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The Purpose of American Public Education

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1 The Purpose of American Public Education
American schools serve multiple purposes Passing on the cultural heritage Basic instruction Economic Purposes Civic purposes-

2 Contradictory Purposes
The problems of American schools are political Americans do not disagree so much about how to make schools better as they do about the purposes of schools What Americans have to do is to make choices among goals about which we do not agree

3 Contradictory Purposes
Why can’t we agree on the purposes of schooling Schools are political institutions and in a democratic society politics implies conflict Education is a public good-The purpose of education is to provide society with benefits that can be collectively shared

4 Contradictory Purposes
Education is also a private good—the purpose of education is to gain a competitive advantage over others, a credential that will distinguish one individual from others

5 Democratic Equality The task of schools is to prepare individuals to assume their role as active and participating citizens Schools must be accessible to all children and provide them with the knowledge and skills of citizenship Education is a public good

6 Social Efficiency The major role of schools is economic and involves preparing students for their occupational roles The school as a sorting agency—curriculum differentiation The principal mechanism of social efficiency is tracking or ability grouping, which serves to stratify students and channel them to their appropriate occupational destiny

7 Social Efficiency Education is a public good

8 Social Mobility Education is a commodity whose purpose is to provide individual with a competitive advantage over others What does the school do for my children? Education as a commodity to be purchased with the intent of getting more of it than one’s competitors

9 Social Mobility The value of education is as a credential
Education is a private good designed to help the individual get ahead of others

10 How Contradictory Goals Operate
These goals can work together or in opposition Democratic equality requires schools that are widely accessible so that everyone can be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to be included in the political process

11 Contradictory Goals Social mobility requires accessible schools so that individual merit and accomplishment can be rewarded The same condition, accessibility serves different purposes. For those committed to democratic equality, accessibility allows for equal economic and social outcomes. For those committed to social mobility, it allows for unequal outcomes

12 Contradictory Goals Operate in Tandem
Social mobility and social efficiency both see education as having a market goal of preparing individuals for their occupational roles Both goals accept the principle of unequal outcomes Those committed to social mobility accept unequal outcomes because they believe that privileges depend on merit

13 Operating in Tandem Those committed to social efficiency also believe in unequal outcomes. They hold to this view because they believe that the purpose of education is to prepare a workforce that will promote economic growth

14 The Dominant Role of Social Mobility
Schools once sought to advance the public interest through the training of good citizens and the preparation of a skilled workforce Today schools are more likely to promote the private interests of individual success and advancement Schooling has become less about learning and more about obtaining the correct credential to get ahead

15 Thomas Jefferson ( ) The Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge Divide the colony into “hundreds” (subdivision of a county) and establish “hundreds” school to provide all free white children—both male and female—with 3 years of free instruction in reading, writing, arithmetic, and history (roughly 166 counties and 10 “hundreds” in a county)

16 Thomas Jefferson Establish 20 grammar schools that would provide instruction in Latin, Greek, English grammar, geography higher arithmetic that would prepare for college College of William and Mary The brightest boy in each “hundreds” school was to be selected (girls only needed 3 years of schooling) and sent forward to the grammar school at public expense

17 Thomas Jefferson Each year the best boy from the grammar school would be continued at public expense for up to six years and the residue dismissed. “By this means twenty of the best geniuses will be raked from the rubbish annually” and the brightest sent forward to the College of William and Mary Schools were accessible to those who could pay

18 Thomas Jefferson Meritocracy-rule of the most able
Aristocracy-rule of the few usually based on nobility or wealth Aristocracy of talent

19 What Makes a Good School?
Inputs vs. outcomes A good school is one that has certain curricular and pedagogical characteristics There are many ways to educate a child with the outcomes being the most important Criteria of good schools: parent, teacher, student satisfaction, degree to which school has achieved its goals; ability of schools to produce students who possess democratic behavior and attitudes

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