Underlying Assumption about School #1

The purpose of school is to earn a credential.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the unspoken assumptions that are in operation in most conversations about education, so I thought I’d enumerate the ones that I’ve become aware of. This one is certainly common in political and media discussions about education (where graduation rates are used as a proxy for pretty much everything — unless, of course, test scores are the proxy). I see this one on a much more personal scale though, too. Most of my conversations with the students I tutor and their parents revolve around how to pass some class or other in order to meet some graduation requirement. (Sometimes, the conversations revolve around how to improve a score or grade, but I’m not sure this is really fundamentally different.)

As you can see from my inability to resist snarky comments, I don’t really think this is a good assumption (though I think it accurately describes the educational system we have). I’m not really interested here in whether our “school axioms” are right or wrong, though, just in enumerating them. Unexamined assumptions are dangerous.


One thought on “Underlying Assumption about School #1

  1. R says:

    You can probably step even further back; the purpose of school is to allow people to associate with institutions/educators that are known as impressive. Importantly, impressive doesn’t have to mean good at making students know things. This is why college students want to go to big research institutions to study with impressive people, even if those people and institution don’t even have education as a primary goal. Similarly, that is why parents want to send their younger students to certified schools and teachers, regardless of evidence that those certifications help learning. For students such associations signal intelligence/for parents they signal caring about education/children. Credentials are nothing more than proofs of association, which is why people care to earn them.

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