516. The Reasons for School

I’m quite glad there’s school, and I’m quite glad I’m allowed to be there. Much of what happens there is fun and worthwhile to me. As for some of the mindless conventions school has, I used to think I went along with them so that I’d get good grades and graduate, and later, so that I could keep my job, or if not, get good recommendations anyway. I thought I’d stop going along with those conventions as soon as I retired. But now, though I feel more free to criticize some conventions I don’t agree with, I still go along with some of them. Explaining why I don’t can take more energy than I feel like spending. And even though they don’t pay me money, they do let me be around children and teachers – a privilege I want to hang on to.
For some people who haven’t graduated and/or retired, grades or money can sometimes seem like the only reasons to be in school. Teachers usually know how important money is; many of them are happy to go home after school, and stay away from school during weekends, vacations, and holidays – times when getting paid is often less of an issue. Many pupils consider grades important, and think they go to school mostly to get grades (the better, the better).
Money and grades can both be effective motivators, but school doesn’t work well when either of those motivators is emphasized too much. Pupils learn better when they have reasons that have more to do with the actual learning. And teachers teach better when they have more in mind than making money. Of course, people who want to make a lot of money tend not to do so by teaching, but still, there are teachers who consider money their main motivator. And I think their work is affected by that attitude.
We build, staff, and run schools with all kinds of reasons in mind. People have children, and nowadays, in our culture, most people have jobs they can’t do as effectively when children are around. Schools function partly as places where children can spend time while their parents do those jobs. I hope that’s not a major reason for the existence of school, but I don’t think it’s a reason we should totally ignore.
Speaking of jobs, schools also function as places where children can learn what they need to know to decide which jobs are right for them, and to be ready for those jobs. Humans, being the complicated creatures they are, aren’t born knowing what they need to know to survive. Nor can they learn all of that by playing with each other, as some other animals can. And we humans care more about our children’s survival and success than some other animals seem to.
Finally, there’s the joy of learning and teaching. We learn and teach because that’s something we humans like to do. That’s my favorite reason, and I hope
learners and teachers don’t forget about it as they work for money, grades, and employability.

Comments are closed.