The purpose of education should be to create well-rounded students who become productive members of society through a balanced curriculum. Schools should focus on both the academic skills that students need to be successful in life and personal growth through self-exploration and character development. This purpose of education uses ideas from two areas of philosophy, essentialism and existentialism. Essentialism focuses on the essential academic subjects that students will need to be able to function in society and become productive adults with serious careers. Existentialism focuses on the development of the individual student’s character, decision-making abilities, and personal uniqueness. Both are needed to create a balanced educational system. The nature of the student is sinful and in need of discipline which draws from a Neo-Scholastic viewpoint. The role of the teacher is both a dispenser of knowledge and facilitator of lifelong learning. The teacher’s role is also a disciplinarian who teaches students to resist the downfalls of their sinful natures. The role of the student is to learn the information their teachers provide to the best of their abilities, and then take that information and use it to further their development academically and personally in the future. Teachers can help facilitate their student’s personal growth through the recognition and celebration of their class’ diversity. Through both promoting academic skills and personal growth, schools will provide their students with balanced educations.
There are many differing opinions on what the purpose of education should be, what goals an education system should set, and how the system should achieve those goals. Some say that the sole purpose of education should be to prepare its students academically for life outside of school and their future careers. Others say that school should be a place of personal discovery and character building. The truth lies somewhere in between. A balanced, well-rounded educational system will produce balanced, well-rounded students that become active members of society. Although schools must set academic standards for that their students much achieve to function in the outside world, they cannot become so focused on academics that they forget that their students are real people. Students must be have opportunities to build their characters and learn about their individualities in order to put their academic knowledge to good use in their future. The purpose of education is to both prepare the student practically for life with academic skills, and develop the student personally through self-exploration and character education.
Because the purpose of education is to produce students who are both academically successful and well developed personally, there are several educational philosophies that schools should consider when developing their mission statements as institutions. The first philosophy is the idea of Essentialism. Essentialism focuses on the essential academic subjects that students will need to be able to function in society and become productive adults with serious careers (Roca-Royes, 2011). These subjects include mathematics, literacy, the sciences, and social sciences that students must be well education in to successfully contribute in society as a whole. But essentialism is not the only philosophy that schools should adopt. The philosophy known as Existentialism focuses on the development of the individual student’s character, decision-making abilities, and personal uniqueness (Williams, 2012). These are attributes that will allow students to take their academic knowledge and use it for good purposes after they finish their educations. Therefore, essentialism and existentialism are mutually dependent in order for schools to produce well-rounded students Without existentialism, essentialism would create a society of knowledgeable robots. Without essentialism, existentialism would create a society of adults who have no practical skills. Modern schools must find a balance between these two philosophies because both are necessary to meet the goal of producing a society of well-rounded adults.
Another decision that must be made when considering the purpose of school is the nature of the learner. From a biblical perspective, all people, including students are sinful individuals who need to learn discipline while completing their educations. This can be seen in the verse Romans 3:23 (New International Version) when the author Paul states, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This philosophy is known as Neo-Scholasticism (Bushlack, 2015). Understanding this underlying nature of students is essential so students can push against their sinful natures to use their well-rounded educations for moral purposes when they are adults.
Now that the purpose of education and the nature of the learner have been established, teachers must decide how they plan to implement that knowledge into their classrooms in practical ways. One way to balance essentialist and existentialist ideas into a single lesson is to use the academic content to teach a character principle. For example, if the class is learning to read (the essential academic skill) the teacher could choose books that teach the students about accepting themselves as individuals (the existential character development.) A great example of this is the story of The Ugly Duckling. It uses vocabulary that will challenge young readers, and its theme is personal growth through self-acceptance. By including both the academic skills and the character development into every lesson, the teachers will produce students with balanced educations that value practical skills and personal growth.
In order to create healthy learning environments, teachers must create healthy relationships with their students. In order for this to happen, the individual roles of the teacher and the student must be established. The role of the teacher is to both provide information and facilitate learning practices. Teachers must provide content for their students in order for them to learn essential skills, but if that is all they do then they become informational vending machines and their students never learn how to find information for themselves. Along with giving academic information to students, teacher should teach their students how to learn. This not only helps students develop academically, but it teaches them how learn about themselves. Teachers should do this by teaching foundational information, but not giving their students all the answers. Teachers are also in some ways disciplinarians who teach students to resist the downfalls of their sinful natures. The role of students is to learn the information their teachers provide to the best of their abilities, and then take that information and use it to further their development academically and personally in the future. The students should see their teachers as facilitators of learning, and teachers should see their students as individuals who need guidance personally and practically. If both the teacher and student follow their roles, they will create a learning environment that promotes both academic success and personal growth.
Teachers must understand that their students are individuals who learn in different ways. Not only are there gender, racial and socio-economic differences between students, there are also differences in learning styles. Some students learn best through visual models, while some learn best through auditory explanation, and others still through kinesthetic movement and hands-on activity (Helding, 2009). In order to cater to all of these diversities, teachers must adapt and differentiate their lessons to meet all their students’ needs. For example, a teacher should teach a single concept in several different ways, using verbal explanation for auditory learners, visual models for visual learners and hands-on activities for kinesthetic learners. As far as the gender, racial and socio-economic diversities are concerned, teachers must always be careful not to show bias towards or against any of these groups while in the classroom.
By balancing both essentialist and existentialist philosophies and viewing students as individuals with sinful natures in need of discipline, schools will be able to create healthy learning environments that produce students who become well-rounded adults. Teachers must remember their roles as learning facilitators to maintain suitable relationships with their students. Through both promoting academic skills and personal growth, schools will provide their students with balanced educations.
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