Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827)*
Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852),*
Quotations From Frederick Fröbel’s Education of Man 1826*
Elizabeth Paler Peabody (1804-1894)*
Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841)*
John William Torrey Harris (1835-1909)*
Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890)*
"Knowledge Its Own End" (1852)*
"Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Learning" (1852)*
EDUCATION IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY*
John Dewey (1859-1952)*
Excerpt from Democracy and Education 1916*
Lev Vygotsky (-1934)*
Dr. Maria Montessori*
Dr. Montessori's View of the Child*
Excerpt from The Montessori Method 1922*
A.S. Neill of Summerhill School (founded 1923)*
Selection from That Dreadful School 1937*
Piaget's Stages of Intellectual Development*
A Nation at Risk 1982*
Quotations from Savage Inequalities 1992*
"Spare Us the Cheap Grace" An essay, 1995*
Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences1993 *
Mary Budd Rowe & Wait Time*
E(ric) D(onald) Hirsch Jr.*
Excerpt from Cultural Literacy, 1987*
Two Excerpts from The Schools We Need 1996*
Excerpt from The Quality School 1998*
From E.D. Hirsch’s "Speech to the 7th Core Knowledge Natl. Conference" 1998*
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827)
Born in Zurich, Pestalozzi took up Rousseau's ideas and explored how they might be developed and implemented. His early experiments in education (at Neuhof) ran into difficulties but he persisted and what became known as the 'Pestalozzi Method' came to fruition in his school at Yverdon (established in 1805). Instead of dealing with words, he argued, children should learn through activity and through things. They should be free to pursue their own interests and draw their own conclusions (Darling 1994: 18).
I wish to wrest education from the outworn order of doddering old teaching hacks as well as from the new-fangled order of cheap, artificial teaching tricks, and entrust it to the eternal powers of nature herself, to the light which God has kindled and kept alive in the hearts of fathers and mothers, to the interests of parents who desire their children grow up in favour with God and with men. (Pestalozzi quoted in Silber 1965: 134)
Pestalozzi goes beyond Rousseau in that he sets out some concrete ways forward - based on research. He tried to reconcile the tension, recognized by Rousseau, between the education of the individual (for freedom) and that of the citizen (for responsibility and use). He looks to 'the achievement of freedom in autonomy for one and all' Soëtard 1994: 308).
His initial influence on the development of thinking about pedagogy owes much a book he published in 1801: How Gertrude Teaches Her Children - and the fact that he had carried his proposals through into practice. He wanted to establish a 'psychological method of instruction' that was in line with the 'laws of human nature. As a result he placed a special emphasis on spontaneity and self-activity. Children should not be given ready-made answers but should arrive at answers themselves. To do this their own powers of seeing, judging and reasoning should be cultivated, their self-activity encouraged (Silber 1965: 140). The aim is to educate the whole child - intellectual education is only part of a wider plan. He looked to balance, or keep in equilibrium, three elements - hands, heart and head.
William H. Kilpatrick has summarized six principles that run through Pestalozzi's efforts around schooling.
William H. Kilpatrick in his introduction to Heinrich Pestalozzi (1951) The Education of Man - Aphorisms, New York: Philosophical Library.
And what is his significance to informal educators today? First, there is his concern with social justice and his commitment to work with those who have suffered within society. He saw education as central to the improvement of social conditions
Second, he used his sympathy for peasant life and his remembrance of his mother's care as paradigms - as ways of thinking about the form education should take. In a famous phrase he declared: ' There can be no doubt that within the living room of every household are united the basic elements of all true human education in its whole range'. This underlines the potential of everyday life for educators. That said though, Pestalozzi made a significant contribution to the establishment of the school as a central educational force (in contrast to Rousseau's emphasis on the tutor).
Third, there is Pestalozzi's concern with equilibrium between elements - head, hands and heart - and the dangers of attending to just one.
Fourth, Pestalozzi is a classic example of the 'reflective practitioner'. He is concerned with action, with experimentation and yet, at the same time, he is committed to observation and reflection, and to trying to make sense of experiences and situations.
Fifth, in his failed experiment at Neuhof he attempted to a form of schooling that has subsequently appealed to Gandhi and others concerned with combating colonialism and its legacy. He wanted the school to combine education with work. The school was to be a production unit so that children could finance their own learning - and in so doing they would be under no obligation to anyone. Furthermore, the school could be free from state interference.
Last, and not least, he strove to combat the tyranny of method and 'correctness'. It is ironical that his approach should become known as a method; and that observers attempted to systematize his thought. It was his commitment to people and their well-being that animated his life's work - and in Aristotle's terms he would put that which is 'right' or good before that which is 'correct'.
Further reading and references
Key texts: the 'classic' Pestalozzi text on education is:
Pestalozzi, J. H. (1894) How Gertrude Teaches her Children translated by Lucy, E. Holland and Frances C. Turner. Edited with an introduction by Ebenezer Cooke. London: Swan Sonnenschein. A new translation by Michel Soëtard should, hopefully, appear in the near future. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get hold of his other work in English - other than through edited collections and collections of aphorisms. [An English anthology exists, entitled Collected Educational Writings of Pestalozzi (1912)].
Biographical material: the standard English language treatment is:
Silber, K. (1965) Pestalozzi.: The man and his work 2e, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Michel Soëtard provides a good introduction to his work in Zaghloul Morsy (ed) (1994) Thinkers on Education Volume 3, Paris: UNESCO Publishing.
Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852),
German educator, the originator of the kindergarten.
Froebel attended the training institute run by John Pestalozzi at Yverdon from 1808 to 1810. Froebel left the institution accepting the basic principles of Pestalozzi's theory: permissive school atmosphere, emphasis on nature, and the object lesson. Froebel, however, was a strong idealist whose view of education was closely related to religion. He believed that everything in this world was developed according to the plan of God. He felt that something was missing in Pestalozzi's theory: the "spiritual mechanism" that, according to Froebel, was the foundation of early learning. "Pestalozzi takes man existing only in appearance on earth," he said, "but I take man in his eternal being, in his eternal existence." Froebel's philosophy of education rested on four basic ideas: free self expression, creativity, social participation, and motor expression.
In 1816 Froebel founded at Griesheim a school called the Universal German Educational Institute, and in 1817 he moved the school to Keilhau near Rudolstadt. At the institute, Froebel developed ideas for the education of preschool children aged three to seven. These ideas culminated in his establishing at Blankenburg, Thüringen, in 1837, the first institution exclusively for the education of such children; for this school he coined the term Kindergarten, meaning "children's garden."
In spite of interest in Froebel's work by progressive educators, his ideas, which stressed encouraging the natural growth of a child through action or play, were too novel to be readily accepted by the public, and for a time he found it financially difficult to carry on his school. In addition, he was suspected of sharing the radical political and social views of his nephew Julius Froebel, a professor at Zürich, and in 1851 the Prussian government banned all kindergartens in Prussia; the ban was not removed until 1860. Froebel lived and worked in Marienthal from 1850 until his death on June 21, 1852. His disciples, especially the Baroness von Marenholtz-Bülow, caused kindergartens to be established throughout western Europe and the United States in the 1850s and in Germany after 1860.
