Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to hear two speakers who shared ideas that cause me to reflect on the value and purpose of education today. There is inspiration in learning from others.
Chris Lehmann is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He is a bundle of energy and dares us all to think more deeply about what we need from schools. He shared his “biggest” idea early in his presentation. He views the primary goal of education as creating citizens of the world, people capable of making informed decisions that benefit others. Where have we heard that before?
In To Educate the Human Potential, Maria Montessori says, “Children in the first plane of development (birth to 6 years old) have already absorbed the immediate environment and the restricted society they and their families have dealings with. You must try to give the child what he now longs for: the understanding of the world, how it functions and how it affects the life and behavior of humanity.”
The purpose of cosmic education, which she proposes is the task of the child in the second plane of development (6 to 12 years old), is to help us understand ourselves and relate to the world in which we live. We do this by learning about and understanding others; this prepares children for the future.
Schools, educators, parents and the general public worry about the skills being taught in schools. Public education began as a way to make sure that we had a literate populace. That continues to be the general goal of school today. However, it is not the primary goal. Our children have access to facts in more ways than ever before. They can learn and practice skills in so many ways that we could never have imagined. What they need is to learn to think, to wonder, to question, and to consider what has been done and what is possible. They need to understand facts that are presented and consider how they have evolved over time.
If, as Chris Lehmann and Maria Montessori propose, fostering engaged citizens to make responsible decisions for our world is the purpose of education we are well on our way at WMS.