Many educational debates are framed very tightly, focusing on minutiae such as curricula, testing, schools, buildings or technology. Although they can be very valuable, such debates often lock themselves into a specific place, an email list, or only reaching a restricted audience. Whilst such topics are very important, they are fragmented; there is a bigger picture of education and learning. Therefore it was good news when Doug and Andy kick-started Purpose/ed as a national, now global conversation, extending across a range of channels. Although there have been Great Debates on education in the past Purpose/Ed is a ground up initiative.
So, for my Purpose/Ed contribution I will argue that the purpose of education is to unlock our world so that we can all have an active and meaningful role in shaping it. Education should help us unlock the wealth of knowledge, ideas and experiences that are often shut away, sometimes deliberately, where access is only permitted to those who have been granted the key by passing tests.
OK then; how do we go about it? The old cliché of unlocking and opening minds seems to be good place to start. I would define an unlocked mind as belonging to someone who can see value in all members of society, who is willing to challenge fixed ideas.
This doesn't require, special tools or technology, just a commitment to help people improve their lives, a common sense of purpose to advance the common interest of humans, in a real world context, such as this example in Afghanistan where books have been the key. I agree with the article's hypothesises that it may actually be easier to open minds where a predominant culture, and/or economic circumstance mitigate against this, and I think we can see this happening around us.
In our Western culture I see school and institutional learning as restrictive, their cultural rituals automatically deny us access to alternative opportunities for learning, locking us into a pedagogical treadmill of knowledge and facts, but without a meaningful context to apply them. Ewan rightly asks "Do we want people to learn at all?"
Although, normally, classrooms are not physically locked, it is very difficult to escape their hold and influence. Timetables and subjects lock us in to a rigid paradigm of stop-start learning. A real alternative is to unlock the the doors and create a welcoming space where communities (children, parents and experts), can learn together and benefit from face to face contact.
Knowledge, competencies and skills can be acquired individually; any place, any time, using current technologies and tools, including those that provide formative feedback. Sadly many of these are locked down in schools, especially our social networks. One only needs to look at Granny Cloud and Facebook to see their value as social glue.
Finally in order to unlock our world we need to have open access to our culture by opening our archives which offer a counterpoint to the official histories, and our academic research in order to let all participate in, and benefit from our collective wisdom.
These are just a few personal starters for unlocking education, I hope the comments may point to many more.