Froebel is considered one of the greatest contributors of the 19th-century to the science of education. The institution of the kindergarten has spread over the entire world. Among his principal writings are The Education of Man (1826; trans. 1885) and Mother Play and Nursery Songs (1843; trans. 1906). The popularity of the kindergarten may have eclipsed the extent of Friedrich Fröbel's contribution. It was not until the 1980´s that a wide representation of Fröbel's original works became more easily available.
Fröbel's thinking was a part of the romantic movement. Philosophically he is an objective idealist, the center in his universe is God. His practical education was very well structured and founded in the rationalistic practice of Pestalozzi. Fröbel claimed that education is like a natural process; that the child is an organic whole which develops through creative self-activity according to natural laws; that the individual is an organic part of the society; and that the universe as a whole is an organism of which all lesser organisms are members. According to Fröbel, man was a self-expressive being, who had to follow the inner calling.
Fröbel's appreciation for the interconnectedness of all nature appeals to those who are interested in protecting the environment and understanding the complexity of the ecosystem. As an apprenticed forester Friedrich moved through the woodlands of Thuringia, aware of each plant and animal, absorbing healing from the forest and developing the deep awareness of the unity of nature, which he was to bring to the education of children. As a student at the University of Jena, the seventeen year old Friedrich may have been thought a strange fellow, who made wonderful things from stones and cobwebs. His choice of the name, Kindergarten, meaning a garden of children, directs our attention to the wonder and unity of nature.
In a letter to his brother in 1807, he laid down his cherished plan of a school: "Not to be announced with trumpet tongue to the world, but to win for itself in a small circle, perhaps only among the parents whose children should be entrusted to his care, the name of a happy family institution."
Fröbel went on to equip himself for his life work by attending the training institute run by John Pestalozzi at Yverdon from 1808 to 1810 and further studies at the Universities of Göttingen and Berlin. His work at the mineralogical museum at Berlin, classifying minerals according to the geometry of their crystals was the theoretical basis of the gifts and occupations.
Quotations From Frederick Fröbel’s Education of Man 1826
The Education of Man (1826) had a profound effect on the approach to early childhood education. Friedrich Froebel believed in the development of intelligence and character through activities that engaged the interest of children. To many of his critics these activities seemed more like play than school work. Wood building blocks were one of these activities. At Keilhau Froebel also used then to teach mathematics.
"The purpose of education is to encourage and guide man as a conscious, thinking and perceiving being in such a way that he becomes a pure and perfect representation of that divine inner law through his own personal choice; education must show him the ways and meanings of attaining that goal." - p2
"We grant space and time to young plants and animals because we know that, in accordance with; the laws that live in them, they will develop properly and grow well; young animals and plants are given rest, and arbitrary interference with their growth is avoided, because it is known that the opposite practice would disturb their pure unfolding and sound development; but the young human being is looked upon as a piece of wax, a lump of clay which man can mold into what he pleases." - p8
"The mind grows by self revelation. In play the child ascertains what he can do, discovers his possibilities of will and thought by exerting his power spontaneously. In work he follows a task prescribed for him by another, and doesn’t reveal his own proclivities and inclinations; but another’s. In play he reveals his own original power."
"Mankind is meant to enjoy a degree of knowledge and insight, of energy and efficiency of which at present we have no conception; for who has fathomed the destiny of heaven born mankind? But these things are to be developed in each individual, growing forth in each one in the vigor and might of youth, as newly created self productions." -p233
"Building, aggregation, is first with the child, as it is first in the development of mankind, and in crystallization. The importance of the vertical, the horizontal, and the rectangular is the first experience which the child gathers from building; then follow equilibrium and symmetry. Thus the child ascends from the construction of the simplest wall with or without cement to the more complex and even to the invention of every architectural structure lying within the possibilities of the given material." -p281
"In the treatment of the things of nature we very often take the right road, whereas in the treatment of man we go astray; and yet the forces that act in both proceed from the same source and obey the same law.
Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.
In answering the question What is the purpose of education? I started at that time from the observation that man lives in a world of objects which influence him and which he wishes to influence, and so he must know these objects in their characteristics, their essence and their relation to one another and to mankind.
Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul.
The character and purpose of these plays may be described as follows: They are a coherent system, starting at each stage from the simplest activity and progressing to the most diverse and complex manifestations of it. The purpose of each one of them is to instruct human beings so that they may progress as individuals and members of humanity is all its various relationships. Collectively they form a complete whole, like a many branched tree, whose parts explain and advance each other. Each is a self-contained whole, a seed from which manifold new developments may spring to cohere in further unity. They cover the whole field of intuitive and sensory instruction and lay the basis for all further teaching. They begin to establish spatial relationships and proceed to sensory and language training so that eventually man comes to see himself as a sentient, intelligent and rational being and as such strives to live.
The union of family and school life is the indispensable requisite of education . . . if indeed men are ever to free themselves from the oppressive burden and emptiness of merely extraneously communicated knowledge heaped up in memory. Only the quiet, secluded sanctuary of the family can give back to us the welfare of mankind.
If man is to attain fully his destiny, so far as earthly development will permit this, if he is to become truly an unbroken living unit, he must feel and know himself to be one, not only with God and humanity, but also with nature.
I would educate human beings who with their feet stand rooted in God's earth . . ., whose heads reach even into heaven and there behold truth, in whose hearts are united both earth and heaven.
Protect the new generation: do not let them grow up into emptiness and nothingness, to the avoidance of good hard work, to introspection and analysis without deeds, or to mechanical actions without thought and consideration. Guide the young away from the harmful chase after outer things and the damaging passion for distraction.
"The Christian religion entirely completes the mutual relation between God and man; all education which is not founded on the Christian religion is one-sided, defective, and fruitless."
"Nothing comes without a struggle. Strife creates nothing by itself, it only clears the air. New seeds must be planted to germinate and grow, if we will have the tree of humanity blossom . . . We cannot tear the present from the past or from the future. Past, present, and future are the Trinity of time. In the children lies the seed-corn of the future!"
"That which follows is always conditioned upon that which goes before."
"The destiny of nations lies far more in the hands of women, the mothers, than in the possessors of power, or those of innovators who for the most part do not understand themselves. We must cultivate women, who are the educators of the human race, else the new generation cannot accomplish its task."
"Man in his external manifestation, like the crystal, bearing within himself the living unity, shows at first more one-sidedness, individuality, and incompleteness, and only at a later period rises to all-sidedness, harmony, and completeness."
A child who plays and works thoroughly, with perseverance, until physical fatigue forbids will surely be a thorough, determined person, capable of self-sacrifice.
"If three hundred years after my death my method of education shall be completely established according to its idea, I shall rejoice in heaven."
"To learn a thing in life and through doing is much more developing, cultivating, and strengthening than to learn it merely through the verbal communication of ideas.
