I think that Lyall is right in suggesting that we are asking the wrong question in the education debate. He identifies the current question as “How can we reform, improve our system of education today?” He believes that the correct question if we are to come to the answers we need is “What is the purpose of education?”
I think the critical distinction between those questions is that the one we are asking publicly is equivalent to a game we used to play in the car as kids called “Right, Left, or Straight.” (RLS for short.) In that game we would drive until we got to an intersection and then Mom would call out “Right, left, or straight?” We would then vote (by who yelled the loudest generally) to determine which available path we would take. There was no right answer to the question, but there was also no knowing where we would end up before it was time to return home. The question we should be asking is like sitting down in a family council and asking where we want to vacation this year. Again there is no single right answer, but there are plenty of places you would not want to go where you might find yourself if you just hopped in the car and played RLS for your summer vacation.
The first option can be fun, but not very productive. It is useful in changing course, but not in determining the desirable outcome. Once you have determined the desired destination then there is an innate game of RLS to arrive there (the difference being that there is now a correct answer to the question when you come to an intersection).
My answer to Lyall’s new and improved question was that the purpose of education should be to provide the foundation of basic skills like the three R’s and to teach students how to face challenges and find answers to questions. Lyall contends that there is another part to education that involves (as I interpret it) education regarding right and wrong, fair play, and other generic moral issues.
Who is right? join the discussion by commenting here or there.