The Purpose of Learning

Revolution is not ‘showing’ life to people, but making them live. A revolutionary organization must always remember that its objective is not getting its adherents to listen to convincing talks by expert leaders, but getting them to speak for themselves, in order to achieve, or at least strive toward, an equal degree of participation. – Guy Debord

I believe that ultimately, all learning should gather towards revealing who we are as individual people within the collective whole of humanity. Anything in life can be facilitated towards that learning by skilled teachers, and with time we can learn to facilitate that learning within ourselves. Understanding education within that space, life can be understood only as learning, no matter what the opportunities or oppression we face.

This leaves everything else as a discussion about process, and as the best teachers always seem to know, the journey is the destination. So whether the conversation is about standards, methodologies, assessments, or transitions throughout schooling, all of that’s about journeys and traveling.

In this light, discussions about meaningfulness are largely irrelevant. The meaning of an experience is a subjective thing. Because of that, it is arbitrary to talk about what is meaningful for learners or in schools. In a similar way, acceptability is arbitrary, too. That’s a dangerous thing to say, and I’m by no means accepting corporal punishment or drill-and-kill testing. But there are some students who would say that getting spanked and excessively tested are the best ways for them to learn. Because of that, the development of a personal sense of meaningfulness cannot be legislated or mandated in schools, if only because of its arbitrary nature.

What should be done instead is a re-envisioning of what the relationship is between teaching and learning, learning and life. What should be done is a thorough examination of our social norms and cultural outcomes. What should be done is to radically, wholly transform our entire educative process towards becoming a preparation for life as humans, rather than preparation for life as robots, products, or operators.

I want all learners everywhere to gain their humanity, win their lives, and hold themselves in right understanding in the world. That’s what schools should be for.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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