For more on Frobel, see http://w3.uwyo.edu/~drow/new_page_3.htm
Elizabeth Paler Peabody (1804-1894)
American educator and scholar, best known as an early advocate of the kindergarten school system in the United States. Born in Billerica, Massachusetts, Peabody was instrumental in drawing widespread attention to the importance of early childhood education.
In 1860 in Boston, Massachusetts, Peabody founded the first English-speaking kindergarten in the United States (the first kindergarten in the United States was a German-speaking school established in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1855). Peabody’s inspiration to open the school came from the pioneering work of German educator Friedrich Froebel, who in 1837 established the world’s first kindergarten in Germany. Peabody’s school in Boston became an immediate success, and several other kindergartens quickly opened across New England. In 1867 Peabody traveled throughout Germany and visited various kindergartens to ensure her American school was up-to-date in its curriculum and teaching methods. She returned to the United States even more convinced that a kindergarten education was critical to a child’s developmental progress.
Peabody spent the remainder of her life advocating the spread of kindergartens across the United States. She lectured and published extensively on the theory and practice of early childhood education. Peabody called for innovations in the American school system that would enable young students to learn through playing and structured social interaction. Despite early resistance to her work, kindergartens have become an integral part of the American education system.
Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841)
German philosopher and educator, born in Oldenburg, and educated at the University of Jena. After leaving Jena he tutored for several years in Switzerland, where he became interested in the work of the Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. In 1805 Herbart was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Göttingen. Herbart went to Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) in 1809 to fill a similar post. In 1833 he returned to Göttingen, where he remained until his death.
Herbart's system of philosophy stems from the analysis of experience. The system includes logic, metaphysics, and aesthetics as coordinate elements. He rejected all concepts of separate mental faculties, postulating instead that all mental phenomena result from interaction of elementary ideas. Herbart believed that educational methods and systems should be based on psychology and ethics: psychology to furnish necessary knowledge of the mind and ethics to be used as a basis for determining the social ends of education. Among his major works is A Textbook in Psychology (1816; trans. 1894) .
Very little of Herbart’s direct thinking is available to those who do not speak German.
John William Torrey Harris (1835-1909)
Born in North Killingly, Connecticut, Harris attended Yale University. Entering Yale in 1854, Harris found himself increasingly dissatisfied with the school’s formal, traditional curriculum, and chose to withdraw in the middle of his third year. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1857.
Harris began his teaching career in St. Louis as a private tutor. He later became a teacher and administrator in the city’s public schools. In 1867 Harris became the superintendent of the St. Louis public school system, where he enforced his belief that the influences of religion and politics should be kept separate from schools. He believed that secular, politically independent public schools provided important safeguards in preserving the individual liberty of students. In 1873 Harris and American educator Susan Blow introduced the first public kindergarten in the country as part of the St. Louis school system. It was an immediate success and became the model for early public education throughout the United States.
Harris served as U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906. During his term he established high, national standards for public educational institutions. Harris believed that public schools should be responsible for both the character and the intellectual development of their students. However, he insisted that educational institutions should teach morals only through academic discipline. He believed that any additional moral instruction should be the responsibility of religious institutions. Harris was also responsible for developing the Appleton Readers textbooks, which were used in schools throughout the United States. These books reflected his conviction in the separation of religion and public education.
Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
Newman, John Henry(1801-90), English clergyman, who was leader of the Oxford movement, and cardinal after his conversion to the Roman Catholic church; outstanding religious thinker and essayist. Born on February 21, 1801, Newman was educated at Trinity College, University of Oxford. In 1822 he obtained an Oriel College fellowship, then the highest distinction of Oxford scholarship, and thus was brought into close association with a number of the most illustrious men of the time. In 1826 Newman was appointed a tutor at Oriel. .
"Knowledge Its Own End" (1852)
"Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Learning" (1852)
Mann, Horace(1796-1859), American educator, born in Franklin, Massachusetts, and educated at Brown University and the Litchfield (Connecticut) Law School. In 1823 he was admitted to the bar and practiced law at Dedham, Massachusetts. From 1827 to 1833 he was a representative in the Massachusetts state legislature and from 1833 to 1837 a state senator. During this period Mann was instrumental in the enactment of laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and lottery tickets, establishing state hospitals for the insane, and creating a state board of education, the first in the United States.
In 1837 Mann was appointed secretary to the board of education. Through his post on the board he influenced the educational system not only of Massachusetts but of the entire United States. Although the board's powers were limited, it was able to affect public opinion regarding school problems and to create public support for increasing the pay of teachers and improving their training through the founding of state normal, or teacher-training, schools. In 1843 Mann visited Europe, where he studied educational conditions and methods.
Mann resigned as secretary of the Massachusetts board of education in 1848, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill a vacancy caused by the death of John Quincy Adams. He served until 1853, when he became president of Antioch College (now Antioch University). His 12 annual reports written when he was secretary to the Massachusetts board of education are a record of ideas on meeting educational needs by a man who strongly influenced the evolution of modern education.
Before the 19th century elementary and secondary education in the United States was organized on a local or regional level. Nearly all schools operated on private funds exclusively. However, beginning in the 1830s and 1840s, American educators such as Henry Barnard and Horace Mann argued for the creation of a school system operated by individual states that would provide an equal education for all American children. In 1852 Massachusetts passed the first laws calling for free public education, and by 1918 all U.S. states had passed compulsory school attendance laws.
EDUCATION IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
At the beginning of the 20th century, the writings of Swedish feminist and educator Ellen Key influenced education around the world. Key’s book Barnets århundrade (The Century of the Child,1909) was translated into many languages and inspired so-called progressive educators in various countries. Progressive education was a system of teaching that emphasized the needs and potentials of the child, rather than the needs of society or the principles of religion. Among the influential progressive educators were Hermann Lietz and Georg Michael Kerschensteiner of Germany, Bertrand Russell of England, and Maria Montessori of Italy.
John Dewey (1859-1952)
The work of American philosopher and educator John Dewey was especially influential in the U.S. and other countries in the 20th century. Dewey criticized educational methods that simply amused and entertained students or were overly vocational. He advocated education that would fulfill and enrich the current lives of students as well as prepare them for the future. The activity program of education, which derived from the theories of Dewey, stressed the educational development of the child in terms of individual needs and interests. It was the major method of instruction for most of the 20th century in elementary schools of the United States and many other countries.
During his tenure at Chicago, Dewey became actively interested in the reform of educational theory and practice. He tested his educational principles at the famous experimental Laboratory School, the so-called Dewey School, established by the University of Chicago in 1896. These principles emphasized learning through varied activities rather than formal curricula and opposed authoritarian methods, which, Dewey believed, offered contemporary people no realistic preparation for life in a democratic society. Dewey felt, moreover, that education should not merely be a preparation for future life but a full life in itself. His work and his writings were largely responsible for the drastic change in pedagogy that began in the United States early in the 20th century as emphasis shifted from the institution to the student. Dewey’s theories have often been misinterpreted by the advocates of so-called progressive education; although Dewey opposed authoritarian methods, he did not advocate lack of guidance and control. He criticized education that emphasized amusing the students and keeping them busy, as well as education that was oriented toward pure vocational training.
