Let’s begin with establishing a couple of definitions:
Education – the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
Broaden – to increase something such as your knowledge, experience, or range of activities
My answer to this question would be to broaden their minds, but reality suggests it must be to prepare them for working life. Expanding the minds of students does prepare them for working life, after all. Would not you want someone working for you to be able to think outside the box rather than having someone who does things just the way it’s always been done?
An example of what I believe is not working in broadening children’s minds is the Illinois Common Core program. In my experience, it has created unnecessary frustration.
The standards of education were created to ensure that all students graduating from high school would receive the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards/
I believe the preparation for college and career beginning in elementary school is a bit overzealous. The math work is lengthy and requires great time and effort. These elementary school students should not be working three or more hours per night on homework, they should be playing, which would broaden their minds. In addition, it’s almost impossible for the average parent to even attempt to assist their child with the work. It’s difficult for the adult to understand it, let alone the child. I’ve become aware that even some teachers find it difficult to understand the Common Core. How can you teach something if you cannot comprehend it yourself?
Teachers are also spread thin due to the state’s mandates of what they are to be teaching their students. The time it takes to teach the children and have them understand the teaching, in my opinion, currently takes longer than ever. The state’s expectation of the children is unrealistic. The teachers are not given the time to broaden their students’ minds due to the increased student-to-teacher ratio. The children seem to be even more rushed than I am at work; and that is saying something.
As I am not a teacher, I have no idea how they go about broadening their students’ minds or preparing them for work life. What does it take to broaden one’s mind?
Reading books and writing are two ways one could go about broadening their mind. A great quote to reinforce this is from Albert Einstein, Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.
On this particular ‘literacyworks’ webpage, Gregory Berns is quoted as saying,“ … It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains.”
The downside of the Common Core is the negative thoughts it creates in a child’s mind. Not understanding it, combined with the work time they put into it, only to get a bad grade on it, fosters sadness and anger. I can tell you that many times I have found my daughter on the floor sobbing because she could not figure out how to work out the math problems. In turn, as a parent, it makes me angry that such a program is in place in my school district. I believe it stunts the growth of their brains and minds. It makes the student want to stop trying to learn and that is a great disservice.
I believe there were good reasons why Common Core was developed, but it seems to me that it missed the mark. One other aspect of Common Core in elementary school is that students do not receive letter grades. Instead, they receive a pass or fail grade. It was not until fifth grade that my daughter began receiving letter grades. This affected my daughter in that if she failed something, she did not understand how far off she was from passing. It was also hard for me as a parent to get an idea of where she needed help.
I do not know if there is a certain brain maturity that is necessary to begin learning algebra but I would not think it should begin in elementary school. Maybe my way of thinking about it is “behind the times.”
So my answer to the question of whether or not the role of education should be to prepare students for working life, or to broaden their minds, is both. In my opinion, there seems to be no other option. I can declare through my first-hand experience and conversations with other parents, that Common Core is providing more damage than benefits to our elementary students.