Philosophy Writings

Education: Preparation for Life

What should be the goal of schooling?

It sounds like a stupid question: of course the goal is to 'educate' people, to give them knowledge about subjects so they aren't, well... stupid.

Here's the thing though: I think that is either overly simplistic or it is naïve. The reason being is that I think the current point of view (as it seems anyway) is very flawed. Why are there so many smart people that don't know what they want to do in life?

And another question I have is: why do some smart people seem unfulfilled with their life?

As it is, I feel like school is set up in a way that doesn't really give people a path to understanding what they want or how to get there. Here's my interpretation of the key things on the road of education currently:

Not only is this quite rigid, but it's clearly missing some things - people have commented on this over the years, and I've occasionally read articles on various matters. Here are some questions:

In the current situation, it's very 'single track', and it feels in way pre-defined. Lately the government has put a very strong emphasis on programming being a core part of the curriculum. I feel like this is akin to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole; not everyone wants to program. Valuable skill sure, but it is clearly putting the desire of government before the best outcome for the students.

A proposal: education should benefit the life of the student

My thought is simply this: school should strive to help students find what endeavours they enjoy, what they would like to do in their life, and give them the support to hopefully get there and live a fulfilling life.

By that I mean, help students discover their hobbies, at least something that they can enjoy and get on a career path for. Rather than sticking them on a rigid path "you will do X, Y, and Z subjects", there should be some effort to engage students to see what they want to do, and what subjects could help them get there.

Whilst this might not be a big 'revelation'—"finally, the answer to the big problem about education!"—I have felt regret as an adult in not taking up subjects that, when I was younger, didn't seem to be very interesting or 'fun'. I'm not alone in thinking that either; I've definitely heard "I wish I took up X" plenty of times - so what I wonder is: did we change that much as adults/maturity, or would we have potentially taken a different path if we knew what we could do?

An example for me - I wish I did more DT subjects: a stronger focus on electronics and that I'd have taken up resistant materials. I've always had an interest in cars, but at school DT had you doing quite mundane things, making coat hangers or laser cutting a clock. Now I'm older I realise how valuable it perhaps would have been if I had taken up the subject regardless.

That's not to say those activities are useless, of course you want to start small with learning, so doing a little bit of welding work makes sense instead of a massive project (let alone the school budget/resources). But if only there had been that sort of 'poke', as in, "what are you interested in? cars? well this subject can teach you x, y, and z", maybe I'd have more skills to equip in my hobby and thus, more fulfillment in life.

Learning itself - is school boring?

I segue here because it's linked: a lot of the time school is boring. Easy to blow it off as "yeah, kids don't like school", but I argue that: no, school really does make learning unbelievably, incredibly dull and more like a chore.

I think to an extent this is recognised, I've definitely read before about government 'efforts' to make school more 'engaging' though as is often the case I feel like this is all talk and there isn't really any actual idea of what 'engaging' even means.

Clearly, education and learning can be engaging—there are many programmes in existance that I guess are in a way, a form of 'edutainment' and people willingly watch them. Think: Tom Scott's "Things You Might Not Know" series of YouTube videos (which is so popular as to have entered meme culture), or any number of hobbyist programmes/videos/writings/forums etc. .

I say it is linked due to the fact that it ties into the idea of discovering, or at least helping students discover what it is that they're interested in doing. That is, the subject is a means to an end, with the end being what they want to do.

Essentially, I think curriculum and classes should involve a lot of applications when teaching. Especially in regards to a lot of 'theoretical' subjects where there is a process, such as learning about various aspects of mathematics. What you are taught are mathematical rules and later tools. From my experience it is hard to learn some of the more complex topics if you don't know what it's used for—it helps immensely to have a use case, a visualisation, a target that you reach using the maths that you are learning.

To be continued

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