As a philosopher, Dewey emphasized the practical, striving to show how philosophical ideas can work in everyday life. His sense of logic and philosophy was ever-changing, adaptive to need and circumstance. The process of thinking, in his philosophy, is a means of planning action, of removing the obstacles between what is given and what is wanted. Truth is an idea that has worked in practical experience. Dewey followed the American philosopher and psychologist William James as a leader of the pragmatic movement in philosophy; Dewey’s own philosophy, called either instrumentalism or experimentalism, stems from the pragmatism of James.
His voluminous writings include Psychology (1887), The School and Society (1899), Democracy and Education (1916), Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Art as Experience (1934), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), and Problems of Men (1946).
Excerpt from Democracy and Education 1916
The most notable distinction between living and inanimate things is that the former maintain themselves by renewal. A stone when struck resists. If its resistance is greater than the force of the blow struck, it remains outwardly unchanged. Otherwise, it is shattered into smaller bits. Never does the stone attempt to react in such a way that it may maintain itself against the blow, much less so as to render the blow a contributing factor to its own continued action. While the living thing may easily be crushed by superior force, it none the less tries to turn the energies which act upon it into means of its own further existence. If it cannot do so, it does not just split into smaller pieces (at least in the higher forms of life), but loses its identity as a living thing.
As long as it endures, it struggles to use surrounding energies in its own behalf. It uses light, air, moisture, and the material of soil. To say that it uses them is to say that it turns them into means of its own conservation. As long as it is growing, the energy it expends in thus turning the environment to account is more than compensated for by the return it gets: it grows. Understanding the word "control" in this sense, it may be said that a living being is one that subjugates and controls for its own continued activity the energies that would otherwise use it up. Life is a self-renewing process through action upon the environment.
In all the higher forms this process cannot be kept up indefinitely. After a while they succumb; they die. The creature is not equal to the task of indefinite self-renewal. But continuity of the life process is not dependent upon the prolongation of the existence of any one individual. Reproduction of other forms of life goes on in continuous sequence. And though, as the geological record shows, not merely individuals but also species die out, the life process continues in increasingly complex forms. As some species die out, forms better adapted to utilize the obstacles against which they struggled in vain come into being. Continuity of life means continual readaptation of the environment to the needs of living organisms.
We have been speaking of life in its lowest terms -- as a physical thing. But we use the word Life" to denote the whole range of experience, individual and racial. When we see a book called the Life of Lincoln we do not expect to find within its covers a treatise on physiology. We look for an account of social antecedents; a description of early surroundings, of the conditions and occupation of the family; of the chief episodes in the development of character; of signal struggles and achievements; of the individual's hopes, tastes, joys and sufferings. In precisely similar fashion we speak of the life of a savage tribe, of the Athenian people, of the American nation. "Life" covers customs, institutions, beliefs, victories and defeats, recreations and occupations.
We employ the word "experience" in the same pregnant sense. And to it, as well as to life in the bare physiological sense, the principle of continuity through renewal applies. With the renewal of physical existence goes, in the case of human beings, the recreation of beliefs, ideals, hopes, happiness, misery, and practices. The continuity of any experience, through renewing of the social group, is a literal fact. Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this social continuity of life. Every one of the constituent elements of a social group, in a modern city as in a savage tribe, is born immature, helpless, without language, beliefs, ideas, or social standards. Each individual, each unit who is the carrier of the life-experience of his group, in time passes away. Yet the life of the group goes on.
The primary ineluctable facts of the birth and death of each one of the constituent members in a social group determine the necessity of education. On one hand, there is the contrast between the immaturity of the new-born members of the group -- its future sole representatives -- and the maturity of the adult members who possess the knowledge and customs of the group. On the other hand, there is the necessity that these immature members be not merely physically preserved in adequate numbers, but that they be initiated into the interests, purposes, information, skill, and practices of the mature members: otherwise the group will cease its characteristic life. Even in a savage tribe, the achievements of adults are far beyond what the immature members would be capable of if left to themselves. With the growth of civilization, the gap between the original capacities of the immature and the standards and customs of the elders increases. Mere physical growing up, mere mastery of the bare necessities of subsistence will not suffice to reproduce the life of the group. Deliberate effort and the taking of thoughtful pains are required. Beings who are born not only unaware of, but quite indifferent to, the aims and habits of the social group have to be rendered cognizant of them and actively interested. Education, and education alone, spans the gap.
Society exists through a process of transmission quite as much as biological life. This transmission occurs by means of communication of habits of doing, thinking, and feeling from the older to the younger. Without this communication of ideals, hopes, expectations, standards, opinions, from those members of society who are passing out of the group life to those who are coming into it, social life could not survive. If the members who compose a society lived on continuously, they might educate the new-born members, but it would be a task directed by personal interest rather than social need. Now it is a work of necessity.
If a plague carried off the members of a society all at once, it is obvious that the group would be permanently done for. Yet the death of each of its constituent members is as certain as if an epidemic took them all at once. But the graded difference in age, the fact that some are born as some die, makes possible through transmission of ideas and practices the constant reweaving of the social fabric. Yet this renewal is not automatic. Unless pains are taken to see that genuine and thorough transmission takes place, the most civilized group will relapse into barbarism and then into savagery. In fact, the human young are so immature that if they were left to themselves without the guidance and succor of others, they could not acquire the rudimentary abilities necessary for physical existence. The young of human beings compare so poorly in original efficiency with the young of many of the lower animals, that even the powers needed for physical sustentation have to be acquired under tuition. How much more, then, is this the case with respect to all the technological, artistic, scientific, and moral achievements of humanity!
2. Education and Communication.
So obvious, indeed, is the necessity of teaching and learning for the continued existence of a society that we may seem to be dwelling unduly on a truism. But justification is found in the fact that such emphasis is a means of getting us away from an unduly scholastic and formal notion of education. Schools are, indeed, one important method of the transmission which forms the dispositions of the immature; but it is only one means, and, compared with other agencies, a relatively superficial means. Only as we have grasped the necessity of more fundamental and persistent modes of tuition can we make sure of placing the scholastic methods in their true context.
Society not only continues to exist by transmission, by communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in transmission, in communication. There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication. Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common. What they must have in common in order to form a community or society are aims, beliefs, aspirations, knowledge -- a common understanding -- like-mindedness as the sociologists say. Such things cannot be passed physically from one to another, like bricks; they cannot be shared as persons would share a pie by dividing it into physical pieces. The communication which insures participation in a common understanding is one which secures similar emotional and intellectual dispositions -- like ways of responding to expectations and requirements.
Persons do not become a society by living in physical proximity, any more than a man ceases to be socially influenced by being so many feet or miles removed from others. A book or a letter may institute a more intimate association between human beings separated thousands of miles from each other than exists between dwellers under the same roof. Individuals do not even compose a social group because they all work for a common end. The parts of a machine work with a maximum of cooperativeness for a common result, but they do not form a community. If, however, they were all cognizant of the common end and all interested in it so that they regulated their specific activity in view of it, then they would form a community. But this would involve communication. Each would have to know what the other was about and would have to have some way of keeping the other informed as to his own purpose and progress. Consensus demands communication.
