What is the Purpose of School?

Recently Oliver Schinkten asked the question, What is the purpose of school? (Read more provocative questions at #QinEd)

My first thought was that was a very big question. I believe the purpose of school is to save our democracy. It’s a frightening thought to consider what America, and other countries, would be like without school. I believe in public education, even with all its problems that will be fixed. I believe our country needs school in order to save itself.

On a more down-to-earth level of school purpose, I liked the idea of communication Joy Kirr shared in this blog post when she answered Oliver’s question.

Certainly communication is the paramount goal of English language learner instruction. I am teaching in a bilingual school in the Kingdom of Bahrain; this year I’m moving up to second grade after 1.5 years in kindergarten. On a day-to-day basis, my goal is much like Joy’s, to use the English language in all its facets to communicate with my English language learners. In addition, I want them to grow in their ability to communicate in English, as well as their native Arabic.

I teach them about what research says about their growing brains when they are learning multiple languages. (Some of them actually speak three or four languages.) I teach them about how they get smarter when they have to struggle to learn something. (SIDEBAR: Join us on 6 August 2015 as we discuss more about using #mindset in the classroom.)

Of course, the reason for all of my teaching is a bigger life lesson.  My purpose is for them to be not only lifelong learners, but creative innovators, collaborators, and confident world-improvers.  What could be a better gift for today’s world than these bilingual innovators from Bahrain using what they’ve learned to make the world a better place? That’s my ultimate purpose in teaching English to second graders.

8 thoughts on “What is the Purpose of School?

  1. I love this post! My favorite line is:

    My purpose is for them to be not only lifelong learners, but creative innovators, collaborators, and confident world-improvers.

    Amen! I wish everyone would take this approach!!!

    1. Thank you, Oliver, for your quick response and comment! I liked thinking about the question and writing this post. I’ll try to pay more attention to your QinEds! I like to think of important questions, and often as a result it helps me make goals that transform my teaching.
      Thanks again,

  2. Adding on to Oliver’s comment, I love the idea of all children (and adults!) “using what they’ve learned to make the world a better place” in every location – school, home, work… Thank you for adding to the conversation, Denise! (I’m flattered you included a quote, too!) This was a tough question – I think we should ask students of different ages what they think the purpose of school is… to get them into the conversation, as well.

    1. Joy,
      Thanks for reading and adding a comment. I love the idea of asking student what they think the purpose of school is. I’m asking my second graders this year. It will be fascinating to hear their answers. Hopefully I can learn something that helps me include them in my goals too.

      Thank you,

  3. This is great. I love that you and Joy both took the time (already!) to blog about Oliver’s question. My goal is to write one today too!
    You all inspire me so much!


    1. Looking forward to reading it, Gallit! It’s great to think about these important questions in education!


  4. Love your post Denise, I can really hear your voice. My favorite line is “the reason for all of my teaching is a bigger life lesson for them to learn.” Classrooms do represent real life in many ways as do schools. Classrooms represent towns in the way we all interact with each other and work at understanding one another. While schools represent states or countries.
    As always I take away many good things from your words.

    1. JoAnn,
      I like your metaphor of cities, states, and countries. I’m just reading Paul Solarz’s book Learn Like a Pirate. I’m excited to have new ways to help my second graders become a community this year.

      Thanks for reading,

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