This book encourages readers to think about and discuss the purpose of education. It provides an opportunity to consider how the way in which purposes are framed has consequences for student-teacher relationships and teacher-administrator relationships. The author introduces a moral/ethical dimension into the consideration of purposes—Why would anyone do that to kids? This book suggests that failure to reflect on the purpose of education underlies the lack of impact of many education reform efforts. The author presents a fictional roundtable discussion of educational issues. The participants include teachers, school administrators, state politicians and bureaucrats, parents, community members, and business people.
Jeff Gregg is associate professor of mathematics education at Purdue University Northwest.
About the Author
Fifty years of teaching students from elementary through graduate school has taught me that conversation, discussion, and dialogue can engage them in creating worthwhile educational experiences. I have found the same to be true in work with teachers, school leaders, professors, and diverse publics on key educational issues. I am glad to see in this book that Jeff Gregg advocates a similar perspective. Through creative fictionalized conversations, often drawn from exemplary ideas of insightful scholars, Gregg illustrates ways to reconstruct educational purposes.
The continuous revision of educational purposes based on experiences of enacting them must infuse education at all levels. I encourage readers to extrapolate the ideas and exemplary conversations that they encounter in this book to their continuously changing experiences. I urge readers to pursue such conversation in order to overcome domination of private and public schooling by corporate-state elites and to represent authentic public interests and needs. As many different voices enter conversations about educational purposes, we must remember that student voices are essential. Jeff Gregg has provided a book that illustrates how all involved in schools or influence educational policy need to seriously discuss purposes, meanings, and consequences of what they do. Then, they need to enact their own conversations to fit the needs of their own unique situations. Engaging in such ongoing conversation is, in fact, the process of democratic education.
School: Why Would Anyone Do That to Kids? reminds me why I have love affairs with books. Drawing on a rich intellectual history, simulated conversations teach us the importance of regularly examining the purposes of education and continually questioning the role of school in society. Jeff Gregg constructed a multifaceted conversation that includes broad philosophical positions, extracted from a wide range of educational theorists, and illustrates how such positions have informed educational policy. This depiction of educational history is easy to digest, fun to think about, and helpful to remember when generating forward-looking policies and practices.
Gregg has a lofty goal for this ambitious, creative book—to engage us in reflection on the ultimate educational question: “What is the purpose of school?” What makes the book tantalizingly different is that we are immersed in a rich dialogue of voices that extend from current reformers back to Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann. We become participants in the centuries-old debates about why we send kids to school.