The purpose of education: the three E’s


I have heard it said that the purpose of education in IPS should ultimately result in one of the three E’s:




I want to offer three alternative E’s for your consideration:




Let us consider the differences between education in different settings.  The elite private schools of Indianapolis certainly don’t offer up “enrollment, enlistment, and employment” as the purposes for the education that they are offering their students.  In fact, one website I visited  included three C’s in their vision: curiosity, compassion, and courage.  It is just me, or are there radically different connotations to each of those lists of words?  Yep.  Enrollment, enlistment, and employment should not be the end game here.  Being enrolled, enlisted, or employed should be natural byproducts of an education that honors and inspires the whole child…a child who is:

EMANCIPATED:  has realized that his current socioeconomic status and/or identity is not predictive of or limiting his future possibilities.

ENLIGHTENED: has been exposed to a wide variety of curricula, activities, and interests, can apply that information to her current circumstance, and is inspired to pursue further learning on topics of her choosing.

EMPOWERED: has realized that his locus of control lies within himself, takes his resources into account and knows when to use them, demonstrates responsibility and self-determination.

Allow me to offer a couple of scenarios for your consideration:

School A students wait outside or on the bus until the bell rings.  Once allowed inside, they walk with bubbles in their mouths and their arms crossed in hallway hugs on the right side of the hallway, using the red tape line as a guide, with absolutely no talking.  They arrive at their classroom, and are greeted by an under-appreciated, underpaid and overworked teacher, who (in some cases) loves them anyway, and are doing the absolute best they can despite the current conditions.  School A student sits at their desk, quietly doing bell work.  Their day consists of a math block, a reading block (typically with basal readers and pre-made worksheets), and Science or Social Studies if it’s in a grade where it’s tested on ISTEP, and when there is time in the day for it.  The Indiana Academic Standards are posted on the wall so we always know which ones we are currently working on, and because there will be a test soon.  There is always an upcoming test; quizzes, benchmarks, I-READS, I-STEPS.  Student A gets gym twice a week, Music twice a week, and Art on a cart or library once a week.  She gets the same lunch as everyone else, whether kindergarten or high school athlete.  She sits down at the long cafeteria table, next to the kid in line according to alphabetical order.  Sometimes she has to sit in silence with the lights out at lunch, while a stressed out adult yells at them through a microphone to be quiet.  If she talks, she get after school detention.

A student from school B arrives at school early to go and speak with his favorite teacher before class starts.  There are no bells, but student B knows when it’s time to head to homeroom because he can hear the happy chatter of students in the halls.  Teachers throughout the halls are standing at their doors, smiling, and greeting students.  Student B enters the classroom and gets ready for his discussion in circle time.  He knows he will have to plan his day of learning, and his teacher guides him in planning to make choices throughout the day, such as where to sit, how to see the best in his (sometimes annoying) classmates, which books to read, which topics to write about, which centers to visit during math workshop.  When his friend helps him to discover grouping pumpkin seeds by ten to count rather than counting by ones, his teacher notes his success and celebrates by asking the class to stop and watch his demonstration.  At lunch, he sits outside in the spring air with a chosen group of friends but plans to visit the library during lunch tomorrow. In the afternoon, he has a disagreement with a peer that wouldn’t leave him alone.  He had to set aside time to attend a peace mediation session with his teacher, and everything is back to normal now – which is great, because the best part of his day is going to the Environmental Club after school.

As you think about the differences in the vignettes from school A vs. school B, please consider the following:
  • What organizational differences in these two settings are creating such a vast gap in the learning experiences of students?  What is the “work” culture of these two districts?  What policies are in place to set these conditions?  What role might standardized testing play?  How might the concept of accountability be experienced differently in school A vs. school B?
  • What do you think the adults in school A are doing differently than the adults in school B?
  • Trick question: which school has the highest paid outside consultants? (Hint: it’s not the one you might think.)
  • Which school offers more individual freedom?  What are the consequences of allowing students to make authentic choices, both negative and positive? (dare I say it, student AUTONOMY?)
  • How might the opportunity to make decisions in school affect a student’s learning…after all, isn’t LIFE about the ability for people to make sound decisions for themselves?
  • Over 12 years of schooling, what cumulative effects can we expect on human lives?  In other words, which set of three E’s is school A preparing students for?  School B?
  • Which school is designed to produce leaders and innovators?  Which school is designed to produce worker bees?  Does either school encourage the questioning of authority, or the status quo? Is this by design?
  • Does student A DESERVE different treatment than student B, based on an ability to pay for a private school education?  To what extent (if any) can a public school offer a private school education (or a semblance of it)?
For the first time ever, I am allowing comments on this blog thread.  Responses are moderated, and idiocy of any kind is not tolerated.  Let’s discuss the questions above, and the general idea of the PURPOSE of education, public, charter, and private.  If your comments do not get posted, it’s because you did not give input to the questions.  Or you were inappropriate. Don’t take it personal…
Do you want to share the story of what is going on in your Indianapolis school?  I am inviting teachers, school staff and students to write about their experiences, good and bad, to be shared anonymously (or not, you choose) on my blog.  Please email submissions to:
These thoughts are my own and do not reflect IPS or any other entity.  I assume no responsibility for the comments of others on this blog or in any other format.



