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John Avery

December 2
, 2009
EDUC 275

The Purpose of Schooling:
A question and response based approach to inquiry

Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish
you with an original spirit with which to tackle big challenges; it should allow you to find values which
will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you
are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live
and how to die. (Gatto)
Over the course of the past century, men and women alike of varying degrees of background
have attempted to reach a metric, a rubric by which to measure child A and say she has become Citizen
B. It is only in the statement above that I believe the true worth of education is truly realized. While
not so many are blessed to have the presence of thought to create such a statement, the values and
beliefs of our community members are just as important. John Dewey himself stated that progressive
social policy in relation to education springs from a living faith in our common human nature and in
the power of voluntary action based on public collective intelligence. This is, at its heart, the meaning
of inquiry. Over the following pages, you, the reader, will become familiar with two community
members of Fort Collins, Colorado. The first is Julie Sather, a female entrepreneur of white-non
Hispanic and Hispanic descent. For the last twenty years, she has spent time creating connections
between her family own store and the community at large while embracing the notion of being a
minority leader in the growing diversity of America's executives. The other is Brad Avery, a
mathematics teacher at Rocky Mountain High School. A 2002 graduate of Colorado State University,
he has spent the majority of the prior eight years becoming acclimated to the teaching profession,
learning what it takes to go from analyzing education as a student to the real-world application of
inclusion strategies as a teacher. It is clear from speaking to both individual's that their chosen
profession vastly colors the priorities in which they place education. For a business minded,
community oriented mother of two, Julie is concerned with creating responsible, accountable students
who excel at communication and goal settings. Brad, however, is concerned with the global
perspectives of cultural awareness, modern skills, effective citizenry, and becoming a life long learner.
It is interesting to note at this point that both the teacher and the parent value the notion of an
acceptable citizen. Taking that term to mean a myriad of different things, it is nonetheless inferential
to believe that it includes responsibility both to oneself and one's community. While Brad is concerned
with the whole student in regards to the world around s/he and as a team, Julie is concerned with the
focused setting of the student as a functional unit to work independently. Both are superb answers, yet
neither completely answer the purpose of schooling. They neither compare nor contrast so much as
begin to form the thesis for what the purpose of schooling is. Like Gatto said so masterfully, it should
teach you that whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with you [know]
what is important. (Gatto)
Ultimately, the defining point in the purpose of schools is not necessarily a broad idealism that
Gatto presents so much as it is careful analysis of what work has been done, what has succeeded, and
what has not. For without that vital data, we are at a loss to proceed forward for fear of moving
backward. Julie and Brad both agree on the concept that our education for far too long has sat on the
laurels of one size fits all. This we term the industrialized approach that David Marshak so
poignantly termed in his dismissal of the No Child Left Behind Act. Curriculum was designed such
that students achieved or dropped out and [went] to work as unskilled laborers (Marshak, 229). The
scariness arises at the fact that both the teacher, the parent, and the author realize it, yet this process is
still business as usual for schooling in the United States. Both agree that schools still fail to address
varying levels of diversity, though each recognize it to a far different level. While Brad is concerned
about the differences in attitudes, beliefs, and individual learning goals, Julie is concerned with the
developmental ramifications of advanced and deficient students, and how they are treated within the
educational system. This is yet another excellent standoff between two community members to
illustrate that neither are wrong, both are correct, and both contribute to the greater good of education.
What truly stands in our way then? Certainly these two individuals constitute the intelligent masses
that Dewey referred to, and yet we have not achieved educational parity between the diverse groups of
our nation!
That question, is ultimately answered by how each perceives the source of the problem. While
querying each individual about their concerns for the coming years in education, varying levels of
responses were received. It became clear within minutes that Julie is concerned with the political and
economic choices us and our leaders are making in today's. One can only imagine she'd be a friend of
Linda Darling-Hammond in reference to how our educational budgeting compares to that of convicts,
burden's of the state, or tax cuts. Speaking with Brad however, we receive a more humanistic answer
that has little to do with money and more to do with philosophy. In his own words:
My major concern is that our system of education in the U.S. is still based on a model that emerged in the
late 1800's to meet basic educational needs of a populace working in an industrial era. We have stretched
this system bit by bit over the years to try to make it accommodate a new reality. Yet now as we are fully
immersed in the information age and the rapid dynamic change that comes with a quicker pace of
information exchange, I feel that our foundation for education has been stretched beyond what that
system could accommodate. I believe we need a radical change in our educational system and a new
vision set fourth about what we as Americans want an education to represent. My hope is that a climate
is emerging in this country that promotes a greater focus on education, and on equipping our citizens
with the skills and habits of mind to keep America on the cusp of innovation. This may be idealistic, but
I truly believe you have to dream big to hope to obtain big change and big results. (Avery)
This is truly an above average response than one would suspect from a typical teacher in his first ten
years, yet it rings with a sense of absolute truth. While Julie as a parent and community member sees
to often budget cuts, budget mismanagement, budget misspending, she rarely sees the insider approach
Brad is afforded, the notion that the basic approach to education is flawed in regards to a westernized
country of the information age. Ultimately we have found the source of discontinuity John Dewey
feared. While women and men understand the symptoms, sympathize with them, all of them are
incapable of forming a consensus on diagnosing the base issue. Sadder yet is the notion that
Americans as a whole keep viewing funding as the beginning and end of problems in various fields.
Surely the centuries of budget squabbles have identified that money, while important to education, is
not the sole issue.
Sadly, even Brad's enlightening diagnosis of the issue is not enough to simply change an entire
system. Though he would rather teach his courses in a different manner, in school policies prevent
such experimentation without a long process of approval that is yet underway. Looking at the
breakdown of his timing in class, both through the attached schedule and the following plot, one can
see that even his classroom follows an assembly line of working: Make sure the parts are present, put
the parts together, let the parts do their job.

