All youngsters deserve the opportunity to attend schools where the opportunities for learning are maximized. This elusive goal requires that schools and programs constantly renew themselves—getting better and better. Unfortunately, many efforts intended to improve schools have failed to meet expectations and most innovations, including those which are particularly compelling, have stalled and then faded. One often-cited reason for this discouraging trend is an acknowledged absence of common purpose of education and individual schools among the major players: policymakers, business leaders, academics, schooling personnel, and the communities that make up the moral ecology that holds our schools and this nation together. It has not been possible to achieve a shared understanding of why we educate in a democracy. The primary purpose for this resource page is to respond to this need by providing tools designed to foster thoughtful conversation regarding the public purposes for education in a democracy.
This resource page consists of three key components: (a) an introductory rationale that explains why examination and clarification of the purposes for schooling is so important; (b) a series of engagement tools, framed as scenarios (case studies), which are designed to foster thoughtful reflection about schooling in a democratic society; and (c) a template for constructing scenarios.
This resource page is linked to a blog site (http://purposesforschools.blogspot.com/). This blog extends the work described above by providing other types of engagement tools. These additional tools include a series of recommended websites, a list of videos which can be accessed online, and a place for conversation; visitors to the blog are encouraged to post comments and questions.
Work such as this is central to the Agenda of the National Network for Educational Renewal or NNER. We encourage you to read the introduction to our work, where you’ll find the NNER’s key premises.
The NNER and the authors of this work invite policymakers, business leaders, academics, schooling personnel, and communities, ideally working in collaborative environments that bring together diverse voices and perspectives, to use these engagement tools.