What is School For?

A month ago,  Seth Godin posted a very interesting question:  What is School For? 

Here is his starter list:

  1. Become an informed citizen
  2. Be able to read for pleasure
  3. Be trained in the rudimentary skills necessary for employment
  4. Do well on standardized tests
  5. Homogenize society, at least a bit
  6. Pasteurize out the dangerous ideas
  7. Give kids something to do while parents work
  8. Teach future citizens how to conform
  9. Teach future consumers how to desire
  10.  Build a social fabric
  11. Create leaders who help us compete on a world stage
  12. Generate future scientists who will advance medicine and technology
  13. Learn for the sake of learning
  14. Help people become interesting and productive
  15. Defang the proletariat
  16. Establish a floor below which a typical person is unlikely to fall
  17. Find and celebrate prodigies, geniuses and the gifted
  18. Make sure kids learn to exercise, eat right and avoid common health problems
  19. Teach future citizens to obey authority
  20. Teach future employees to do the same
  21. Increase appreciation for art and culture
  22. Teach creativity and problem solving
  23. Minimize public spelling mistakes
  24. Increase emotional intelligence
  25. Decrease crime by teaching civics and ethics
  26. Increase understanding of a life well lived
  27. Make sure the sports teams have enough players

It is by no means exhaustive but provides starting points for very interesting conversations amongst parents and educators,  particularly when searching for that “perfect” primary or secondary school.   I personally would hate to place my son in a school whose principles were heavily skewed towards #4-8, at the expense of #2 & 22. 

Related post: Are Schools Educating Our Children Out of Their Creativity?

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Ted and Jose Antonio Abreu’s wish: El Sistema to Go Global

For the past few days,  whatever spare time I have has been spent surfing TedTalks.com.  Today’s uploads were especially thrilling as I finally got to hear from the founder of El Sistema:  Jose Antonio Abreu.

Mr. Abreu is a retired economist, trained musician, and social reformer who founded El Sistema (“the system”) in 1975 based on the conviction that what poor Venezuelan kids needed was classical music. After 30 years and 10 different political administrations, El Sistema is now a nationwide organization of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children’s orchestras and 270 music centers.  This February,  he was announced as one of 3 winners of the 2009 TED Prize:  $100,000 + “One Wish to Change the World.”    

Comprised of close to 250,000 young musicians, El Sistema uses music education to help youth, most from impoverished circumstances, to achieve their full potential and acquire values that favor their growth and have a positive impact on their lives in society.    Several participants have gone on to major international careers, including Gustavo Dudamel, incoming music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and double bass player Edicson Ruiz, who at the age of 17 became the youngest musician ever to join the Berlin Philharmonic. 

Witness and be moved by the passion and joy of the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra (composed of high-school musicians) led by the charismatic Gustavo Dudamel as they perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez’ Danzón No. 2.  I love the idea that these young kids are taught at a very early age to work as an ensemble – that in working together,  they may achieve something great.

 

What is Mr. Abreu’s wish? “I wish you would help create and document a special training program for at least 50 gifted young musicians, passionate for their art and for social justice, and dedicated to developing El Sistema in the US and in other countries.”

To help with this wish,  go to http://www.tedprize.org/contactadmin/?a=grant&winner=abreu.

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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