What purpose do schools serve in society? Obviously, they are a site for learning. For some, they are a site to train the next generation in the skills needed for a strong economy. For others, they are a site to train more thoughtful and active citizens. With the recent mass closure of schools (or mass movement to schooling from home), we’ve had a chance to reflect on what else happens at a school.
Punya Mishra and I recently wrote an article thinking about the role and the value of school in the ECNU review of Education (See: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2096531120926687).
We argue that schools are extremely complex sites that do the following:
1. Schools keep kids safe so that adults can go about their business running the economy
2. Schools provide environments for emotional, civic, and social development
3. Schools are hubs for social welfare programs, often for those with the greatest need
4. Schools bring communities together
5. Schools address the unique and specific needs of all learners
However, schools are not held accountable for all of these factors. Instead schools are primarily held accountable for the learning evidenced by end-of-year tests, or graduation rates, or other easily countable statistics.
Punya and I argue that during this time of global crisis, education leaders can a) reevaluate what schools really do and b) rethink school accountability.
All this will help frame school as a place, above all, to inspire.