What’s the point?

It has been an absurdly busy month for me, so I have been unable to find the time to post an update.  Over these last few weeks, I have been bogged down in grading lengthy term papers, rehearsing and performing in our annual faculty play, preparing for graduation and end of the year activities as the senior class advisor, and attending the funeral and memorial services for my cousin who passed away as well as attending my brother’s college graduation and a conference on grading presented by Tom Guskey.

As I’ve been sleep deprived and stressed about all these commitments, I’ve been getting reflective on the end of another school year.  We are graduating 600 some odd students from my school to join the millions of other graduates from around the world to go on into college, the military, the work force, etc.  We are handing them a diploma and saying “have it,” with the expectation that they will now go forth and do something.  The question becomes: What does that diploma really mean?

As educators we are constantly involved in discussions on how to change education.  What can we do to make education better?  The Guskey workshop spoke of various ways to grade better and report those grades better.  We talk about changing policies, changing schedules, changing assessments, and the list goes on and on.  I often think we are having the wrong conversations in education, and this really hit home to me over these last few weeks.

I’m not so sure we talk enough about the true purpose of education enough.  We talk about reform all the time.  We talk about new ways to do things and new ways to improve student performance.  These are all worthy of some discussion, but we don’t often start at the core: what is the point of education?  With the implementation of the Common Core we are constantly reminded that we need to focus on skills that allow students to be college and career ready.  Is that what compulsory education is really all about?  Preparing students for the next step?  I simply cannot accept that the entire point of education is merely this.  K-12 education is not just an economic holding ground until students are old enough to contribute to the economy.  As educators we have the power to do so much more with our students.

My cousin who passed away earlier this month was 26 years old and had struggled with addiction his entire adult life before succumbing to it.  I knew him well when we were younger, but as adults we grew apart.  At his services many spoke of his intellectual bent including how he would quote War and Peace often and his desire to learn multiple languages.  I was unaware, but after a major earthquake shook Nepal recently, he organized a fundraiser/benefit for the Nepalese people.  Hearing about this side of him and reflecting on the fact that he is a victim of the heroin epidemic sweeping our nation put a lot in perspective for me as an educator.

College and career readiness skills are important; this I don’t deny, but I think any true educator knows that school cannot rightly be boiled down to just those things.   Let’s talk about reform; let’s talk about what we can do to make things better, but first let’s consider the real reason we do what we do.