The World Spin
Was That Homework—or Housework?
Two recent books pose thought-provoking questions about
the meaning of education.
• Why School? by Mike Rose (New Press, 2009).
What does it mean to be educated? What should schools
teach, and how? As a society, we haven’t yet satisfactorily
answered these basic questions, says Rose, a UCLA professor and experienced educator, researcher, and author.
Rose outlines a broad vision of the intellectual, social, civic, ethical,
and aesthetic goals of schooling in a democratic society.
We’ve narrowed the purpose of schooling to economic competitiveness, our kids
becoming economic indicators. We’ve reduced our definition of human development and
achievement-—that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility, and the discovery of the
world—-to a test score. (p. x)
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• The Path to Purpose by William Damon (Free Press, 2009).
In conducting research (with Howard Gardner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) on individuals who made positive contributions
to society, Damon was struck by the fact that these individuals
were almost universally guided by a strong sense of a larger
purpose. Yet many young people today lack this sense of
purpose, says Damon. In this book, he explores the questions
of how young people find a sense of purpose, what happens
when they don’t, and how schools can help.
What do I hope to accomplish with all my efforts, with all the
striving that I am expected to do? What are the higher goals that
give these efforts meaning? What matters to me, and why should it matter? What is my
ultimate concern in life? Unless we make such questions a central part of our conversations
with young people, we can do little but sit back and watch while they wander into a sea of
confusion, drift, self-doubt, and anxiety. (p. xii)
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