What is the purpose of public schools?
A story about a school in Portugal is receiving a lot of attention. The school allegedly posted this sign (in English). While probably a fake news story, it begs a very real question … What is the purpose of public schools?
The sign reads:
• We would like to remind you that magic words such as hello, please, you’re welcome, I’m sorry, and thank you, all begin to be learned at home.
• It’s also at home that children learn to be honest, to be on time, diligent, show friends their sympathy, as well as show utmost respect for their elders and all teachers.
• Home is where they learn to be clean, not talk with their mouths full, and how/where to properly dispose of garbage.
• Home is also where they learn to be organized, to take good care of their belongings, and that it’s not ok to touch others.
• Here at school, on the other hand, we teach language, math, history, geography, physics, sciences, and physical education. We only reinforce the education that children receive at home from their parents.
sent via Facebook
While many parents view the public school as free day care and most view it as the place where young citizens are educated in preparation for either work or a higher education, I believe it is a child’s introduction to their greater community beyond their family, where they do their important work of learning to play well with others, practice the skills related to living and learning in community, and gain a set of knowledge and skills upon which they can learn independently in the future. That’s probably wrong to most and I’ll likely get blasted, but somebody has to start this discussion…
Over the years, I have heard these exact concerns from teachers. Children arrive unprepared. Their behavior is less than stellar. Oftentimes, they haven’t even had one bite to eat. Teachers should teach, yet too often, teachers are left to parent. This is not their job. BUT — if we don’t respond to the need to parent in our schools, the cycle will not end. This is why I have always advocated for more support for teachers in the classroom as well as more social workers, counselors and high-quality after school care programs.