3 thoughts on “The purpose of education: the three E’s

  1. Thanks for another fabulous post,Gayle. I have a child who attends a public elementary school much like student B. The school, because of districting, has probably less than 10% free-and-reduced lunch. When I walk him into school in the morning, the teachers smile and greet him standing outside their doors as students enter their classrooms. There is excitement and laughter and noise (they are children, after all) as they file through the halls to their respective classrooms. On the walls is evidence of kids’ work–nothing pre-fab, total creativity and child-centered. There is no evidence on the walls that ISTEP will soon be rearing its ugly head. That’s because the stakes are so low for this school.

    Across town my friend’s son attends a school that is about 90% free and reduced lunch (why-oh-why do we allow this segregation?). I know that the teacher turnover there has been through the roof. Perhaps they allow laughter and chatter through the halls at the start of the day. Perhaps they greet the kids warmly (I suspect that they do). But what they have on the wall is a countdown– ever since early last fall– of how many days until ISTEP. There is evidence on the walls that this is the purpose of their days: to be prepared to score well and score high or face dire consequences. The stress of these high stakes permeate the building.

    When will we care enough about equal educational opportunity to ensure that every child who walks into his or her neighborhood school will be allowed to learn as a child does: following his or her interests, using his or her whole body in movement and play, laughing and chatting and following curiosity?

    When will we care enough about the integrity of education to allow teachers to do what they have been been educated and trained to do: teach in developmentally appropriate ways in order to meet the myriad of abilities and interests of their students? When will we respect them enough to allow them to do more teaching than they do collecting the “proof” of success through constant assessment and data?

    When will we recognize that the test-driven “accountability” movement has ensured that the purpose of public education is to test well and that this is not even ONE of the important characteristics of an informed, well-educated citizen upon which our democracy depends??? Is the purpose of public education to become an efficient factory system outputting workers for Corporate Global Elites? Is it a free-market system upon which to make a profit? OR.. is it an essential COMMON GOOD ensuring that our democracy will be healthy and vibrant and strong?

    Argh. We have got to vote out these corporate reformers and the corporate reformer-on-high (Gov. Pence) in the fall. I fear for the future. I fear for our children.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for bring up the inequity of schooling as one of the many facets of inequities causing racial, poverty and disability disparities in our nation. Just found this video this morning which lists standardized testing as one inequity:
    When we, as a society, accept the false narrative of a definition of “high quality education” based only on results of unethical once a year state standardized testing and our nation’s children in public schools are forced to endure psychological hostile learning environments, their teachers forced to endure hostile work environments and our local public schools are closed or turned over to for-profit organizations based only on the results of these unethical high stakes standardized state tests, we only have ourselves, citizens, to blame for not standing up for the injustices imposed on our children, their teachers and our local community schools. Private schools use internationally bench marked assessments, like PISA, not statistically irrelevant, unreliable and invalid state tests like ISTEP or ECAs.
    When public school educated children are being forced to endure school environments just like prison (no talking, walk in single-file straight like against the wall, etc.) and our state and national leaders have allowed fixed quotos for prison owners to get paid for whether prison beds are filled or not, it is no wonder that public school children have a higher rate of incarceration. When children are being psychologically abused by messages that they MUST pass these unethical assessments, it creates hostile learning environments for our children.
    When our children’s teachers are being unethically assessed for and accountable for their performance based on these unethical high stakes standardized assessments of children, they are working in hostile working environments.
    When we accept the false narrative that public schools are failing when it is truly the educational leaders of our state and our nation failing to ethically treat and fund public schools, we fail our children and our future citizens.
    The one important national historical alternative to the forced “College and Career Readiness” push from our leaders is entrepreneurship. Why is this important option left out of public schools? Is it a continuation of the history of slavery and colonialism in our nation? If you think not, why is it taught in private schools and not public schools?
    I, for one, am extremely concerned about the lack of community concern, empathy, critical thinking/judgement and compassion skills that all public school children are missing from these forced false narrative and extremely concerned about who will be changing my adult diapers: one who can score high on a standardized test but has no empathy for others and just there for a check (might even have to check the standardized operating manual to figure out what to do about a bedsore) or one who understands we are all human, learn at different paces and in different ways, has compassion and empathy.
    Will the inequities in public education in our nation be cause of the next revolution….re-Evolution? There was a Rolling Stone magazine article over 10 years ago that predicted this. Is the Opt Out movement the beginning of the people standing up to these injustices? Over 200,000 parents opted their children out of the high stakes standardized tests in New York last year. If you want more information about the civil disobedience act and exercising of parental rights act of the Opt Out movement, please visit or join your state’s facebook page: OPT OUT of the State Test: YourStateName.
    Please be clear, the opt out choice is an individual parent’s choice..and student’s choice. No one is forcing them to take these actions, except those that are causing the unethical treatment and harm of children, their teachers and our local community schools. They chose to fight the corruption and say, “NO”, “No, you will not continue harming children, teachers and our local community schools.” “No, you will not continue robbing funding for public schools based off false narratives and false definitions of a ‘high quality education’.” “Stop doing harm.”….and don’t bully or harass those that have the courage to speak the truth and speak up for their and all children.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wondering why we can’t merge school A and school B? Is there a reason school A students can’t start their day like B or have lunch like B? Schools under the big umbrella of a district still could have some freedom of choices…

    Liked by 1 person

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