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PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: It’s time that we as a people step back, draw a few deep breaths, and come to our senses. What, really, is education? What is its purpose? In the light of our answers to those questions, is education measurable, and if it is measurable does it make sense that the same measures would apply to everyone?
Here’s what I would want for my children, if I had young children today. I would want them to grow up feeling in charge of their own lives. I would want them to be happy but also to care about the happiness of others. I would want them to be emotionally resilient, so they could bounce back from life’s inevitable stresses and disappointments. I would want them to feel confident in their ability to learn throughout life and to adapt to a world that is changing faster from year to year than it ever has before. I would want them to have goals—goals that they feel some passion about. I would want them to be able to think critically and make rational decisions that help them achieve their goals. I would want them to have moral values that help give meaning and structure to their lives, and I would hope that these would be human values—values having to do with human rights and obligations not to tread on those rights.
Now here’s the rub. None of these things can be taught as school lessons. All of these things have to be discovered and created by the active, growing child; and to do that each child needs lots of time to play, explore, discover. The best we can do is provide good models ourselves and a healthy, stimulating, moral environment that allows our children to find what they are looking for and to learn to see from others’ viewpoints as well as their own. Ultimately, the purpose of education is that of finding meaning in life, and each person has to do that for himself or herself.