William Damon “Education and the Path to Purpose”
Damon believes that the most pressing problem in education today is student disengagement. And I think he is right. It’s an epidemic of disengagement, boredom and stress – a deadly combination that leads to drop-out rates on the one hand a sense of entitlement on the other. (“I worked hard and suffered in school so I am entitled to ….name that unearned privilege.”)
Damon makes his comments in his open letter to the next president. It’s a problem that he says it not confined to impoverished schools but rather one that is endemic across the academic spectrum including at some of the more prestigious and highly regarded institutions..
The cure he says resides in helping students address the “why” question about everything they do. “Why do people study math and science? Why is it important to read and write? To spell words correctly? Why do we expect you, and your fellow students, to excel in the work that we assign to you? The answer to such questions must be more substantial and more stirring than the generic response, “You need to do well in school in order to graduate and get a job.’”
Beyond those central academic questions about every aspect of the curriculum lies the broader purpose of education. We want students to develop a passion for learning and living as educated citizens and to contribute to their communities with civic purpose and a global awareness. For that to happen students need schools to be more than mere test prep training grounds. They need the opportunity to take on the bigger questions and consider the why and why not questions. In short they need the chance to engage meaningfully in the great conversation about meaning and morality, and set about the tasks of life with a sense of purpose and possibility
At PDS we could not agree more. And one thing is for sure – at PDS we don’t need to find the cure for student disengagement.
We don’t have the disease.