The purpose of school

We are spending almost one fourth or one third of our life being schooled. What is the real purpose of school? To acquire knowledge/information? To be trained for jobs? To be a good person to society? Different people have different answers.

Seth Godin gave several points in his video. One of his points on connecting dots emphasize on thinking instead of memorizing. Students need to be taught how to think and how to solve¬†problems, not what to think and what to memorize. Once they learn the techniques of connecting dots, they will still be able to connect dots although the dots may change. Seth thinks there is no value to memorizing things. But I think memory work is necessary for learning. When students begin to learn a subject, they should first memorize facts, then understand and apply these facts into a creative process. If students are only tested about how much/how well they memorized (my school experience before I went to university), they will lose their interests. Before I went to university, I was taught to memorize things and I was tested about how well I memorized. In order to get a high score and be accepted by a good school, I need to focus on memory works. I often forgot the content after I turned in my tests. I didn’t know much about how to think. This is the wrong direction for education.

10 thoughts on “The purpose of school”

  1. Hi , thanks for you post. I believe that in certain fields memorization is important – especially in the biology-related fields. In fact, for certain instances rote memorization is key and there is no way around it – how would for instance memorize the names of the bones in the body – there really is no logic there. The more important question is do doctors or medical professionals really need to know the names? Although such information is readily available on the internet, this is technical jargon that doctors need to be aware of to effectively and efficiently communicate with their patients and colleagues. Of course, this is a specific example; there are plenty of instances where (as you mentioned) we should be tested on and taught how to critically think rather than memorization. I think there is a paradigm shift in the education model and we are slowly moving away from the traditional model of education, so there is hope!

    1. I agree that memorization is important. You develop your brain when you use it. My point here is that education should not only focus on memorization.

  2. I think it is a little bit of both. Some of learning is memorization and retention. With the ability to access information non-critical information can be found when needed.

    For design you have to have a list or group of precedent examples and ideas that ground your place in the discipline and your design work. For here the process of how you ought to design takes over. This process is what makes every design unique even though the examples might be the same.

  3. Thanks for your post! The issue of memorization is an interesting one. And I often hear students say that they just have to memorize everything for a class or a test. When I think of memorization, I think of a bunch of pieces of information floating around in my head. But these pieces of information are not connected to anything. This information is not connected to any other pieces of information. I personally don’t like starting to learn a new topic by memorizing things. I would rather start with the big picture, a process or something in the real world that I can relate the information to. And then I can fill in all the details.

    I read a book this semester, the Case for Constructivist Classrooms, and the authors describe two different ways to introduce the topic of photosynthesis. The first way is the traditional “here is the definition of photosynthesis; here is a diagram; memorize everything.” In the second approach, the teacher started by asking students to think about a process where raw materials are turned into a product (one example was creating art in art class). Students thought about a process that they could relate to. Later in the lesson, students learned that photosynthesis is a similar process and then started to fill in the specific details of photosynthesis.

    I personally prefer this second method of starting general and then learning the specifics. But I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

    1. Me too. If teachers can teach concepts/topics with a broad idea and related them to students life, students can understand them well and be attracted.

  4. I agree! To build a constellation you need both the “dots” and the connections. In my experience one feeds the other, rather than detracts from the other.

  5. Thanks for the blog post! I think understanding is very important, and is essential to anyone’s education. However, memorization maybe necessary, especially in cases where people need to memorize equations, or Biology, as mentioned in a previous comment. I think understand goes hand in hand with memorization.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I also think memory work is a necessary part of the process of learning. During my undergraduate course work, we had to take particular core course ( anatomy & physiology, microbiology, chemistry, etc.) to build upon in the higher level courses. I feel like more memorization is needed in those primary core classes. Then greater understanding will be developed through experience and further course work.

  7. Great post! I love the way you put this:

    “When students begin to learn a subject, they should first memorize facts, then understand and apply these facts into a creative process.”

    I completely agree with you. A good example of this is elementary math. Imagine how difficult later classes would have been if we never had to memorize our basic multiplication tables. Since we have memorized 6 x 6 = 36, we don’t have to waste time trying to figure out the area of a 6 by 6 square. Memorizing the basics makes life easier and probably facilitates the “creative process.”

  8. Thanks for the post and the lively discussion! I too believe that some component of “memorization” is important for at least laying the foundations in a lot of disciplines. However, I guess “memorizing” things can mean different things as well. I think your example of memorizing the bones of the body is a great one. Like you said, there really is no other way to do it. However, to me, when I was “memorizing” veterinary anatomy, it all had a context. Yes I had to memorize where the humerus, ulna, radius, tibia, etc. were but also, I used my past clinical experiences to help me remember. So though the courses haven’t always given me a context in which to learn the material, maybe one way to avoid this whole memorization think is to try and use previous knowledge and experience to derive your own context?

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