Friday, September 17, 2010

Classical Education Comments - part 3

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 much less interesting than the comments. This is the third part of a three-part blog post (part1, part2) with some of the more pithy comments:

  • There does need to be a tightening of standards throughout the nation. There certainly has been a dumbing down in education since my student days. States are simply going to have to yield some sovereignty on this issue and work together to develop national competency standards for at least the three "r's". A national citizenship standard would also be nice; just because you're born here doesn't mean that you automatically know how the U.S. is governed. How things are taught may be up for grabs, but there has to be a base level of competency in reading, writing, and arithmetic if we want to retain our position in the world today. [comment #315]
  • So much more could be done to make students more well rounded and self-reliant citizens. Basic mechanics, carpentry, cooking, metal working, mechanical drawing, music and art appreciation skills would surely be conduits to fulfilling careers for many. No one is mentioning the quaint notion of imparting a sense of duty to one's nation or one's fellow-man [Comment #329]
  • Trying to force a classical education down the throats of students who simply have no desire to learn is a major waste of time and resources. A middle ground must be found so that those students who value this sort of education are able to easily obtain it, but those who simply want to master a vocation are not forced to waste so many hours of their time. I would venture to say that one of the causes of the decline in classical education is the attempt to ensure that everyone receives a very basic, broad liberal education. We are sacrificing depth for breadth. [comment #333]
  • What Mr. Fish and the three educational expert authors he mentions are describing as the best education already exists today in one of the oldest methods of formal education. Waldorf schools across the country offer a classical education, without technology or formal testing until high school. Waldorf education creates open and clear critical thinkers, who possess a breadth of knowledge of the history of most of the world's major civilizations and key figures, with a strong background in mathematics and languages, and great scientific abilities. Waldorf students learn also through oral storytelling and by using their hands and bodies to reinforce what their brains are learning, so they become good listeners and doers as well. Careful attention to each child's developmental stage is given and subject matter is introduced and stress is reduced and a firm, lifelong enthusiasm and vigor for learning is established. Most of all, Waldorf education produces global citizens, whose hearts and souls have been strongly honored and developed through the arts, and who are passionate about using their individual gifts to improve and enhance human civilization and our earth. [Comment #336]
  • A classical education that has no measurable justification of its effects should not be used. Public Education for lifetime happiness is a luxury that we no longer have, instead we must educate for a competitive population. The rest of the world knows this and if the US doesn't teach math and science and communication we will only have to teach one subject: Chinese, so that we can understand our new masters [comment #353]
  • Americans interested in educational quality should study the International Baccalaureate Program where students are tested on how well they can express what they know. In the English component both English and world literature are studied. Individual student compositions on chosen topics are read by teams of teachers. Only human beings, no machines, are involved in the process [comment #356]
  • When apprenticeship fell out of schools and the school system began coddling every child as if he or she was a special little snowflake, we got into this mess. It is going to take a special kind of education administrator to get us out of this mess: one who is not afraid to hire mostly male teachers who are ready to knock students down a peg or two. The ones who do not get back up: put them to work. The ones who do get back up: hand them a notebook and a pencil and let the learning begin [comment #364]
  • Whatever the curriculum, teachers need to use their creativity and imagination to inspire learning. it is impossible to inspire students with learning; therefore, it is possible to inspire other students. My philosophy was, if I was bored, so were the students [comment #377]
  • I was very surprised when you mentioned that your high school was "made up of the children of immigrants or first generation Americans". The lofty, elitist education you received sounds more like that of a NYC or Washington DC private school, comprise of students whose parents' connections (and ability to find their child a job) afford them the luxury to indulge in the finer, more sophisticated areas of education. Intellectualism and practicality will always clash when it comes to education. While you may not have fallen in this category, the "classical" education you experienced is a luxury of those born with the silver spoon in their mouth. The rest of us "common folk, who actually have to work for success, can only hope that we have an education that not only prepares us for the job market, but is also something we love. [comment #378]
