Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Purpose of Education

Dewey (1938) claimed the purpose of education is to prepare youth for citizenship in our democracy.  Fast forward those convictions seventy some years and the purpose of education becomes to prepare youth for citizenship in a 21st century global society.  Tyack & Cuban (1995), authors of Tinkering toward utopia:  A century of public school reform, echoed that view.

Stated another way, both Tyack & Cuban and Dewey assumed the purpose of public education is to prepare an ethical, informed, and literate citizenry to carry forward the aims of this democratic nation.  Their views are similar concerning the purposes of public education and both books emphasize that reform is needed, one in 1938 and the other in 1995.  Both books raise arguments that are still relevant in today’s atmosphere of educational discontent.  The citizenry now need to possess the tools to practice those ethics, the ability to locate and evaluate information, and the ability to understand and convey messages through many channels of communication.

Tyack & Cuban also felt the purpose of education was to change society (p.58).  Society in this country upheld NCLB legislation, still endures SAT testing of our children, and supports traditional school buildings where students are mandated to attend classes that do not prepare them to be ethical, informed, or literate in all mediums.  These are classrooms where they are bored.

So why tell you all this?  The change is here!  Periods of social change in education happen during eras of unrest or “crisis” as Tyack and Cuban (p.43) refer to them.  We are in such a period of crisis in our education system now.  We need to engage minds with projects that demand creativity, asynchronous communications, research, critical thinking, organization, and leadership skills.


Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Tyack, D., & Cuban, L.  (1995).  Tinkering toward utopia:  A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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A reposting of something I wrote during the Tyack and Cuban course at Walden  - one of my favorite courses!

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