The end of education is not what “they” say it is.
Our film editor Gary is a 26-year-old wizard of a techie. If it’s on a computer, he can do anything. If he doesn’t know something now, he’ll learn it in minutes. His teamwork skills are first-rate, beyond reproach. As employers, my co-producer Sandria and I often remind each other: In our small business, here in the 21st century, Gary is the ideal employee.
In academia Gary was not the ideal student.
He was bored in high school, an uninspired student. He was a star soccer player. No doubt he honed his teamwork skills on the field. But as far as Gary is concerned, the high stakes standardized tests he took amounted to no stakes at all. He went to a college in Florida but dropped out. He piled up two years of debt, then figured he could teach himself what he needed to know better out there in the College of Hard Knocks. For zero tuition. Ask him about his career plans. You come away certain this young man will achieve, and achieve greatly.
So what, then, is the end of education? What’s the overarching purpose? The whole point?
High test scores? Not to Gary.
College preparedness? Not to Gary.
Career readiness? Ditto. We suspect millions of others share Gary’s views on testing, college, and career.
Not to say that tests and college and career aren’t important.
But they are not the end of education for all students. So what is?
This is a question our documentary film “Passion to Teach” explores. Here is the film’s unconventional answer:
The end of education is to prepare learners for adulthood. The overarching purpose of formal education is to ready young people for the rite of passage into adulthood. That’s the whole point.
And what is the essence of adulthood?
Adulthood does not mean taking tests. Adulthood may or may not mean going to college. Adulthood does entail working, but that may mean half a dozen different careers, each with a different and evolving skill set, impossible to learn back in school.
The essence of adulthood is self-direction. When we become adults, we stop being dependents. We start becoming independent, self-reliant, self-directed. This is true no matter what we do for continuing our education or for making our living.
And in a rapidly changing world, where we are asked to adapt to newness, self-direction is really self-directed learning. For learning is how we adapt. If we stop climbing a learning curve, on our own, we will drop out of the running and be left behind. New technologies, new jobs, new relationships, new knowledge, and more – all these realities of adulthood require self-directed learning.
And so the end of education is self-directed learning. But, in the main, our system of formal education is based on a different paradigm: compliance to a system. The very opposite of self-directed learning. Our system, including our testing system, requires students to sit and receive and forget. It would be far better to remember what we learn – by doing.
The film “Passion to Teach,” which could easily have been entitled “Passion to Become a Self-Directed Learner,” explores how to change a local community’s sense of the real end of education. So too, will the next blog entry.