Adam Byrn Tritt: Public schools aren’t for just children or parents, but for society as a whole
In a Florida Today op-ed, teacher Adam Byrn Tritt reminds us that parents are not the only stakeholders in public education.
Tenth grade honors English class. Students were working on a short writing exercise. The stimulus? A quote by Alfred Adler, the famed psychologist and personality theorist who postulated humans are driven by the will to power. The desire to affect their world. “Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.” We have already read similarly in Shakespeare and in “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and developer of Logotherapy, Viktor Frankl.
Then, one student raised his hand and asked the purpose of public schools. We all make different connections with material, so questions that seem unconnected really aren’t. I asked them for their ideas.
“So we can get jobs.”
“So we can have better lives.”
“So our parents can go to work.”
I can’t disagree, but let’s look at original purposes. Exigence.
“So we can be happy.”
“To make the world better.”
I asked, why is it that folks without kids still pay for schools for you guys? Why did Jefferson want free education?
Why is it that curriculum isn’t up to parents? Why are school boards not elected by just parents? Because schools aren’t for their benefit. They aren’t for your benefit, either. They are for the collective benefit. Collective. The benefit of our society as a whole, not the individual. The purpose of public education is to ensure the citizens, the voters, have the ability to look critically at facts, and tell fact from fiction, fact from opinion. So voters can make smart decisions based on facts and then become smart officials, and officeholders who make decisions based on what’s best for the country and its people. So we can continue to have a real representative democracy.