by Martin Cothran

One of the trends in American education since the 1940s is to move the focus of schools away from academics and toward wider social goals. It would be one thing if schools had conquered the academic problem and were going on to further conquests in other areas, but no one seriously thinks American schools have done this.

Regardless of problems in even basic areas like reading and mathematics, which study after study continue to show schools are not doing well, our educational institutions have moved on to other concerns. Not only do schools continue to add free meal programs to their institutional menus, but employment services, physical and mental health services, environmental initiatives, and now diversity programs  have been added to a growing list of non-academic initiatives. These kinds of programs certainly have value, but their role in an institution whose purpose is inherently academic has a cost.

With schools so over-committed on things that have traditionally not been a part of their academic mission, a new poll of American attitudes toward public schools commissioned by Phi Delta Kappa is instructive. It shows that, while schools are increasingly confused about their purpose, most Americans know what schools are for.

One of the questions asked in the survey was this one:

“What do you think should be the main goal of a public school education: to prepare students academically, to prepare them for work, or to prepare them to be good citizens?”

The results showed that forty-five percent of Americans believe the main goal of education is to prepare students academically.

Interestingly, Phi Beta Kappa downplayed the result: “Fewer than half of Americans (45%) view the main goal of public education as preparing students academically.”

Fewer? The academic goal garnered almost twice the support of either of the other two alternatives.

Another interesting finding is that the proportion of respondents who believe that schools should focus on academics rises significantly when only parents of school-age children are taken into account:

Putting a priority on academics peaks at 56% among parents with at least one child in public school, compared with four in 10 of those who don’t have a school-age child. Half of those between ages 30 and 64 pick academics, compared with 37% of both younger and older Americans, who instead are more likely to emphasize citizenship.

The net result is that most parents of school children think academic instruction is the purpose of schools. That’s an important finding in an educational world where the purpose of schools has become a playground for non-academic interests.

Schools doing the Classical Core Curriculum should remember this fact about school parents (a fact likely to be far more pronounced among private Christian parents): for the most part, they value a specifically academic education.
HT: Intellectual Takeout

Categories: Exordium

Skip to content