We are thus compelled to recognize that within even the most social group there are many relations which are not as yet social. A large number of human relationships in any social group are still upon the machine-like plane. Individuals use one another so as to get desired results, without reference to the emotional and intellectual disposition and consent of those used. Such uses express physical superiority, or superiority of position, skill, technical ability, and command of tools, mechanical or fiscal. So far as the relations of parent and child, teacher and pupil, employer and employee, governor and governed, remain upon this level, they form no true social group, no matter how closely their respective activities touch one another. Giving and taking of orders modifies action and results, but does not of itself effect a sharing of purposes, a communication of interests.
Not only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative. To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected. Try the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing; otherwise you resort to expletives and ejaculations. The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated. To formulate requires getting outside of it, seeing it as another would see it, considering what points of contact it has with the life of another so that it may be got into such form that he can appreciate its meaning. Except in dealing with commonplaces and catch phrases one has to assimilate, imaginatively, something of another's experience in order to tell him intelligently of one's own experience. All communication is like art. It may fairly be said, therefore, that any social arrangement that remains vitally social, or vitally shared, is educative to those who participate in it. Only when it becomes cast in a mold and runs in a routine way does it lose its educative power.
In final account, then, not only does social life demand teaching and learning for its own permanence, but the very process of living together educates. It enlarges and enlightens experience; it stimulates and enriches imagination; it creates responsibility for accuracy and vividness of statement and thought. A man really living alone (alone mentally as well as physically) would have little or no occasion to reflect upon his past experience to extract its net meaning. The inequality of achievement between the mature and the immature not only necessitates teaching the young, but the necessity of this teaching gives an immense stimulus to reducing experience to that order and form which will render it most easily communicable and hence most usable.
3. The Place of Formal Education.
There is, accordingly, a marked difference between the education which every one gets from living with others, as long as he really lives instead of just continuing to subsist, and the deliberate educating of the young. In the former case the education is incidental; it is natural and important, but it is not the express reason of the association. While it may be said, without exaggeration, that the measure of the worth of any social institution, economic, domestic, political, legal, religious, is its effect in enlarging and improving experience; yet this effect is not a part of its original motive, which is limited and more immediately practical. Religious associations began, for example, in the desire to secure the favor of overruling powers and to ward off evil influences; family life in the desire to gratify appetites and secure family perpetuity; systematic labor, for the most part, because of enslavement to others, etc. Only gradually was the by-product of the institution, its effect upon the quality and extent of conscious life, noted, and only more gradually still was this effect considered as a directive factor in the conduct of the institution. Even today, in our industrial life, apart from certain values of industriousness and thrift, the intellectual and emotional reaction of the forms of human association under which the world's work is carried on receives little attention as compared with physical output.
But in dealing with the young, the fact of association itself as an immediate human fact, gains in importance. While it is easy to ignore in our contact with them the effect of our acts upon their disposition, or to subordinate that educative effect to some external and tangible result, it is not so easy as in dealing with adults. The need of training is too evident; the pressure to accomplish a change in their attitude and habits is too urgent to leave these consequences wholly out of account. Since our chief business with them is to enable them to share in a common life we cannot help considering whether or no we are forming the powers which will secure this ability. If humanity has made some headway in realizing that the ultimate value of every institution is its distinctively human effect -- its effect upon conscious experience -- we may well believe that this lesson has been learned largely through dealings with the young.
We are thus led to distinguish, within the broad educational process which we have been so far considering, a more formal kind of education -- that of direct tuition or schooling. In undeveloped social groups, we find very little formal teaching and training. Savage groups mainly rely for instilling needed dispositions into the young upon the same sort of association which keeps adults loyal to their group. They have no special devices, material, or institutions for teaching save in connection with initiation ceremonies by which the youth are inducted into full social membership. For the most part, they depend upon children learning the customs of the adults, acquiring their emotional set and stock of ideas, by sharing in what the elders are doing. In part, this sharing is direct, taking part in the occupations of adults and thus serving an apprenticeship; in part, it is indirect, through the dramatic plays in which children reproduce the actions of grown-ups and thus learn to know what they are like. To savages it would seem preposterous to seek out a place where nothing but learning was going on in order that one might learn.
But as civilization advances, the gap between the capacities of the young and the concerns of adults widens. Learning by direct sharing in the pursuits of grown-ups becomes increasingly difficult except in the case of the less advanced occupations. Much of what adults do is so remote in space and in meaning that playful imitation is less and less adequate to reproduce its spirit. Ability to share effectively in adult activities thus depends upon a prior training given with this end in view. Intentional agencies -- schools -- and explicit material -- studies -- are devised. The task of teaching certain things is delegated to a special group of persons.
Without such formal education, it is not possible to transmit all the resources and achievements of a complex society. It also opens a way to a kind of experience which would not be accessible to the young, if they were left to pick up their training in informal association with others, since books and the symbols of knowledge are mastered.
But there are conspicuous dangers attendant upon the transition from indirect to formal education. Sharing in actual pursuit, whether directly or vicariously in play, is at least personal and vital. These qualities compensate, in some measure, for the narrowness of available opportunities. Formal instruction, on the contrary, easily becomes remote and dead -- abstract and bookish, to use the ordinary words of depreciation. What accumulated knowledge exists in low grade societies is at least put into practice; it is transmuted into character; it exists with the depth of meaning that attaches to its coming within urgent daily interests.
But in an advanced culture much which has to be learned is stored in symbols. It is far from translation into familiar acts and objects. Such material is relatively technical and superficial. Taking the ordinary standard of reality as a measure, it is artificial. For this measure is connection with practical concerns. Such material exists in a world by itself, unassimilated to ordinary customs of thought and expression. There is the standing danger that the material of formal instruction will be merely the subject matter of the schools, isolated from the subject matter of life-experience. The permanent social interests are likely to be lost from view. Those which have not been carried over into the structure of social life, but which remain largely matters of technical information expressed in symbols, are made conspicuous in schools. Thus we reach the ordinary notion of education: the notion which ignores its social necessity and its identity with all human association that affects conscious life, and which identifies it with imparting information about remote matters and the conveying of learning through verbal signs: the acquisition of literacy.
Hence one of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education. When the acquiring of information and of technical intellectual skill do not influence the formation of a social disposition, ordinary vital experience fails to gain in meaning, while schooling, in so far, creates only "sharps" in learning -- that is, egoistic specialists. To avoid a split between what men consciously know because they are aware of having learned it by a specific job of learning, and what they unconsciously know because they have absorbed it in the formation of their characters by intercourse with others, becomes an increasingly delicate task with every development of special schooling.
Lev Vygotsky (-1934)
Despite his short life, he raised the important question that a child’s knowledge shouldn’t be tested solely on what he or she can achieve alone.
