What are we doing, and why are we doing it? What is the end goal of education?
Are high schools training programs for colleges and ultimately for career success? Let’s hope this is not the prime motivation for a good education. College placement and career preparation are good byproducts of a quality education. However, they shouldn't be the central reason we teach and learn. Sadly, many students, institutions, and parents place this goal at the heart of the educational process. At Pacifica, students get into great colleges. Just this fall Pacifica grads started post-graduate work at MIT, Columbia and laws schools like George Washington. This is a great accomplishment and fun to celebrate. However, most importantly these alums are outstanding men and women who are flourishing in relationships, independent thinkers, strong in virtue and faith and who are leaders making an impact on those around them.
Are schools supposed to teach students what to think? No, they should be tasked with teaching students how to think. Perhaps a school prescribes what students might think about, but teaching students what to think is not the reason for education. Teaching students how to think and to share differing opinions with humility and intellectual hospitality is a good and necessary end goal for education. This does not mean that there isn’t a place in education for passing down traditions, transmitting culture, and sharing values. The key is encouraging students to question and grapple with difficult topics while creating an atmosphere of inquiry, respect, and freedom to think. Teaching students what to think is indoctrination and is not thinking at all. It appears, however, that many institutions have decided teaching students what to think is key.
Perhaps schools should serve as instruments of socialization and civic responsibility. Yes, they do, but this still is not the primary goal or the main purpose of education. Proms, sports teams, extracurricular activities, blood drives, voter registration, and political activism are all positive aspects of education but still miss the mark.
Information delivery or forming lives?
Today, most schools are in the information delivery business. Students take courses and learn information so they can be ready for college and eventually a career. Information delivery is essential as well as builds vital skills. No school worth its salt will cease delivering information and building skills. However, there is also the business of formation—the formation of a student’s mind, heart, and soul is the chief goal of education. A great school will go beyond informing and will seek to form students into the kind of people who think and live well. Formation teaches students how to think, stretches their imaginations, challenges their ideas, builds their skills, delivers information, socializes them, seeks to build virtue, asks big questions, develops grit, perseveres, teaches them to learn from failure, asks them to consider others, gets them outside of themselves, and will certainly place them in outstanding universities and prepare them for career success, but preeminently, it teaches students how to be more fully human. Formation leads to a life of direction, purpose, and joy.
What we can learn from the latest college scandal is that priorities and the reason we do things are important. The wrong purpose and misplaced priorities can lead us down the wrong road. An education that that prioritizes the mind, heart, and soul will help lead to an abundant life of goodness and joy and a good job. At Pacifica we talk about building outstanding lives and not just mere resumes. Guess what? As our students focus on building a foundation for life they build some of the most outstanding resumes I have seen. Again, it is a question of focus, priority and purpose.
At Pacifica, formation is a noble calling, and it takes the hard work of students, parents, teachers, and coaches coming together around an inspiring mission to be fulfilled. Institutions that inform are common. Institutions like Pacifica that form are an honor to be a part of.