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What Is the Purpose of Public Education

Bryant Muldrew joins us again, and urges us to not forget the fundamental questions of public education -- questions we can often lose sight of in the course of our day-to-day work. -- Greg

Dear Educator,

The future of this country is entrusted in your ability to prepare students for life. The belief that your job is merely to help students obtain an education (signified by receiving a diploma) or get into college is clear proof of a misunderstanding. It is your duty as an educator to raise this question: what is the purpose of the public school system? Raise this question as often as you cross the threshold of a school building. Many do not ponder the purpose of the public education system overlooking that this question lies at the heart of all that is done in school. Teach your students to meditate on this question using you as an example.

The unfortunate reality is that many believe training students in Math, Science, English, and History is what it means to educate. Society is far more complicated than the limited ideas covered in these four subjects.

So then what does "educate" mean? To educate is to prepare and train someone in the necessary skills to have the ability to participate in society as a full citizen. This definition reaches far beyond the scope of the four primary subjects. Education should include thoroughly learning the functions and duties of government, a complete understanding of the constitution and one’s rights, learning how social justice movements change society, how to farm, how to cook, etc. The public school system should exist to prepare young people for life. This is the task of an educator: facilitate the progress of transforming youth into functional independent full citizens.

These ideas are summarized by the National Student Bill of Rights. Leaders in the National Student Bill of Rights movement are advocating for these fundamental rights because we understand that youth must be trained in living versus trained how to make a living.

I hope that you ponder on this question. Regardless of your answer, we face the next logical question: is public education serving its purpose and for whom?


Bryant Muldrew

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