Erikson had two important contributions to developmental theories.
1. Erikson tied development to problems and conflicts that must be dealt with at different ages. As opposed to Freud, who stated that the conflicts are intrapscyhic, Erikson looked at the social and interactional goals necessary for progression. For example, if an infant did not learn to 'trust' , it would be very difficult for it to progress on to the next stage and through out life.
2. Erikson posited that development continued through out life. Freud said development ending with heterosexual coupling and identity. Erikson stated that each stage brought different societal difficulties that needed to be resolved. For example, in old age, people are to strive for integrity. Despite losses of friends, economic power, physical stamina, social status, it is hoped that an individual, in their life review, can identify worthwhile and significant events in their lives that leave them feeling a sense of worth. If not able to do this, they may experience despair and feel overwhelmed by the prospect of death.
Children's education allows an arena for children to work on their development. Using Erikson's stages, we see the latency age child, 6-12, learning initiative and a sense of mastery. In response of cognitive and physioloigical changes in children, they are presented with increasingly complicated lesson plans, so that they can develop mastery. For example, in math the children start with identification and understanding about numbers. They progress to addition and subtraction with increasingly higher numbers, and then multiplication and division.
High school also provides a place for adolescence to work on " ego identity vs. ego diffusion". Especially in American high schools, there are clear achievements or ways that the child can identify him- or herself. They can be smart, or musical, or a performer,athlete, or be academically bright. Also, in high school, 'types' help align children with possible identities. They may be classified or classify themselves as a 'nerd' or a 'jock' or a 'punk'. These artificial "caricatures" may help them feel included with others through this time, but it is expected that as they move on to the next stage, the high school "identity" can be softened.
Education provided the social settings for these developmental challenges to be resolved.