Much has been written recently stirring interest in Lev Vygotsky, a Russian educator and philosopher who died in 1934 at the age of 38. During his brief life he studied and taught literature, worked with physically and mentally challenged children, taught psychology and teacher education at the university, and even pursued medicine. He fashioned a psychology of learning and development out of a critique of predominant theories of his time: Piagetian developmental theory, Pavlovian S-R theory, and seminal Gestaltist theory from Kohler and Koffka, among others.
His own thinking was heavily influenced by Marxist dialectical materialism. His work was unknown in the West until translations of major works began to appear in the 1960s. His influence has grown steadily, especially through greater availability of the work of his students Leont’ev and Luria, and their students, evolving a new psychology referred to as "activity theory."
The rising influence of his works in the last two decades corresponds to a time in educational and psychological research when experimental paradigms, behavioral, and even cognitive science are increasingly challenged for failing to deliver on their implicit promise of improving education for children and adult learners, according to a 1995 Hirst & Manier report.
While Vygotsky’s theory of development is a complex one, in the United States he is probably best known for a particular aspect of that theory: the "zone of proximal development." This defines the fertile ground for the teaching-learning process as the difference between what a child can do alone and what he or she can do with the assistance of another.
Vygotsky viewed learning as a mediated process, that is, filtered and tempered by tools, signs and symbols of the context or culture used in interaction with the more skilled other person or persons. Mediational devices carry some of the task burden for the learner and focus him or her on the salient features of the learning. Networks provide greater opportunity for interpersonal learning experiences, but it is the various tools for networked communication that mediate or scaffold that interaction: chat rooms, threaded discussions, listservs, and email, audio-video streaming, file sharing, and even instant messaging.
Dr. Maria Montessori
Montessori’s methods of early childhood education have become internationally popular. Trained in medicine, Montessori worked with mentally handicapped children early in her career. The results of her work were so effective that she believed her teaching methods could be used to educate all children. In 1907 Montessori established a children’s school, the Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House), for poor children from the San Lorenzo district of Rome. Here she developed a specially prepared environment that featured materials and activities based on her observations of children. She found that children enjoy mastering specific skills, prefer work to play, and can sustain concentration. She also believed that children have a power to learn independently if provided a properly stimulating environment.
Montessori’s curriculum emphasized three major classes of activity: (1) practical, (2) sensory, and (3) formal skills and studies. It introduced children to such practical activities as setting the table, serving a meal, washing dishes, tying and buttoning clothing, and practicing basic social manners. Repetitive exercises developed sensory and muscular coordination. Formal skills and subjects included reading, writing, and arithmetic. Montessori designed special teaching materials to develop these skills, including laces, buttons, weights, and materials identifiable by their sound or smell. Instructors provided the materials for the children and demonstrated the lessons but allowed each child to independently learn the particular skill or behavior.
In 1913 Montessori lectured in the United States on her educational method. American educators established many Montessori schools after these lectures, but they declined in popularity in the 1930s as American educators stressed greater authority and control in the classroom. A revival of Montessori education in the United States began in the 1950s, coinciding with a growing emphasis on early childhood education.
"Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Human teachers can only help the great work that is being done, as servants help the master. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be a victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society."
Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Noting the terrible destruction the First World War and the gathering forces for the second, Maria Montessori called upon the spiritual possibilities of the child and said, "We must have faith in the child as a messiah, as a savior capable of regenerating the human race and society. We must master ourselves and humble ourselves in order to be able to accept this notion, and then we must make our way toward the child, like the three kings, bearing powers and gifts, following the star of hope."
"When we took the personality of the child into account in and of itself and offered it full scope to develop in our schools - where we constructed an environment that answered the needs of his spiritual development - he revealed to us a personality entirely different from the one we had previously taken into consideration .... With his passionate love of order and work, the child gave evidence of intellectual powers vastly superior to what they were presumed to be. It is obvious that in traditional systems of education the child instinctively resorts to dissembling in order to conceal his capabilities and conform to the expectations of the adults who suppress him."
Dr. Maria Montessori, 1932
Dr. Montessori's View of the Child
In trying to more systematically explain the phenomenon of the Children's House, she refined her theory of child psychology, borrowing heavily from the sciences of biology and psychology. She saw dramatic parallels between the normal physical and intellectual development of the child and that of many other organisms. This led Montessori to describe childhood as a process in which a hidden but definite plan of nature unfolds, as the child works to create the adult personality.
She argued that the child's mind was not, as many believed, like an empty pitcher waiting to be filled in school. Rather, the child's mind was as different from that of an adult as a tadpole is different from the adult frog. Both belong to the same species, but one is at an earlier stage of development.
Montessori spent countless hours observing and interacting with children, gradually forming the concept of several developmental stages that children pass through in the process of growing up. Each is characterized by specific inclinations, interests, and ways of thinking. Children have their own logic at each stage of development, along with certain natural tendencies in behavior and activities that they normally enjoy.
Montessori noticed that, as children pass from one stage to another, they tend to become fascinated with certain kinds of experiences. If allowed to engage in the activities that fascinate them, their vigorous interaction with the environment leads to their full development, resulting in children with a much lower thresh-hold of frustration, boredom, and a tendency to behave far more calmly than is normally associated with childhood.
On the other hand, Montessori found that if children are denied the opportunity to pursue their spontaneous interests during the period of that sensitivity, they would never be able to develop those skills or concepts as fully and easily in later life. Montessori was convinced that she had accidentally stumbled across the hidden Secret of Childhood and the key to effective education. If we allow the needs of the child to be more fully
Borrowing a term from biology, she called these sensitive periods, after similar developmental stages in animals. The idea seemed revolutionary at the time, and took many years, following Piaget's extensions of Montessori's initial explanation, to become generally accepted in child psychology. Today, whether we use Montessori's terminology or not, the description of child development she first presented at the turn of the century rings true.
Montessori's studies suggested that childhood can be divided into four stages: Birth to age two; ages two to six; the years of age six and seven; and age seven to twelve. Adolescence can in turn be thought of as two levels: Age twelve to fifteen and age sixteen through eighteen. Keep in mind that the age ranges suggested are only approximate, and refer to stages of cognitive and emotional development common to most children.
Montessori refined her concepts of child psychology over a period of time, describing in great detail the distinct characteristics and sensitive periods of each stage of childhood and adolescent development. Her work was further refined and extended by her follower, Jean Piaget. It is fair to say that Montessori noticed the cognitive life of the child, and set out to establish a specific educational formula to meet it, while Piaget, the biologist-turned-psychologist, set out to explore and describe the mind of the child in much greater detail, without concern for practical applications in the classroom.
Piaget cannot be thought of as simply a follower of Montessori, because his own contributions went far beyond her in the field of cognitive psychology. He saw no need to advocate the Montessori Method in his texts on child psychology. However, they maintained a life-long association, and Piaget directed the Montessori School at the Institute Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Geneva and served as President of the Swiss Montessori Society for forty-five years.
It is important for all teachers to recognize and make good use of the natural sensitive periods of childhood. They are transitory phenomena, lasting for periods from a few months to a few years at most. They are
To the child it is not work, but play. Once his need has been satiated, the sensitivity seems to die away, usually to be followed by a new one. It is almost like an invisible computer program within the child that focuses his interest and attention on given aspects of his environment, each in turn following a pre-assigned schedule for normal development. Once the period has passed, that which has not been learned must be done the hard way, without joy and without the unconscious effort found during periods of sensitivity.
