School’s Role In Society

The question I posed earlier was — what is school’s current role in society? What function do we need them to play? We’ve moved from an agrarian society to a manufacturing based and now to a international/technological blended society where many times the students are ahead of the faculty. Easily overheard in the teachers lounge, the discussion about using a particular student to operate the baffling technology, or the use of a student’s sophisticated electronic device to a teach a class. Educators are learning to adapt, to work-around technological barriers with the assistance of the students. Perhaps this is a “we’re in this together” mentality on the part of the teacher and student, but the administration/technologists are all in a panic.
So what is the “goal” of our school system? Clearly we are not going to be able to get past the incarceration until adulthood issue, unless we as a country re-visit the whole “age of maturity” issue. Not likely to happen. Prisons already eat up more of the budget than do schools. Allowing maturation to be recognized at 16 rather than 18 in our country would just feed an already broken system with younger inmates. Is the goal to educate students so they are prepared for collegiate life? That’s not going to work on the general population because not everyone is going to college. But this is how we operate. We seem to forget the “working class” in our schools by the assumption we make that the majority should go on to college. So what is our goal?
Comon Core State Standards talks about students’ “Workplace Readiness” — this can (although it currently is not) be defined as readiness for students both workplace and college bound.
I’m going to use a dirty word, Vocational Education, as an introduction to the way we were.
Vocational Education is the answer to school’s directional dilemma today. Not a panacea, a cure. Listen, Johnny over there in the back row carving on the desktop, Janie in the other corner braiding someone’s hair, Paula fixing your printer issues, are all people who should not be in regular secondary school. At 16 the decision ought to be made (as is in many countries) whether little Johnie is going to be a brain surgeon or a barber. Little Johnnie then would receive the appropriate English classes as a 11th and 12th grade individual that would befit his calling. I don’t know a single barber that needs to know Shakespear: But I know plenty who need to understand business English.
We do not conduct education that way because of two reasons: We tried before and it failed, and we are embarassed. Embarassed because we do not face the socal stigma in our country centered around social working placement. Someone in a suit is much better than a perosn in a blue collar, who is better than a farmer, who is better than a garbage collector. Like it or not I defy you to prove me wrong! In general, not talking specifically about your uncle Bill so don’t get offended, we as a society believe we have to send our kids to college beause that’s the path to acceptable and richly rewarding life’s work. Horse-Hockey.
So how do we change school’s role in society? It will take, just as the implementation of Common Core State Standard is doing to the curriculum of schools, a fundamental change in how we approach our educational system. I’m still hoping one of my daughters will marry a plumber! Brain surgeons in your family are generally not necessary — plumbers defiantly are (and hey what about fixing my printer/the loose electrical socket/my car makes a strange clanking noise ………. ! )


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