Have you ever asked your students “What’s the point?”

direction of fleet

Where is your fleet headed?

I like reiterating an analogy C.S. Lewis uses to illustrate the necessity of having a vision, a direction, a point to what you are doing.  Our school is like a fleet of ships headed across the ocean.  Each ship is an integral part of the fleet be they teacher, administrator, support services and has a captain that operates the vessel so it runs well.  If the captains do not agree on a clear destination the fleet is lost.  The best possible outcome in this situation is that the fleet stays together and all the ships sail to nowhere as one.  Without direction, without a vision of the horizon, ships will eventually begin to break away and sail for their own destinations based on where the captain wants to go.  Ships abandon each other and crash into each other when communication breaks down.  In the end, the engines begin to fail, the fuel runs out, repairs are needed, but the captains are too exhausted to carry on with a vision that has no clarity and purpose so they scuttle their ship or leave to join another fleet.

As an educator, have you ever contemplated what the point of school is?  What its vision is?  Where we are headed with the institution?
It is a discussion we do not have nearly enough if at all. Philosophy of education is not pointless debate over high minded issues that have no bearing on reality.  It is necessary for the survival of the institution.  The philosophical question is the one that pushes our critical thinking skills to their limits and forces us to answer why we do this thing we call school.  Where is the fleet headed?  Do the captains know why they are on the voyage?  What’s the point?
A good exercise to help articulate your own thoughts on the subject is to write an “elevator pitch” for your philosophy on school.  Pretend you get in an elevator with a big time film executive and you have the 15 seconds it takes to get to the floor you’re going to tell him your philosophy on education in order to get the job writing the next inspirational school movie (or high school musical of Glee-like show or whatever).  Can you do it?  Let’s try a few:
  • Schools need to be subversive. They need to serve as a kind of anti-bureaucracy bureaucracy providing the young with a “What is it good for?” perspective on its own society.
  • School is a place where culture isn’t created, it is critiqued and questions and called on the carpet through questions about what it means to be human and identify those institutions promote human flourishing and tear down those that stifle it.
  • School are factories of creativity.  Students give expression to what it means to be human through arts, language, scientific discovery, physical activity, and see themselves as part of the great story that binds us all together.

What’s your elevator pitch?  What is your answer to the question, What is the point of school?  Write it in the comment box.  We would love to see what you think.

Meet the Author

I am living the dream as a Middle School magician in Langley, BC. I am co-creator of The Magic Classroom and a team leader and presenter in School District #35. I’m excited to be speaking at AMLE 2015 in Columbus, Ohio in October and at Ignite 35 in Langley in September.