Scholars and Citizens

As an educator reflecting on ten years of professional practice and four years at Kidblog building the world’s leading student blogging platform, I often ponder the question:

What is the purpose of school?

The answer is certainly open to thoughtful political, economic, philosophical, and even spiritual debate.  A Google search for “purpose of school” reveals myriad opinions.  My answer is the same today as it was when I welcomed my first group of students into the classroom ten years ago:

The purpose of school is to create scholars and citizens.

This mission remains constant, regardless of technology’s and politicians’ role in creating an ever-changing education landscape. The two terms “scholar” and “citizen” embody the essence of the purpose of school.

  • As scholars, we value learning for its own sake
  • As citizens, we apply our knowledge in the context of a broader community

Full credit for this succinct philosophy of education goes to Dr. Michael Hartoonian, former professor at the University of Minnesota. In his own words:

It is only the citizen-scholar who can create wealth – wealthy families, schools, firms, and nation… In this light, schools are community wealth creators, not wealth consumers. Those who do not understand this have little business in the profession of education, for they don’t know what to protect, sustain, and improve…

[E]ducators must embrace the responsibility of their profession and align purpose with practice. The ascendancy of intellectual virtue manifested in scholarship and citizenship may be the only way to transcend and address issues like achievement gaps, drop-out rates, and even global competition. It’s amazing what a person can do with the identity and responsibility of citizen-scholar.

In this way, school represents a microcosm of the nation’s collective cultural ecosystem, fueled by the fire of knowledge and the engine of interpersonal engagement. Schools give us a framework for cultivating rich learning experiences and empowering positive social responses to these new understandings. In short, meaningful learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

Will Richardson, one of the foremost advocates for creating conversations around this topic, states:

I have hope because I see more and more individual classrooms that are beginning to understand what abundance means, places where teachers and kids are getting connected, doing real, meaningful, beautiful work for real audiences that help students become true modern learners in the process.

Our work at Kidblog is all about helping students share their voice with a meaningful purpose for an authentic audience.

While education thought-leadership is fraught with abstractions and trite motivational phrases, I continue to believe in the power of scholarship and citizenship as (perhaps the only) forces for the betterment of individual well-being and our global society.

-Matt Hardy
Co-founder & CEO, Kidblog Inc.

About the Author
The Kidblog team is passionate about helping students find their voice within a safe, teacher-moderated environment.

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