Saturday, July 10, 2010

Classical Education Comments - part 1

Over the summer, I had a chance to review the 500+ comments that were left for a NY Times articles titled A Classical Education: Back to the Future. The article was interesting, but the comments were even more interesting. The comments had lots of passion with different perspectives. It opened my eyes to the need for teaching a new generation of reading skills to handle the online world. Here is the first part (of three) of the more pithy comments:

  • In the end, graduation from one's school is only the end of the beginning. If parents, grandparents, and educators can engender a love of learning in a student, learning can be a satisfying and lifelong process. [comment #1]
  • Sometimes, I think that people forget the value of a good test. If the test is good, teaching to it isn't a bad thing. Short-cuts produce worse results in the long-term, but better results in the short-term. [comment #2]
  • An important challenge of education is to make the students interested in and curious about a certain area. For example, children need to know how that something is missing or doesn't make sense in their thinking, and they need the motivation to find this missing information and thus develop their knowledge. Much of the repetition and memorization inherent in the classical approach seems to conflict this type of motivation [comment #13]
  • If the goal for American educators is to create a globally empathetic and cognizant citizens, why Western philosophy? [comment #14]
  • Opinions on education are necessarily patronizing: my education worked for me, so it must be good. [comment #16]
  • As a high school English teacher struggling against a tide of electronic distractions, the constant mantra that all education needs is to "fire bad teachers" and student, parental and community apathy, I am profoundly concerned that the train is going to quickly run out of tracks. [comment #26]
  • Math, for example, is a beautiful, creative, elegant endeavor. The problem is the way in which it is taught at the secondary level, sucks the life out of it. [comment #29]
  • Developing all of these fancy cultural competencies and intellectual skills does little to serve the students, who will be handicapped in their competition with others in society who do not have these hangups. They have won the competition for wealth by going for the money, at the expense of those who dithered with alternative concerns [comment #30]
  • As a professor, I found that students reached further when they were asked to work beyond their 'level - this was particularly true in night courses taught for students over the traditional age, and may never had been asked to stretch like that. Several told me they were intimidated at first, but really ended up enjoying the mental workout [comment #33]
  • School curriculums turned from making us into broadly adaptable human beings into narrow career planners. [comment #37]
  • We have to live with the fact that commercialism and consumerism are as central to American culture as democracy, and our educational system will continue to prepare most children to function in the society we actually live in, not the one some of use might prefer [comment #38]
  • I see it again and again - successful children have concerned, involved parents. As a nation, we've embraced the doctrine of anti-intellectualism, and it has changed the way children see teachers. [comment #39]
  • Initially we worried that the French system might prove "too rigorous" or "too strict". We have watched in astonishment over the course of the year as our child simply and naturally began performing with "more" concentration and enthusiasm for school in general, as a place to learn, as his natural reaction to his new "higher bar". [comment #42]
  • They have never been taught to think critically, to analyse. They have only been taught a narrow skill-set aimed at current technology, which becomes outdated the instant the next graduating class shows up. When unfamiliar challenges arise, they are helpless [comment #44]
  • They've spent years learning to make money - and take only a few "boring" classes in the humanities in the process ignoring all the complexities of humans confronting unanswerable questions, ignoring all perspectives other than their own [comment #52]
  • I am for rigorous education, however, what seems to be missing in this expose is the importance of giving students a sense that the education they get will empower them. [comment #54]
  • If a player had to to drills for years before he/she was allowed to play the game, he/she would probably hate it and quit. [comment #56]
  • Soccer moms and little league dads became academic thugs for education. [comment #57]
  • A literary background teaches you to think about motives, to remember that characters lie or have their own points of view. If there's a phrase that describes our America today, its political autism. Whether it's derivatives trading, medical practice, or the current student testing fetish, we've lost the capacity to switch disciplines, learn new subjects on the fly, consider historical perspectives, and relate them to our own lives. [comment #58]
  • The curricular shift away from critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills has a profoundly undemocratic element - elite schools continue to teach these skills; schools that serve a broader social range do not [comment #59]
  • The greatest problem of assimilating a classical education is that it requires patience [comment #61]
  • My kids have attended public inner city schools and a curriculum which is far more demanding in both content and the number of credits than the one I experiences [comment #63]
  • We study the humanities not to make us more valuable in the marketplace, but to become better human beings. How sad that becoming better human beings is a luxury too many of us can no longer afford. [comment #65]
  • Testing seems to be a form of conditioning, training student to "learn just enough." Where is the intrinsic motivation to pursue knowledge and wisdom? [comment #66]
  • Fundamentally, we as citizens must define clearly the purpose of education. We have allowed education to become the pipeline to employment as a default, rather than seeing it as the development of an enlightened and responsible citizenry. Sadly, we even perform poorly at being pipelines for employment. [comment #95]
  • Kids, students, and people learn different subjects at different rates. Everyone has a limit to their abilities, but we organize our educational system with the expectation that everyone of the same age will learn at the same rate and that all will go to college. [comment #99]
