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The Purposes of Education in American Democracy

Introduction

On April 25, 1938 the Educational Policies Commission voted and approved the publication of The Purposes of Education in American Democracy. The committee’s purpose of the publication was to accomplish two things. The first was what the committee believed schools within the United States should accomplish as in educational objectives and second how to reach those educational objectives (vii). The commission expressed the importance of the kind of society in which we live to be of great importance to education. It was also stated that achievement of democracy was an increasing problem facing the profession of educators. The book’s purpose was to help lead you to think for yourself along with others dealing with your daily work, to increase your skills and thoughts within your profession, and to realize the great opportunities which you have as well as obligations (vii).

The Nature and Sources of Educational Objectives

The commission believed educational objectives relate to a scale of values (p. 1). To determine what the scale of values would include depends primarily on place to place as well as day to day within a society. The purpose of education evolves and will reflect and interact with people in their everyday lives (Hanley, Roehrig, Canto 2015). Moral standards and ideas reflect through values which will thrive within education relating what is good to all future generations that are still to come (p. 2). The ever-changing world in which we live promotes the constant study and revision of education to hold more meaning to people and to be fruitful within our schools (Hanley, Roehrig, Canto 2015). Society determines and influences values which people cherish. Economic and social situations should not promote educational objectives. In the educational realm, changes within education must have a purpose. According to the author Rogers, the Educational Policies Commission set the objectives in education around the development of a person, his or her relationship with others, economic efficiency within a society, and the commitment to civic responsibility (1980). The values and moral standards taught through the American educational system were to build a thriving and democratic society to be proud of within the United States.

The Objectives of Education

The interests in objectives and educational purposes differ greatly from many different sources which include educational leaders, professional groups, youth, and ordinary citizens. The committee stated, “The term education implies the existence of some person other than the learner, a person moreover who is interested in the outcome and who desires to encourage one type of conduct rather than another” (p. 41). Ideals and values are important behaviors which education seeks to find mastery of knowledge, acquisition of such attitudes, and development of habits found by the learner to be desirable. According to the committee, social and personal values appear to be a way of living known as a democratic ideal. The ideals and values are a part of the American educational system which enhances the democratic way of life. In 1938, the committee found it necessary to establish guidelines within the educational realm to help students reach the potential of being a good citizen within a democracy. Schlesinger states, “It seems bizarre to have to make the case that the public school system should prepare citizens for democracy. This is, after all, why our public school system was founded in the first place” (p.88). The guidelines included objectives of self-realization, human relationship, economic efficiency, and civic responsibility. The committee found each of the areas to relate to each other and concentrate around the individual, relationships within others in the home and community, creation and use of material wealth, and socio-civic activities (p. 47). 

The Objectives of Self-Realization

The committee believed that it was important to begin the objectives with the development of the individual learner and through the interaction of the learner and society (p. 52). The immaturity in which a young person attains blossoms over many years of education which promotes from their curiosity and grows into human knowledge. The committee stated, “A little knowledge is a wholesome thing; only its misuse is dangerous” (p. 52). Learning is not based solely on books but also with continuing study, experience, experiment, and reflection (p.53). Formal schooling is only a starting point for which an individual will grow throughout their lifetime. The objectives which the committee outlined targeted the areas of need within the educational system. The committee highlighted the areas of self-realization of the inquiring mind, speech, reading, writing, number, sight and hearing, health knowledge, public health, recreation intellectual interests, esthetic interests, and character. The committee sought education for self-realization in a democracy which permits an individual to seek his or her own way when pertaining to religious philosophy through an atmosphere of tolerance and freedom (p.69). The separation of Church and State which gives every man and woman complete freedom of religious belief and opinion (p. 68), was upheld and respected by the committee as an educated person has the responsible direction to his or her own life through democracy. The committee believed that each person develops his or her own philosophy of life through the learning process.