In response to my description of the Maine survey in which the question
was asked "Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? "A
prime goal of education is to prepare kids for work." two-thirds of
teachers disagreed, and two-thirds of citizens agreed. Apparently there is
a disagreement about the fundamental goals of school..."
Ron Dickson replies, "At the risk of sounding pedantic, I suggest that the
conflict was in the question, not necessarily the response. This could be
explained at two levels. First, the question specified "A prime goal..."
not "THE prime goal...." As the thread on semantics would imply, we could
all agree on the former and disagree bitterly on the latter. Second, the
question is awfully broad unless information followed to clarify HOW
education should prepare kids for work. For instance, I could easily agree
that "A prime goal of education is to prepare kids for work" by teaching
them to challenge assumptions, explore their environment, and to draw
independent conclusions. On the surface, agreement with the stem of the
sentence could imply a traditional trade school orientation; however, I
would submit that as completed, the intent is quite different."
** End Quotes **
I agree with Ron the question is inherently ambiguous. However, ambiguous
questions can be valid questions, especially when oneis searching for the
strategic high ground. Here we were looking for common ground among
We might have been able to take all the ambiguity out of the question, but
it would have been so filled with 'whereas' as to be unintelligible.
Fundamentally, this is a question about values, or interestingly, perhaps
We deliberately chose to ask "A prime goal..." not "THE prime goal..."
because we were not trying to split hairs, we were trying to find
commonality and alignment. we did not need to find THE top priority, and
in fact thought that the search for the top priority would be divisive
rather than coalescing.
Ron is right that there is more than one way to interpret the question.
The dramatically different answers are nevertheless a measure of
Let's draw the logic diagram. There are only a few choices. Use 'critical
thinking' to represent one end of the educational spectrum, and vocational
training to represent the other. I realize this is a vast
over-simplification, yet it helps visualize the possible outcomes. the
choice are either that both groups share a common view of 'preparation for
work' or they don't. Therefore, either,
1 Parents & teachers agree the question refers to critical thinking, but
teachers think it is unimportant.
2 Parents & Teachers agree the question refers to voc training, but
teachers think it unimportant.
3 Parents think the question refers to critical thinking, teachers think
voc training, and teachers think it unimportant.
4 Parents think the question refers to voc training, teachers think
critical thinking, and teachers think it is unimportant.
None of these four alternative interretations is a healthy one for our
society or for education.
-- Rol Fessenden LL Bean firstname.lastname@example.org