18 March 02011

Purpos/ed: What's the purpose of education

Purposed logoThis post is my contribution to an ongoing project organised by purpos/ed, "a non-partisan, location-independent organization aiming to kickstart a debate around the question: What’s the purpose of education?" This was initiated by Doug Belshaw and Andy Stewart.

When I signed up to make the 38th contribution at the fag end of an already-extended process, I knew that it would be almost impossible to say anything original (well done, Simon, for trying), so I planned to focus on framing and connecting what had already been said. The process of doing that led me in a challenging direction.

This week, I read all the contributions that preceded this one. Two dimensions emerged fairly early on in this reading, shown in my figure below. Admittedly this is crude; not everything fits, and some occupy more than one place within it. But the differences are worth drawing out.

Dimensions of purpose

Probably the most common phrase in this debate is some variation on "fulfilling individual potential" (e.g. Jan, Lou, Mark, Zoe). I guess this reflects a focus on increasing people's self-determination, and who can argue with the desirability of that? Yet it misses the idea that individuals should strive to be part of something bigger than themselves.

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