Before I approached the readings, I jotted down my preliminary reaction to the Week 2 Student Questions prompt: “What’s your view of the purpose of education?” I suppose now, and assumed then, that I am similar to other classmates in that I have an engrained view on this topic before consulting the readings. My purposes of education? To teach/acquire concrete skills (the three R’s at minimum and occupational expertise through apprenticeship at the other extreme), to socialize maturity and self-awareness as individuals and identity groups, to create civic awareness and promote engagement, to facilitate the competency formations about what we think of one another within and across cultural groups, and to inform our personal and systemic methods of preserving mankind and the environment. I acknowledged that these areas may overlap, and I referred to education as an institution with desired outcomes—rather than as aggregated learning (perhaps with less defined outcomes but more qualitative aims).
The readings reminded me not only of a substantive conflict about “who wins” in the persuasiveness of their viewpoint (like the First Face of Power, “which do I believe in most?”), but also of a battle of relativity (“how much of each viewpoint am I willing to accept?”). Views such as Count’s criticism of Progressive Education may seem harsh or extreme, but the slight adoption of even some of his premises (like accepting that education should teach curiosity—an aspect missing from my purposes list) signals a relative victory for the author. Ultimately, I believe educators and education-interested people need to deeply grapple with such conflicts—without being forced to reconcile different viewpoints. I appreciated them “being laid out on the table,” but perhaps it’s because I started from a pluralistic assumption about education’s purpose. For me, when every side has at least someone who thinks her view is the only view (or that the accepted view should be taken to a more extreme position), I become more engaged—hoping for robust conversation. And, I admit, that’s where I think the real purpose of education lies—somewhere between the extremes.