David Hutchison, the co-developer of this course companion website, has written about the role and importance public education. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of his book, A Natural History of Place in Education (2004):
"Schools are places which are imbued with meaning - both shared and private. They act as conduits of ideas and practices within which cultural knowledge, norms, values, attitudes, and skills are passed from one generation to the next. As students, teachers, parents, and citizens, we invest schools with the responsibility for continually renewing (or perhaps transforming) the social fabric of society. For adults, schools hold the promise of a secure future life for our children. For students, schools also serve as formative sites where social roles and moral codes of conduct can be tested out and practiced.
To study the role of place in education is to study the institutional bridge that ensures our cultural continuance, that connects one adult generation to the next...
...For over a century now, schools have held a special place in the public consciousness. Witness the never-ending public debate over the aims and methodologies of schooling...As specialized places dedicated to the education of the young we invest schools with both shared and contested meanings related to their role in shaping the hearts, minds, and skills of the next generation. Many of us also invest such places with our deepest sentiments and aspirations - e.g., the promise of equal opportunity for all, the hopes for a better future life for our children, and the promise of a socially responsible and highly educated citizenry. There is a general recognition, despite competing agendas for reform, that schools should formally inculcate each new generation into the norms and values of society.
As formal, (mostly) publicly-funded institutions, K-12 schools perhaps remain the last bastion of mandated community involvement in child socialization. As parents and citizens, we count on this bastion to mediate, counter, and offset the unchecked influence of other less formal institutions, such as the peer group, media, and popular culture, by providing a corrective or compensatory measure to our children's education."