Let’s continue to establish the necessary contexts for thinking about education. When we’re trying to figure what kind of education our society needs, we need to ask, first, whether we’re talking about some base level of education that we think everyone should have, or specialized forms of education that some people surely need to have, but not all.

Related to that, we need to ask what age group we’re talking about: preschool and elementary, middle school, high school, or college (and even post-collegiate).

And then we also need to pursue the most neglected question of all: Who’s asking? There are several parties concerned with education, and they don’t all have the same values, commitments, and interests. What parents want from their children’s schooling will often be in some tension with how governments will envision the education of citizens. In many parts of the world religious organizations have created educational systems, whose priorities will often be different from those of parents and governments alike. And what about the students themselves? What do they want, and to what extent should their desires be considered?

These are the first coordinates we need to keep in mind before we start talking about education.