With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Purpose of Education

Gov. Walker tried to change the mission of the University of Wisconsin
Arthur H. Camins, is the director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. I'm reading his excellent piece embedded in Valerie Strauss' WaPo column today, on the purposes of education, and wondering if it's still legal to even broach the topic. After all, I thought the case was closed. Schooling is all about global competition over reading and math scores and providing workers for the corporations. Isn't it, Sec. Duncan?

Strauss frames the question this way:
What is the purpose of education? The question came into stark relief when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently tried to quietly change the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system by proposing to remove words in the state code that command the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
Camins argues instead, that education should prepare young people for life, work and citizenship.
Critical thinking, creativity, interpersonal skills and a sense of social responsibility all influence success in life, work and citizenship.
A science educator, Camins refers to the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education which offers some good examples.
The framework describes the practices that scientists and engineers utilize to build new knowledge and designs, but also the student engagement that leads to learning. To be clear, the framework starts from the premise that science is a means to develop explanations about how the natural world works, and engineering is a means to develop solutions to human problems. 
Camins' qualifies his piece by ending with a note about equity.
Application of the systems thinking that characterizes progress in science and engineering to education policy means that real sustainable improvement depends on addressing inequity in areas such as well-paid employment, health care, food, and housing security. You can’t have one without the others.
Well put.

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