What is the purpose of schools?
Writing in the Sunday Times (£pay site) a couple of weeks ago (“Think Tank: New Ideas for the 21st Century”), Anthony Seddon, Master of Wellington College, approved much that Michael Gove has done as Education Secretary, whilst suggesting “If he has a blind spot, however, it is his lack of a vision for the purpose of schools”.
“Gove has let exam passes become the all-important validator of the worth of a school .... Exams, are, of course essential. They allow us to measure the progress of students and school performance. But they are not the whole purpose of schools. The objective that Gove needs to prioritise now is character building.”
Seddon sets out his case by calling on: David Levin, co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Programme, (who realised … “those who possessed character strengths such as resilience and tenacity” were succeeding at university, not necessarily those who had been the top students at their schools); Angela Duckworth, (“a psychologist who showed that self-control could be a more reliable predictor of students’ university success than IQ”) and Martin Seligman (“a pioneer of ‘positive psychology’, who had identified no fewer than 24 character strengths that could be developed in schools”). With Dominic Randolph, Head of New York private school, Riverdale, David Levin reduced Seligman’s 24 character strengths to 7 “which they made the cornerstones of their respective school’s programmes”:
- social intelligence
Noting “Independent schools, as we all know, major on the development of character”, Seddon points to examples of state schools that are “showing the way”: King Solomon Academy primary school in northwest London; West Kidlington primary school in Oxfordshire; and Kings Langley secondary school in Hertfordshire.
So what is the purpose of schools? Of the purpose of schooling? Or, for that matter, the purpose of Education?
When I read this, I wanted to ask a couple of questions:
What is the purpose of parents?
What of upbringing? Is it even meaningful to talk of the purpose of upbringing?