It’s not much of an observation to note that schools are communities. Nor is it very insightful to observe that within the larger community of neighborhood, town, state, or nation, schools play an essential role in prosperity, security, and stability. Neither is it surprising to consider how powerful the community aspects of a school are to the students themselves, from their sense of belonging to their academic performance to whatever roles they are trained to take up as adults.
Nor is it much of an insight to observe that schools are also charged with providing an education. The job of a school is to give students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the adult world.
What is less obvious is to question first what should constitute an education and then more significantly why education should triumph community.
Because even a casual glance at schools and their role in the human enterprise quickly reveals both an overwhelming demand to serve the community, and an almost impossibly complicated and contradictory set of details concerning ‘education’.
This is complicated in part because the various parties and purposes of a school compete for attention and resources. If schools are communities, those communities often have conflicting or contradictory purposes.
Schools are a collection of competing interests. Parents want one thing from a school, society wants another, and teachers something else.
And of course, there’s the students themselves, who all too often don’t want the things everyone else is demanding they receive — in particular an ‘education’.
It makes a great deal of sense to use the leverage of ‘education’ to crowbar some kind of order into all those competing interests. ‘Education’ gives an overall purpose to a school, a common goal that overrides any single community or tribe. In an effort to avoid dealing with the various competing interests of a school, we have decided that a school’s main purpose should be education and only education.
But ‘education’ is actually almost impossibly broad and vague. ‘Education’, in the end, is the…