


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