  • How strange is it to think that back then, in the middle of a blue-collar community, my high school offered four years of Latin. I took them all. it was also a time when nobody stressed standardized tests; the students were free to choose elective subjects. If I'm not mistaken, 1962-63 was also a banner year for SAT scores. I see three robust enemies of a good education today that were mere nuisances in 1962. Their names are distraction, apathy, and relevance (as it pertains to future economic benefit). [comment #103]
  • In a society where the CEO rewarded for quarterly performance is the aspirational role model, there seems to be no room at all for an obsolete and irrelevant "classical education." Our current corporate-industrial educational system that turns out robotic drudges trained to take standardized tests reflects the value of our society. [comment #104]
  • The problem is not at the high school level. It is at the elementary school level. If we want to have a content-based curriculum in high schools, we need to have a skills-based curriculum in elementary school. Elementary schools need to do a better job teaching the basic skills that students will need to use throughout high school. Math, science, reading, and writing curricula must be accelerated. A student entering the 6th grade should be able to write a grammatically correct, intelligent and persuasive paper, even if the topic is "dolls" or "silly bandz." High school must be divided into two parts. The first two years of high school should have required basic courses in math, English language , English literature and history. The next two years should have the same requirements, but students should be allowed to choose their focus. [comment #106]
  • A classical education does not negate the importance of science or religion. Rather, it provides an exceptional foundation for comprehension and further investigation of both. Without proper understanding of language, it is impossible to discern fallacy. Hence the masses are easily manipulated into believing false messages propagated by government and corporate interests. [comment #108]
  • My daughters and all their friends simply have no interest in the world around them unless it personally affects them. The idea of learning anything simply to learn it and be a more well-rounded person does not register with them. If we are ever to turn around the decline in this country's education system, we need to somehow stimulate young people to take an interest in knowledge for it's own sake again. No amount of money or additional testing will light any spark in the minds of this country's children. We can force-feed them specific ideas so that they will do better on a test but this is no different than training a dog to perform a trick. The dog will still be a dog and our children will still be wandering around in a fog unable to work their way through the complexities of life. [comment #120]
  • It's a different world, Mr. Fish. Your two professions -- academia and journalism -- are no longer viable careers for young people. The majority of university instructors are no-benefit adjuncts, and journalism is laying people off right and left. What worked for you won't work for someone who's 20. I wish it did [comment #125]
  • New Yorkers have taken Regents exams since the 1880s. I've taken several professional exams without review classes. Academic tests are part of life; students should learn those skills as well. [comment #127]
  • I think that anyone who proposes changes in teaching and learning work in a high school for one academic year to see what teachers and kids are up against. [comment #139]
  • Parents don't abdicate to the teachers the responsibility for educating your children. Be aware of what is being taught in the classroom and spend a little time reviewing it with your kids. A little less time in front of the TV or computer, interacting with your kids will benefit parent and child, educationally and emotionally. [comment #142]
  • I'm currently studying Classics and plan to pursue a graduate degree in it. Many of my Classics friends are doing the same. You will not find a more dedicated group of undergrads than in Classics. We know that most people question our choice but we study it because we know it matters. I'm often asked, "What are you going to do with that?" when I tell people my major. My response used to be "I'll be able to say 'Do you want fries with that?' in dead languages." Now I'll say that I'm going to lead a revival in American education. [comment #144]
  • Critical thinking is important and should be a focus of any education, but I think it is necessary to spend time focusing specifically on mastery of argument and logical fallacies. People are now able to pick and choose from diverse media options that are tailored to specific points of view, As the sources of information become more tailored to a specific set of consumers, they become less objective and less trustworthy. In order for a a person to identify what should be listened to and what should be ignored they must have a clear understanding of what an argument is and what a logical fallacy is. [comment #145]
  • I believe that the problem also lies with our representatives/states people. What kind of education did they have? I would wager to guess that the majority of them went to private schools, or public schools in more affluent areas that taught a wide variety of subject matter (including arts and the classics). I believe that a lot of them just think/believe that all schools are run like the ones they went to. They do not understand what is going on in the majority of schools in the US. [comment #148]
  • Studying language is studying thinking. Studying various languages teaches that there are various ways to build thoughts. These different though-architectures show that there are different legitimate outcomes to thinking and that these different outcomes can be compared, providing intellectual depth perception. [comment #149]
>> see part2 and part3 of the comments

Friday, July 2, 2010

Exeter - Part 3

Carly Ziniuk from The Bishop Strachan School.
Thank you for introducing me to the notion of math trails. Math trails are essentially math-oriented scavenger hunts that combine authentic learning with getting kids out of the classroom. With my newly trained eye for spotting real world math (see part 1), I spent the day taking pictures around my school campus. Below is a link to my first try at a Math Trail.