Why Do We Have To Go To School?

Do your kids ask this?

Long ago I used to think therein lay the foe that I would slay as an educator. It was asked simply because schools hadn’t yet found a way to make learning enticing enough. While I continue my quest to make it as inviting as possible (you get more bees with honey after all), I have surrendered to the fact that it’s really hard to beat the happiness of holidays. I burst with joy when I hear children say that they miss school when away, but have stopped torturing myself when not all relish it as much.

So, while neither I nor anyone else has made school the quintessential “place to be” for all children, my career-long efforts have at least given me a response to the question of why children have to go to school. At least, this is what I think the response should be.

  • To acquire knowledge needed to understand the world and as fodder for our thinking.
  • To develop skills that allow us to share our understanding and thinking.
  • To learn how to learn (for it must never end).
  • To learn how to get along and work with many others, including people not of our choosing.
  • To learn how to struggle, even fail, and get back up again.
  • To learn that our actions matter in the world, and to proceed with care.
  • To learn who we are by facing challenge and temptation.
  • To acquire abilities and dispositions that matter in life – curiosity, empathy, persistence, adaptability, leadership and more – so we can wisely navigate our own path to happiness.

It may be hard to beat summer holiday, and I’m glad children have it. Without a doubt, children also learn a lot of value over the summer, not to mention all other occasions outside of school. But more learning must be done while young, much more, and that is what schools are for. Or should be.

I have a clear answer for my sons’ question. I’m left, however, asking my own.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

This article was first published in SNAP Etobicoke, August 2012.

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