What is the purpose of education? I have thought a lot about this question.
We are now at a crossroads on how we proceed with education. Before us are two choices: continue in the direction we are going or come up with a truly unique Utah education for our children. As we move forward let us not drift from the family values which have always anchored us in the past.
It is important to remember that parents have given schools a great trust with their children for most of their formative years. The lessons taught them will largely determine how they think and act throughout their lives. This is why we do a great disservice to our children when we implement programs and mandates that weaken the families we serve. The family is the fundamental unit of society and the state school board should always keep this foremost on their minds as they work to create the future of education in Utah.
School board members must represent the parents and families of Utah, not the Utah Office of Education. They should always reassert the primary right of parents in the education of their children. There is a growing tendency to shift this educational responsibility from the home to outside influences. We need a State school board with organization skills that will develop a better working relationship between schools and families. Schools in Utah should not be in a power struggle between parents and the state board of education. We need parents who are courageous enough to lead out in the education of their children. We can not forget the most basic principle, which is, that parents are the primary educators of their children. We need schools that are wise enough to recognize that basic principle and we need a state school board willing to stand and protect that principle.
The key to the future of education comes from lessons of the past. There is a beautiful heritage found here in Utah. It is important that we teach the character traits of the past so that we can add on to them for the future. This is the shaping of ideals and beliefs. Let me be clear when I talk about character. I am not talking about the character curriculum we are currently learning in schools. Although the character curriculum many Utah schools are using are cute and have fun songs for the children to learn, they fail to include what our ancestors knew was vital for their own character development. Our ancestors taught their children character through the trials and experiences within a family and close community settings.
One such example is that of Andreas Olsen who built the roof on one of the most beautiful buildings we have here in America. He was a Norwegian ship builder and had learned how to build sailboats. Having had no experience building roofs, he took the same principle used to build a ship and applied it for building a roof. He reasoned that a well built ship is solid and waterproof. He used the fundamental skills of his trade. The plans were drawn to build a ship and when finished they were turned upside down and used to construct the roof of the Manti temple. This is a great example of the character trait of perseverance. Seeing a problem and using innovation to solve it.
This Creative innovation has always shaped our land. Long before our pioneer ancestors came to this valley, the Anasazi cliff dwellers used large stone structures to build their community. We can learn a lot from these unique stone structures. Each stone had its own shape and characteristic that played an important role in building their community. Man made bricks that all look and act alike may be functional but lack the beauty and uniqueness that endure the test of time. We should follow the example of the Anasazi as we teach our children. Instead of making every child common we need to develop an educational system that encourages the uniqueness of each of our children, instead of focussing on the common traits that are so temporary.
Utah families deserve school board members that recognize that parents know best. But not only parents, but grandparents and great grandparents and on and on! Let’s use the lessons of the past to help influence the world. We don’t need to train our children to compete in a global economy, we need to prepare Utah children to lead in a global community! The only way to do this is to leave the global idea of education behind and turn to the lessons of the past.
Utah was innovative in bringing people from around the world in the mid 1800s utilizing their strengths, talents and skills and used the strength of each individual to build a beautiful society. They did not compete but rather worked together to build a thriving economy here in Utah. It is now our time to show the world how to do this. Let us follow the pattern our forefathers have taught us and work with the character, innovation and our individual uniqueness to encourage Utah students to become a great influence on the world around us.
Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children, linking the principles and truths of the past to build the future – that is the purpose of education.