Perhaps the most classic example of a sensitive period is that for language. Children are normally born with a natural fascination with the human voice. Studies have shown that infants are attuned to speech, and respond to it even against a background of competing sounds. By the second year of life, the child has created the miracle of speech, recreating the native language spoken around her. This is the longest lasting sensitive period, extending at least until age six. Using this natural sensitivity, the child can easily develop an enriched vocabulary without effort in the early childhood Montessori class.
Movement: (Sensory Motor exploration by the infant & toddler) 0.0 - 1.6
Refinement of the Senses: (Discrimination among sensory stimuli) 2.6 - 6.0
Order: (Repetition, consistency and everything in its place) 2.0 - 4.0
Small Objects: (Fascination with tiny objects & details) 1.6 - 4.0
Grace and Courtesy: (Self-confidence and consideration for others) 2.6 - 7.0
Reading: 4.6 - 5.6
Mathematics 4.0 - 6.0
Writing: (Fascination with using the pencil & later writing words) 3.6 -
Cultural Areas: (Music, Art, Dance) 3.0 - 6.0
Cultural geography, mapping, and history 3.0 - 6.0
This list is by no means complete, nor does it extend upward to the older child and adolescent. However, it does suggest to the early childhood educator some of the things that absorb young children if they are given exposure and opportunity.
Keep in mind that the learning that the child absorbs during the sensitive periods is not complete, nor has it reached the level of internalized abstraction that will develop as he grows older. It is, however, the foundation upon which much that follows will be built. Wherever this solid foundation is lacking, the child will experience difficulty in learning and operating later on.
Excerpt from The Montessori Method 1922
Her book is available on-line athttp://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/montessori/method/method.html
A.S. Neill of Summerhill School (founded 1923)
Alexander Sutherland Neill's Summerhill school, founded in 1923, was a rather radical British representant of the "Progressive" school movement. Neill provoked much discussion with his ideas about pupils' freedom in self-government, and with his refusal to conform to moral and intellectual education standards of his time, instead of which he stressed social and character development. In fact, he seems to have interpreted education in a very limited (and maybe too optimistic) way: as offering just a stimulating environment, with a minimum of directiveness.
The following text about Summerhill's Freedom principle is a part from Neill's 1937 publication That Dreadful School.
Selection from That Dreadful School 1937
Lessons in Summerhill are optional. Children can go to them or stay away from them - for years if they want to. There is a timetable for the staff, and the children have classes according to their age usually, but sometimes according to their interests. Personally I do not know what type of teaching is carried on, for I never visit lessons, and have no interest in how children learn. We have no new methods of teaching because we do not consider that teaching very much matters. Whether a school has an apparatus for teaching long division or not is of no significance, for long division is of no importance whatever. Children who come as infants attend lessons all the way, but pupils from other schools vow that they will never attend any beastly lessons again. They play and cycle and get in people's way, but they fight shy of any lessons. This sometimes goes on for months, and the recovery time is proportionate to the hatred their last school gave them. Our record case was a girl from a convent. She loafed for three years. The average period of recovery from lesson-aversion is three months.
Strangers to the idea of freedom in the school will be wondering what sort of a madhouse it is where teachers smoke while they teach and children play all day if they want to. Many an adult says: "If I had been sent to a school like that I'd never have done a thing." Others say: "Such children will feel themselves heavily handicapped when they have to compete against children who have been made to learn." I think of Jack who left us at the age of seventeen to go into an engineering factory. One day the managing director sent for him.
"You are the lad from Summerhill," he said. "I'm curious to know how such an education appears to you now that you are mixing with lads from the old schools. If you have to choose again, would you go to Eton or Summerhill?"
"Oh, Summerhill, of course," replied Jack. "But why ? What does it offer that the public schools don't offer?" Jack scratched his head.
"I dunno," he said slowly; "I think it gives you a feeling of complete self-confidence."
"Yes," said the manager dryly, "I noticed it when you came into the room."
"Lord," laughed Jack," I'm sorry if I gave you that impression."
"I liked it," replied the director. "Most men when I call them into the office fidget about and look uncomfortable. You came in as my equal... by the way what department would you like to change into?"
This story shows that learning does not matter, that only character matters. Jack failed in his Matric. because he hated all book learning, but his lack of knowledge about Lamb's Essays or the trigonometrical solution of triangles is not going to handicap him in life. All the same there is a lot of learning in Summerhill. I don't suppose a group of twelve year olds could compete with a state-school class of equal age in - say - neat handwriting or spelling or vulgar fractions. But in an examination requiring originality our lot would beat the other hollow. We have no class examinations in the school but sometimes I set an exam for fun. In my last paper appeared the following questions:
Where are the following: Madrid, Thursday Island, yesterday, God, love, my pocket screwdriver (but alas, there was no helpful answer to this one), democracy, hate, etc. Give meanings for the following: the number shows how many are expected for each: Hand (3)... only two got the third right - the standard measure for a horse. Bore (3)... club bore, oil well bore, river bore. Shell (3)... seaside, "That was Shell that was", undertaker's word for coffin. Brass (4)... metal, cheek, money, department of an orchestra... "The stuff that Neill is stingy with in his workshop" was allowed double marks as metal and cheek. Translate Hamlet's to be or not to be speech into Summerhillese.
These questions are obviously not intended to be serious, and the children enjoy them thoroughly. Newcomers, on the whole, do not rise to the answering standard of pupils who have become acclimatized to the school, not that they have less brain power, rather because they have become so accustomed to work in a serious groove that any light touch puzzles them. This is the play side of our teaching.
In all classes much work is done, and if for some reason or another a teacher cannot take his or her class on the appointed day there is usually trouble. David, aged nine, had to be isolated the other day for whooping cough. He cried bitterly. '"I'll miss Roger's lesson in Geography", he protested furiously. David has been in the school practically from birth, and he has definite and final ideas about the necessity of having his lessons given to him. A few years ago someone at a meeting proposed that a culprit should be punished by being banished from lessons for a week. The others protested on the ground that the punishment was too severe.
My staff and I have a hearty hatred of all examinations, and to us the Matric. is anathema. But we cannot refuse to teach children their Matric. subjects. Obviously as long as the thing is in existence it is our master. Hence Summerhill staff is always qualified to teach to the Matric. standard. Not that many children want to take Matric.; only those going to the university do so. I do not think they find it specially hard to tackle this exam. They generally begin to work for it seriously at the age of fourteen, and they do the work in about three years. I don't claim that they always pass at first go. The more important fact is that they try again. Boys who are going in for engineering do not bother to take Matric. They go straight to training centres of the Faraday House type. They have a tendency to see the world before they settle down to business or university work. Of our old boys, three are in Kenya, two of them coffee-farming; one boy is in Australia, and one in British Guiana.