While it is encouraging to see so much time spent on relationship building, one must be aware of the
types of relationship building it is however. Social interaction, while important, is not the best form of
relationship education. All too often, a more academic approach is necessary, and dialogical pedagogy,
Classroom Time Management
Management Instruction Relationship
as presented by Juan-Miguel Fernandez-Balboa and James P. Marshall is an effective tool that can
make better use of the time. Most likely, the problem Brad would be running into would be the notion
of preconceived answers in mathematics that would prohibit dialogue as a means of learning.
(Fernandez-Balboa Marshall, 172) To overcome this, teachers and parents as a whole need to urge
administrators and peers to be receptive to new educational methods, in hopes that one may stumble
upon the golden egg of teaching. While hoping for an end all be all is just as foolish as a one-size-fits
all approach, it is more because the search is for a new philosophy, not a new process.
In the end though, this shall be a paper of perhaps, maybes, hopes, and dreams. Words on paper
can only convey ideas and possibilities. Action is necessary to discover new ways in which to
transform teaching in America. For two people who grew up in vastly different surroundings, such as
Craig, Colorado, a small mining town in the 1970's, and Fort Collins, Colorado, a moderately sized
commuter city of the 1990's, it is nice to see that their ideas do not clash so much as contribute to each
other. This interview process has taught that the uniqueness that Gatto describes is perhaps not
something we should be expecting at 12
grade. Simply from watching Brad grow up as a brother to
myself, and knowing Julie from descriptions by her Father, it is all too apparent that people are not
who they will be for their life at 18 as they will be at 30, 40, 50, or even older. Is it too much to expect
so much of children then in these regards to citizenry, global awareness, a passion for learning, and an
aptitude for chosen standards? In my opinion: No. We cannot be punitive of children who fail to meet
these standards, but we must set the bar high and do all in our power to help these children reach these
goals, as well as helping them to create new ones, even if it means working beyond 12
grade, for as
the Dalai Lama said; nobody wants suffering, and all beings are trying to achieve a state of
happiness. (Dalai Lama, 85). Let us help children attain that happiness through the guise of

Works Cited:

Dalai Lama (1999). Education and the human heart. In Glazer, S. (Ed.), The heart of learning (pp. 58-
68). New York: Putnam.
Fernandez-Balboa, J. & Marshall, J. (1994). Dialogical pedagogy in teacher education. Journal of
Teacher Education, (45), 3, pp. 172-182.
Gatto, J. (2002). Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.
New York.. New Society Publishers.
Marschak, D. (November 2003). No Child Left Behind: A Foolish Race into the Past. Phi Delta
Kappan, pp.229-231.
Oakes, J & Rogers, J. (2006). Learning Power: Organizing for Education and Justice. New York:
Teachers College Press. pp 7-33