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Juliann Tacconi
Rosemary Carolan
Introduction to Education
2 April 2015
First Reflection Letter
My thinking about the goals of education have evolved as a result of our class readings
and discussions. In this essay, I argue that the purpose of education in a democratic society is to
provide students with various opportunities and methods, both academic and cultural, which are
conducive to their learning styles/preferences, so that they may flourish not only academically,
culturally as well. This view fits with arguments made by several scholars including Duckworth,
Kohn, Dewey, Wallerstein, and Ladson-Billings. First, I will describe how each of these scholars
supports my view of the purposes of education. Next, I will explain how today’s schools are
constrained from fulfilling this purpose. Finally, I will offer suggestions which I believe will
facilitate the education system in achieving the purposes and outcomes which I think education
in a democratic society should provide.
In order to cater to students’ academic styles and preferences, the educator must allow the
student to have “wonderful ideas” (Duckworth,1987, pg. 6). The concept of “wonderful ideas”
states that educators must allow students to explore, discover, and make their own connections,
while making the student feel positively about those academic endeavors. In allowing students to
make discoveries on their own, the educator is able to observe how the student acquires and
retains knowledge for future, successful lessons, while the student learns what methods or
subjects interests them. The idea of interest is crucial in the educational world because “several

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studies have found a positive correlation between intrinsic motivation and academic achievement
for children” (Kohn, 1989, pg. 220). When a student is interested and invested in academics, they
are more likely to succeed and flourish. With interest, always comes disinterest, and with
disinterest, usually follows struggle. However, it the educator’s job to make sure a child never
feels inferior for doing poorly, or, on the other hand, exceedingly superior for performing at a
higher level than his/her peers. This is important because, “Superiority and inferiority are
meaningless words taken by themselves” (Dewey,1922/1966), pg.172). A student may excel in
mathematics, yet struggle with reading comprehension. Therefore, the labels “superior” or
“inferior” are useless, non-applicable labels which limit the students. It is the educator’s job to
avoid using those labels and to stop perpetuating their concepts. Aside from academic feats, it is
also crucial for the educator to address, incorporate, and allow cultural practices in the classroom
because “education is not neutral…the interaction of teacher and student does not take place in a
vacuum” (Wallerstein, 1987, pg. 33). Children come in to school with unique backgrounds and
home-life situations. What the child carries with them is so much more than academic
knowledge; they carry their cultural and social knowledge with them as well. It is a part of them.
Therefore acknowledgment and incorporation of this is necessary for their growth and
development as people. This concept is furthered by Gloria Ladson Billings’ claim that, “The
notion of cultural relevance moves beyond language to include other aspects of student and
school culture…Specifically, culturally relevant teaching is a pedagogy that empowers students
by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (1994, pgs.20-21). Her
claim validates the point that culture is a necessity in the classroom, but also to a student’s
overall growth as an academic and well-rounded human being.

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Today’s schools are constrained from fulfilling the purpose of education. This is true
because rather than allowing students to have their own “wonderful ideas,” they stick to strict
lesson plans, often times telling students information instead of letting them discover and explore
on their own. Also, many teachers do not show enough interest in students. They do not take the
time to thoroughly observe the child, therefore, they are unable to incorporate the students’
interests into the lesson plans. Thus, the student feels disconnected from what they are learning.
They cannot make connections or applications to their own lives, therefore, the material is
deemed boring or useless. The education system also puts too much emphasis on superiority and
inferiority. Children are in competition with each other, but also with themselves. This can
produce a low self-esteem, or an inflated ego, both of which are detrimental and hindering to a
child’s learning capabilities. Superiority and inferiority are also useless terms as very few
children are superior or inferior for all of their academic subjects. Aside from academic-related
flaws, schools often fail to acknowledge and incorporate culture into their lessons and
community. Lessons with no cultural or social connections often seem empty to students. It is
vital to acknowledge who they are outside of the academic setting.
In the conclusion of this essay, I recognize that no school system is perfect, and it is
nearly impossible to meet what I believe the purpose of education is without struggle and
complete educational reform. However, I do believe there are small changes that could easily be
applied to any classroom in order to get one step closer to fulfilling the purpose of education. My
suggestions include allowing the students to take control of the lesson. Let them explore. Sure,
the discussion or experiment may not follow the intended plan, but they will get so much more
out of it knowing that their actions and discoveries gained them knowledge, rather than simply

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being told or shown. Next, educators should take interest in their students. See what they like,
what makes them excited. Incorporate that into the lesson plan. Also, never make a student feel
inferior or superior in comparison to others, or in relation to themselves. All students have
strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial to remember that. Finally, learn about the students’
cultures. Teach lessons that are “culturally relevant”, and teach in a way that coincides with their
cultures whether that may be socially, ethnically, racially, etc. Always acknowledge their
cultures, it helps draw connections between school and life, promoting a stronger willingness to
learn. I do believe that today’s schools have come far in fulfilling the purpose of education,
however, they have a long way to go. Hopefully, several small adjustments over time will allow
schools to evolve into a more conducive setting to meet the purpose of education.

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References
Dewey, J. (1922/1966). Individuality, equality and superiority. In J. Ratner (Ed.), Education
today. (pp. 171-177). New York: Macmillan. 

Duckworth, E.(1987). The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Essays on Teaching and
Learning. New York: Teachers College Press. pp.1-14
Kohn, A. (1999) Punished by rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Pp. 142-159.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The Dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American
Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wallerstein, N (1987). In I. Shor, (Ed.), Freire for the classroom: A sourcebook for liberatory
teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman. Chapter 2 .