Guest Blogger Daniel A. Heller

by Robert Pondiscio
February 3rd, 2008

Several weeks ago I came across a story on the Web from a small Vermont newspaper. The principal of an 80-student elementary school in Halifax, Vermont, disturbed by the relentless focus on education solely as a means of economic success and competitiveness and a narrowing of curriculum in our test-driven age, had published a book calling for education to get back to first purposes.

“The overarching goal of the public school,” said Daniel A. Heller in the article, “is the preparation of our students to take their rightful places in a democratic society.” Heller’s ideas on how to get children to that place might not be entirely congruent with the Core Knowledge approach, but that is beside the point. His reminder of our shared obligation as educators to “the world’s greatest experiment in democracy” is one that will resonate deeply from rural Vermont to South Central Los Angeles. I am pleased that Heller has written the essay below for the Core Knowledge blog.

What is the Purpose of America’s Schools?

by Guest Blogger
February 3rd, 2008

by Daniel A. Heller

For over two decades almost every constituency has attacked public education. The last seven years have been particularly demoralizing, characterized by federal and state governments’ atomizing curriculum and then judging the success of individual schools by tests which may or may not provide accurate, useful information.

We frequently hear that the purpose of schools is to prepare students for high paying jobs or to continue their education after high school, both worthy goals, but are they the primary purposes of our educational system? Preparing students for the work force reduces them to a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. This goal equates being the greatest nation in the world with being the richest. What about quality of life? How can the greatest nation in the world have children who go to bed hungry every night?

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