Why do schools exist

Yes you have a valid claim against the school. It is not likely to result in a large settlement but you can have a shot at changing the policy. The very situation when a teacher can deny a student’s request for a bathroom break is unacceptable because it is against basic human dignity.

Is School Really Necessary?

There has been an ongoing debate as to why school is a waste of time, and how much we actually really need formal schooling for so many years of our life. Many people still strongly believe in the traditional view, that school is a vital part of becoming successful in the future and learning basic skills.

At the same time, however, many young students feel as though they take classes that they are uninterested in, and have no benefit for them in the long run, as everyone has different goals, passions and career paths. People are starting to focus more on wanting to learn more concrete life skills, which for the most part, are not believed to be taught in the classroom.

It has been believed traditionally that the only way to properly educate our children is through the standard classroom method. This includes having a teacher speak in front of a group of students, covering a wide variety of the most fundamental topics such as math, science and English. It also means attending school five days a week for most of the day, similar to a full-time job, with assignments and homework to complete outside of these designated school hours as well.

A student feeling burned out from school.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Why do schools exist

Why do we have school in the first place? What is the purpose of schooling and teaching? If we don’t know what the mission and goals of school are, it’s not possible to even know if we get there. We also don’t know if the target was missed. Interestingly, with all the focus in recent years on accountability of schools, you don’t see that much public discussion about the fundamental purpose of schools.

Two primary opposing views exist regarding the purpose of schools. Some, such as the Business Roundtable (A. Ryan, 2004) and Achieve (Achieve, 2004), an organization created by governors and business leaders, believe that the primary purpose of schools should be to create workers who have skills and personal styles to fill and perform available jobs. Others believe this outcome is too narrow (Freeman, 2005; Goodlad, 1984; Hodgkinson, 2006; Postman, 1996). For them schools should seek to develop active citizens, helping children develop their own capacity for personal achievement and contributing to society as an active citizen for democracy.

These two goals, producing workers and creating citizens, require two very different approaches. If, on the one hand, the key goal is to educate students as workers, where education essentially functions as a section of the personnel department for business and industry, schools are expected to perform two essential tasks: (1) create a pool of workers with at least minimum competence and attitudes from which businesses can select employees; and (2) provide a way of sorting workers in rank order of ability, eliminating those from the pool who do not have the perceived capacity to function as employees. The goal for businesses, of course, is to have a large pool of potentially qualified candidates with requisite skills that far exceeds the availability of jobs. This allows the business to select the best candidate. The resulting competition for jobs allows them to keep wages lower, thus decreasing costs and increasing profits. This goal becomes evident through the call for standards with higher levels of skills. The need to have a way of ranking individuals in order of basic skills, or at least certifying minimum competency, is seen in the push for standardized testing that was incorporated into the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act passed in 2004. It is notable that the Business Roundtable and other business and industry groups were intimately involved in calling for identified minimum standards and the use of standardized testing.

• Identify basic skills that all students should achieve, skills needed in most jobs in business and industry
• Use tests to rank students or, at minimum, identify students as competent or incompetent on basic skills
• Increase the number of students meeting competence in basic skills.
• Assure that the curriculum focuses narrowly on the basic skills rather than curriculum options that address individual interests and needs
• Facilitate conditions under which students with challenges drop out of the system to reduce costs

The fact is, of course, few school districts actually state that their prime mission is to serve as a personnel department for business and industry. However, functionally many schools make this clear by engaging in practices designed to insure such outcomes. Similarly, policymakers often use language whereby an outcome is veiled by other language. If you look carefully at the list above, you’ll see a description of practices presently mandated by NCLB (No Child Left Behind) in the United States (Education, 2002) and laws in other countries as well. Some of these requirements, like the creation of standards and use of standardized tests are mandated in the legislation itself. Others, such as the increase in dropouts (Bridgeland, DiIulio, & Morison, 2006; Woods, 1995) and racial segregation (Horn, 2006), are a result of a system that does not attend well to the personalized needs of students, particularly those with substantial life challenges (J. Ryan, 2004). Similarly, as schools are evaluated based on very narrow criteria (eg. tests of math, basic literacy skills, and science), the curriculum of many schools is narrowed, de-emphasizing social studies, the arts, physical education, and even, on occasion, eliminating recess for elementary children (Karp, Spring 2003; Marshak, November 2003; Mathis, 2006; McKenzie, November, 2006).
If, on the other hand, schools seek to help students achieve personal excellence and become effective citizens, their learning activities must be organized quite differently. In such schools, the curriculum would necessarily offer many rich opportunities rather than focusing only on narrow basic skills. Students are nurtured to become adults who have skills, attitudes, and knowledge to be productive community members, leaders, parents, as well as workers. Here’s a short list that schools and teachers would be about in such schools: