What’s the purpose of education?

I’m not about to launch into some faux philosophical lament about education versus knowledge or anything like that.

What are we trying to achieve with the education system in America?

Prepare kids for college?

Teach civic mindedness and bring up each new generation according to a common set of national values?

Fight poverty?

Make sure everyone knows their multiplication tables?

To create adults who can compete in a global economy?

To create lifelong learners?

To create emotionally healthy adults who can engage in meaningful relationships?

Assimilate immigrants?

Prepare our citizens to be competitive on the global economy?

The U.S. Department of Education website doesn’t offer much help on this issue. (Which is probably all the better.) Their mission to “promote student achievement.” Achievement of what exactly is harder to say.

How can we possibly have a nationally directed education system when we probably won’t even find consensus in a neighborhood about what we are trying to achieve?