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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Casual Death of Education: What is the point of public education?

Hint: It’s not about taking tests.

The Casual Death of Education Column graphic (UPDATED)
Graphic by Bex Povill

I started this column to discuss the ongoing collapse of America’s educational system in the face of limited funding, lack of parental involvement and bad policies. But before we get to any of that we must address a very serious question: Why do we have a taxpayer funded mandatory public education system in the first place?

People have many different views on this topic ranging from promoting social mobility to defending democracy. However, my opinion on this question is taken from author John Green“Public education does not exist for the benefit of students or for the benefit of their parents. It exists for the benefit of the social order. … So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools. … It’s because I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.”

The whole point of public education is to raise children to develop the necessary skills to become functioning adults in society; these skills include critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. Public schools certainly are not going to teach you whether Hobbes or Rousseau was correct about human nature, and your eighth grade science teacher definitely isn’t teaching you the complexities of the Bose-Einstein Condensate. However, public education is supposed to give you the skills and a love of learning so that as an adult you can freely pursue these topics. Public education should ensure that if you ever find yourself in a debate over Hobbes and Rousseau you can effectively articulate your ideas and respectfully listen to your peers before hashing out your own points. Public education should help you discover what you love to do, and lead you down a path in life to enjoy each and every day of it. Whether that’s being an astronaut, a musician or a carpenter, public education must provide the environment where children are encouraged to pursue what they love most.

Yet, our current public education system basically fails in most of those categories. Many schools are overcrowded, with not enough teachers and exhausted staff. Many believe schools are too focused exclusively on quizzes, tests and exams, squeezing out all else from the picture. Worse yet, malicious forces now circle our public education system, attempting to sway it to teaching ideology or dogma rather than discovery and exploration. The result of such a degraded system can only result in one thing: a “country with a bunch of stupid people.” It is far past time that we as a nation reexamine our education system and realize that it is even more imperative to correct this, so that the students of tomorrow have a chance to flourish and grow into their best selves.