After working in education for nearly two decades, I have seen many different educational structures. I started education in a summer camp. I instructed students and served as director, choreographer, and designer for dozens of productions. I built a middle school drama program that was centered on the student experience and their voice. I taught internationally in both Morocco and Bahrain – I taught a wider range of subjects that I have ever – teaching English, Theatre, Social Studies, debate, and STEAM. I now am the Director of the Performing Arts Center at a major private school in Mississippi. I have found that the purpose of education is multifaceted and can vary depending on the individual, their goals, and the society in which they live. However, there are some common themes that emerge when considering the purpose of education.
One of the primary purposes of education is to prepare individuals for successful participation in society. I found this to be true in every school I taught at. However, what the preparation looked like, varied widely. This included providing the skills and knowledge necessary for employment (often as defined by the parents, rather than the students), as well as the ability to think critically and solve problems (typically what students enjoyed the most). Education can also help to promote social cohesion and a sense of community by teaching students about the values, customs, and beliefs of the society in which they live.
Another important aspect of education is personal development. Education can help individuals to develop their own interests and passions, and to become more self-aware and self-confident. Any good teacher does this side-by-side with their lessons. Great teachers teach personal development, while also teaching their subject. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, as well as a sense of purpose and direction in life.
Education also has the potential to promote social mobility and equality. Most recently, I have found that the students in my classroom have a limited view about what social mobility (or often social-stability) looks like. Students are often set on being doctors, lawyers, and business owners. Education can also help to reduce discrimination and promote inclusivity by providing a common understanding and respect for diversity. This aspect of inclusivity has been very prevalent in my current school, every student is truly valued, treated equally, and given the same opportunities. Regardless of a high percentage of students receiving financial aid, the school removes economic boundaries in every way possible.
In addition to these practical and personal benefits, education can also have more abstract, philosophical purposes. It can help individuals to understand and appreciate the world around them, as well as the different cultures and perspectives of others. Education can also encourage creativity and the free exchange of ideas, which can lead to new innovations and progress. This is where the creative classroom is most valuable. Within my drama classes, students get to experience theatre arts within a hands-on application for both design and performance based tasks. These opportunities come to fruition as they produce shows that engage the community in dialogue.