Purpose of Education

Below is an excerpt I wrote for a college class. As a follow up, I need feedback from all of YOU to demonstrate the power of blogging! Please react to my post and comment on the purpose of education from your point of view.


Martin Luther King (1947) once said that education has two functions: utility and culture. He goes on to say that “It is intelligence plus character” that is the true purpose of education.

I believe that dual purpose is still relevant today. We live in an increasingly complex, global society. Education must prepare students with the skills to live, work and thrive in this environment. This includes subject matter knowledge, but equally important will be skills such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration, information literacy, and character.

Education must prepare students to be life-long learners in the truest sense of the term. Fewer and fewer unskilled labor jobs will exist. The future will depend on the ability of all individuals to learn and relearn as technology changes the world of work. High skilled jobs will require literacy skills; the ability to read and write, but also to evaluate the information and synthesize it to solve complex problems.

Depth of character and social responsibility are also essential in a rapidly changing society. Just because we can, does not mean we ethically should. Students need to be equipped to make moral and ethical decisions.

King, M.L. (1948). Purpose of education. Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger.

Photo courtesy of Life Magazine at http://www.life.com/topic/martin_luther_king_jr


Chris said…
I couldn't agree more that it still applies to education today. I truly believe that technology can be an excellent classroom tool to accomplish these goals and prepare students to live in a ever-changing society.
Without a continuous examination of the purpose of education individual teachers and entire faculties cannot plan learning activities. In some scools they have allowed testing to define purpose.

Well presented in the video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2gR7n_UUU4
Lori Stollar said…
I concur Kelly! We must find ways to incorporate higher-level thinking skills and collaborative methods into today's classrooms so that our students can be productive, thriving citizens in the world of tomorrow.
deburkins said…
Hi, Kelly.

I don’t think we can improve on the essential kernel of Dr. King’s thought. He’s (and you’re) simply right. Whenever we act, we bring “utility and culture” to bear, “intelligence and character.” In action, these couplets are integrally intertwined. Education, in preparing us for our actions, simply has to address the whole.

In this world, so interconnected through transportation and information technologies, we have the opportunity and nearly inescapable responsibility to interact with our entire world, our entire species, the “global community. To do so effectively requires a host of dispositions, knowledge and skills.

The purpose of “education” - our own, that of our children, that of our fellow humans - must be the pursuit and development of the dispositions, knowledge and skills that support and empower:
 Our understanding of ourselves, the people around us, the world within which we live our lives
 Our sense of possibility and our goal-directed actions, both personally and in collaboration with others
 Our compassionate support to others and our capacity to accept such support from others in our social encounters, our capacity to participate in and build “community”;
 Our continued refinement of each of these (lifelong learning, lifelong growth as whole human beings).

(Oh, yeah! And in this specific historical era, lots of us need to know enough to allow others to use us to make the surpluses that drive the global economy, of course).

Thanks for the opportunity to think about this, Kelly! (Sorry for the length of this... early morning writing, dog laying on my feet, computer on lap, coffee by my side, music in background ...)

Happy day!
Pat said…
Utility and Culture, Intelligence and Character! As educators we can and must deliver the abiltiy for our students - across all ages and generations to become life-long learners. Without the quest to think critically and explore the world beyond us - it will be difficult for us to compete globally - or even communicate!
Kelly said…
Thank you all for your comments. I learn so much from each of you. Stephen thanks for the video example.. it is an excellent commentary on a misplaced focus.

Don.. you always push my thinking.
Cindy Shaffer said…
"The future will depend on the ability of all individuals to learn and relearn as technology changes the world of work. High skilled jobs will require literacy skills; the ability to read and write, but also to evaluate the information and synthesize it to solve complex problems." Given this statement, I wonder why teachers continue to teach the way they were taught. There are so many great digital/Web 2.0 tools that teachers can use to increase the literacy skills of students. Currently, most of our students write for an audience of 1, the teacher. By using some of the Web 2.0 tools that are available, we have the ability to easily expose our students to a global audience. Heidi Hayes Jacobs talks about "upgrading" the curriculum with Web 2.0 tools in her new book Curriculum 21, due out in January.

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