The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered. --Jean Piaget
The positive emotion which should supply the motive in education is curiosity, but the curiosity of the young is severely repressed in many directions—sexual, theological, and political. Instead of being encouraged in the practice of free inquiry, children are instructed in some brand of orthodoxy, with the result that unfamiliar ideas inspire them with terror rather than with interest. --Bertrand Russell
If we agree that the purpose of education should be civilisation, then we need to overhaul the Government's current schooling approach, which Piaget and Russell refer to above - 80 years ago.
Civilisation has, without any surprise, changed since the days when children were given the tools to live and serve within their social class and no more. It is time to change the way we educate the young accordingly.
Today's civilisation involves battling a daily onslaught of complex problems created on purpose or by accident by a complex society that demands far more from its citizens than just paying taxes. Unlike our Grandparents, we are constantly tricked, teased, baited and deceived into having all our money taken from us - even money we haven't earned yet. Unlike our Grandparents, we are constantly bombarded by the media, which we are already dependent upon for our knowledge of society, with the fear of death and morbidity from a thousand different and new diseases, accidents and horrors in the work-place, at home, on the streets and overseas. Unlike our Grandparents, both modern parents work full-time and for long hours, coming home to chores and commitments that piled up while they were away, being driven more by guilt than other feelings to spend what little time is left with their children.
Should we prepare our children for the horrors and complexities of modern living, or leave them to it? If we should prepare them, why aren't we? And if we aren't, how do we do it? Status quo?
And who teaches them? Parents? What are teachers for?
When will parents have the time to sit our children down and teach them how to be intelligent and prudent consumers, and responsible informed citizens?
From what text will average Joe Dad refer to in teaching little Jimmy the pitfalls of owning bank accounts, managing a budget, mitigating debt, investing in shares, saving for a mortgage (if the ability to buy a house is even possible by the time their generation grows up)?
How do we find the time to detail the warning indicators of corruption, of pernicious commercial behaviour and how to council strangers, to manage difficult personalities, to make friends more easily, to identify and deal with inimical approaches, to argue more cogently, to speak publicly? How does a labourer prepare his children for litigation, receiving a court summons, finding a lawyer, signing a contract? How does a lawyer prepare her children for dodgy workmanship?
If schooling aims at the social objective of improving civilisation, improving the way individuals act with each other, thus improving people's lives and then the health of society, and all this through education, then should we not look very carefully at what we are teaching them and ensure it will actually achieve these grand goals?
Or should we just drop the kids off cause the law says we have to, and pick them up when they're eventually let out? Scold them for poor reports and buy them prizes for good ones? Read over their maths and English homework like a conveyor-belt worker at the local assembly plant?
Perhaps we should pay no attention to whether basic school education produces a prepared citizen. Perhaps we should recall alternative reasons for schooling. As Sir Humphrey observed, the reason the British school-leaving age was raised to 16 was to keep jobless teenagers off the streets.