  • Is our society harmed, and its future prospects impaired by our well intended policies of equalizing student access to school at the cost of severely reducing the educational attainments of our best and brightest? I believe it is. But current political attitudes and ideological rigidity make it impossible to change. I hope you will write a column addressing the ways in which all students capable of the curriculum you described are able to access it, while those of lesser capabilities are given an education consistent with their relative capabilities without being labeled as discriminatory. [comment #379]
  • The classics teach us much about how democracies rise and fall, how leaders use language to persuade, and how religion affects popular vote. Human nature and the nature of politics hasn't changed much; only the communications media. That no one teaches rhetoric in high school mystifies me. What better tool to create good citizens than to train young people on how to parse language and separate facts from rhetoric? From the more technical side, I would add elementary probability & statistics to a new trivium/quadrivium. There was no genuine understanding of this discipline in the ancient or even medieval times. Part of the machinery of modern misinterpretation is grounded in false use of statistics. In particular, presenting average (means) often paints a distorted picture. [comment #388]
  • Isn't it ironic - in this nation full of people who describe themselves as independent, almost no on even considers it possible to educate yourself or your children. The dependence on the public school system is staggering. And when the public school system doesn't meet everyone's expectations, the American people spend all sorts of time and energy complaining and objecting, but almost no time at all educating their own sons and daughters. I am not advocating full time home schooling (which is great for the few people with the time, resources, education and patience to spend every day as their own children's primary educator). What I am advocating is that every parent should take a couple of hours a week (which we all have) to teach their children. This could be something that the school system has ignored or not spent enough time, something the child is struggling with at school, or best yet, something the child is generally interested in. This helps create a real interest in learning, is a great supplement to public education and inevitably teaches the parents a few things at the same time. [comment #402]
  • I've benefited from an intense classical education but view with Faustian despair the avalanche of new science that is overwhelming us, such that we have to spend most of our lives studying a narrow sliver of a discipline simply to become competent in it. And it's obsolescent even as we try to master it. That's our human condition in the technological world. [comment #405]
  • The solution to avoid teaching to the test is quite simple, and is by far the most effective way of testing content. Take the student teaching model and extend it to all teachers. Every teacher should have to submit unit and lesson plans for evaluation by a curriculum and instruction expert in their field (or, at minimum, a department head who's been relieved of most teaching duties and can focus on teacher performance). They money currently put towards testing could be put to hiring three or four of these experts per district. Anyone who has taught knows that preparation is 90% of the work, and also knows that you prepare best when you know that your work is going to be checked. A big part of the testing system impetus is that we want an easy solution to a complex problem. There is no real way of ensuring that teachers really teach their classes other than by creating a prolonged discussion between the teacher and a teaching specialist. A teacher-mentor relationship will not only improve results, but will improve teacher quality as well. [comment #419]
  • I was lucky to b the beneficiary of such an education. Although my non-specific degree sometimes makes it harder for me to find a job, it has never made it harder for me to keep a job. [comment #426]
  • A classical education demands a lot from the student and not everyone is up to it. But for those who can meet its challenges, we would do well to keep providing it. Classically educated people are are the ones best equipped to foresee the worst excesses of our modern world and warn us about them. And to see the greatest opportunities and let us know why we should seize them. Their education allows them to think widely and critically, combining the lessons of history (often best revealed in literature) with the new tools made possible by modern science and engineering. We need these people. And we need to listen to them. In any case, I will make sure my child get as much of this sort of education as he can handle. His future (and ours) depends on it. [comment #433]
  • Raise your hand if you know who your mayor and local representative is. How about your State representatives? How are State and local integrated? Do you know what the Ways and Means committee does? Why are there committees at all? All that is civics. Civics is continual involvement in the political process, not a detached understanding of "checks and balances" only to be utilized at the ballot box if at all. In short, if we fix our education system to produce citizens instead of engaging in a lengthy crash course in how to be a lfoating cog in a consumer capitalist machine, then concerns about American economic and scientific global competitiveness will also be fixed in the process [comment #436]