The Purpose of K-12 Education
Education fulfills our social obligation, as a people, to transfer the wealth of human knowledge to all our children. The goal of our public system is to allow every child to develop his/her talent, and bring each one of them into full membership in our economic, cultural, and social national community. This includes music, the arts, sports, physical and mental play, communication and expression. We prepare children to become active contributors to our culture and full participants in our democratic institutions.
We have PUBLIC schools to create a common space where children of all races, creeds and income levels gather to learn together. Our goal is not only to educate the individual, but also to build our ability to understand each other.
When I think of my own students in Oakland, my goal was not just to teach them the facts of science. I wanted to give them power in relationship to the world they encounter. I wanted them to be able to ask their own questions, and use the tools of science to investigate the world. Our disciplines of science, language arts, social studies, art and math are not just bodies of knowledge to be memorized. They are ways of interrogating and changing reality. History is an inquiry into the past that helps us understand our present and change our future. Language arts allows us to understand the writings of others, but also to express our own ideas in powerful ways.
Our students are growing up in a confusing world, where so many decisions have been made for them. The world is changing so fast, they need the most versatile set of tools possible. That means they need to be able to think for themselves, and do so with critical minds. The world MUST change because many of the ways we behave are not sustainable. Our students must be prepared not only to react and cope, but also to guide this transformation.
In the classroom this means teachers need the autonomy to figure out the best ways to get their students excited and engaged in their community and the world in which they live. They should be doing projects in which they tackle open-ended problems. They should be interacting with adults in their communities, with local businesses and academic institutions. The school should be a hub of community activity, and the students should be a source for solutions to community problems.