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Variations on The Purpose of School

For the opening panel discussion at EduCon 2.1, the question on the table was “What is the Purpose of School?” and variations on that question were in the air all weekend.

Sorry, despite all the very smart people in the building, I never heard anyone come up with the definitive answer.

However, Seth Godin, who is supposed to be a marketing guru (he is fun to read), also offers his take on the same question: What is school for?, a “starter list” of 27 items.

Some are straight out of the vague mission statements written by many schools (“Become an informed citizen”), some are brutally honest (“Give kids something to do while parents work”).

Godin’s list is meant to be provocative, of course, but he’s certainly right about one thing.

This is a discussion we as a society need to have.

Certainly it needs to happen before we spend any more time and money on shuffling-the-deck-chairs-type school reform.


  1. Mark

    I am grateful to Seth every time he brings up the subject of education, as he stirs up more essential debate. I really believe that defining our purpose for schooling is the key to ending the current barrage of death-by-standardized-test mandates such as NCLB. Right now, we teachers and education experts are not offering a clear or unified vision of what we believe the purpose of education is, nor are we offering a picture/clear statement of where we are trying to go, so we end up getting swayed by whatever “accountability” measures the .gov can dream up.

  2. Dave

    School: Equip students to succeed as an adult and make a net positive contribution to humanity.

    The nuance comes from the word succeed: students can pursue limitless criterion for success: a family, a career, fame, fortune, ecological responsibility, or just being a hermit, if they want. The “positive contribution” part is also important — without it, schools could “succeed” by training serial killers (or just jerks).

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