The story of Derrick Boyd may become typical of the adventurous spirit that a free education encourages. He came at the age of eight and left after passing his Matric. at eighteen. He wanted to be a doctor, but his father could not at the time afford to send him to the university. Derrick thought that he would fill in the waiting time by seeing the world. He went to London Docks and spent two days trying to get any job - even as a stoker. He was told that too-many real sailors were unemployed, and he went home sadly. Soon a fellow schoolmate (of Summerhill) told him of an English lady in Spain who wanted a chauffeur. Derrick seized the chance, went out to Spain, built the lady a house or enlarged her existing house, drove her all over Europe, and then went to the university. The lady decided to help him with his university fees and living. After two years the lady asked him to take a year off to motor her to Kenya and there build her a house. He is there now, and the latest news is that he is to finish his medical studies in Capetown.
Larry, who came to us about the age of twelve) passed Matric. at sixteen and went out to Tahiti to grow fruit. Finding this an unpaying spec. he took to driving a taxi. Later he passed on to New Zealand, where I under- stand he did all sorts of jobs, including driving another taxi. He passed on to Brisbane University and three weeks ago I had a visit from the Principal of that university, who gave an admiring account of Larry's doings. "When we had a vacation and the students went home," he said, "Larry went out to work as a labourer on a sawmill."
But I promised to be as honest as I could and I must confess that there are Old Boys who have not shown enterprise. For obvious reasons I cannot describe them, but our successes are always those whose homes are good. Derrick and Jack and Larry had parents who were completely in sympathy with the school, so that the boys never had that most tiresome of conflicts, the thought: Which is right, home or school? And looking at the children we have today I am convinced that the successes will be those whose parents are in agreement with us... when the child comes young enough.
Breakfast is from 8.15 to 9, and the staff and pupils fetch their breakfast from the kitchen hatch which is opposite to the dining-room. Beds are supposed to be made by 9.30 when lessons begin. At the beginning of each term a timetable is posted up. Children are divided into classes according to their age and interest; the classes being called by Greek letters. Thus Corkhill in the laboratory may have on Monday the Betas, on Tuesday the Gammas and so on. Max has a similar timetable for English, Cyril for Mathematics, Roger for Geography, my wife for history. The juniors usually stay with their own teacher most of the morning, but they also go to chemistry or the art-room. There is, of course, no compulsion to attend lessons, but if Jimmy comes to English on Monday, and does not make an appearance again until the Friday of the following week, the others quite rightly object that he is keeping the work back, and they may throw him out. Lessons go on until one, but the infants and juniors lunch at 12.30. The school has to be fed in three relays, and the staff and seniors sit down to lunch at 1.45. Afternoons are completely free for everyone. What they all do in the afternoon I do not know. I garden, and seldom see youngsters about. I see the juniors playing gangsters, but some of the seniors busy themselves with motors and radios and drawing and painting. In good weather they play games. Some tinker about in the workshop, mending their cycles or making boats or revolvers. Tea is at four, and at five various activities begin. The juniors like to be read to; the middle group likes work in the art room - painting, linoleum cuts, leather-work, basket-making, and there is usually a busy group in the pottery; in fact the pottery seems to be a favourite haunt morning and evening. The Matriculation group works from five onwards. The wood and metal workshop is fall every night.
There is no work, that is, no organized work, after six or six-thirty. On Monday nights the pupils go to the local cinema on their parents' bill, and when the programme changes on the Thursday those who have the money may go again. Pocket money is given out on Thursday for this reason. On Tuesday night the staff and seniors have my psychological talk. The juniors have various reading groups then. Wednesday night is lounge night, that is dance night. Dance records are selected from a great pile... and as the lounge is next door to our sitting-room I dread Wednesday nights, for the tunes that the children like are to me simply a dreadful noise. Hot Rhythm is about the only thing in life that makes me feel murderous. They are all good dancers, and some visitors say that they feel inferior when they dance with them. Thursday night has nothing special on, for the seniors go to the cinema in Leiston or Aldeburgh, and Friday is left for any special events such as play rehearsing. Saturday night is our most important one for it is General meeting night. Dancing usually follows, and Sunday is our Theatre evening...
Our system of self-government has gone through various phases and changes. When we had six pupils it was a kind of family affair. If Derrick punched Inges he would call a meeting and we would all sit round and give our opinions. We had no jury system; the verdict and sentence were given by show of hands. As the school grew bigger this family method gradually changed, and the first change was the election of a chairman. Following that came trial by jury, a jury elected on the spot by the chairman. The culprit had the right of challenging any member of the jury, but this seldom happened; only occasionally would one hear the protest: "I won't have Bill on the jury, for he's a pal of Pat's" (Pat being the plaintiff who got punched). During the last year or two we have had another form of government. At the beginning of each term a government of five is elected by a vote. This sort of cabinet deals with all cases of charges and acts as a jury, giving punishment. The cases are read out at the general Saturday night meeting, and the verdicts are announced.
Here is a typical example of such a procedure: Jim has taken the pedals from Jack's cycle because his own cycle is a dud and he wants to go away with some others for a weekend hike. The government after due consideration of the evidence announces that Jim has to replace the pedals and be forbidden to go on the hike. The chairman says: "Any objections?" Jim gets up and shouts that there jolly well are (only his adjective isn't exactly "jolly "). "This isn't fair he cries. "I didn't know that Jack ever used his old crock of a grid; it has been kicking about among the bushes for days. I don't mind shoving his pedals back but I think the punishment unfair. I don't want to have the hike cut out." Follows a breezy discussion. In this it transpires that Jim should have a weekly allowance from home, but it hasn't come for six weeks and he hasn't a bean. The meeting votes that the sentence be quashed and it is duly quashed. But what to do about Jim? Finally it is decided to open a subscription fund to put Jim's bike in order... and he sets off on his bike happily. Usually the government's verdict is accepted both by the culprit and the community.
On appeal I cannot remember a government sentence being increased. The ordinary procedure on an appeal is for the chairman (nearly always a pupil) to elect a jury to decide the appeal, and in the case of Jim and the bike the jury had disagreed and had left the decision to the general vote. Certain classes of offences come under the automatic fine rule. If you ride another's cycle without permission there is an automatic fine of six-pence. Swearing down town (but you can swear as much as you like in the school grounds), bad behaviour in the cinema, climbing on roofs, throwing food in the dining-room, these and others are automatic fine rules. Punishments are nearly always fines... half a pocket-money or miss a cinema.
When, recently, Parton Chadwick (Chad) was tried for riding Ginger's bike without permission, he and two other members of the staff, who had also ridden it, were ordered to push each other on Ginger's bike ten times round the front lawn. Four small boys who climbed the ladder of the builders erecting the new workshop were ordered to climb up and down the ladder for ten minutes on end. A jury never seeks advice from an adult, well, I can remember only one occasion when it was done. Three girls had raided the kitchen larder. The government fined them their pocket-money. They raided the larder again that night, and the jury fined them a cinema. They raided it once more, and the government was gravelled what to do. The foreman consulted me.
"Give them tuppence reward each," I suggested.
"What? Why, man, you'll have the whole school raiding the larder if we do that."
"You won't," I said. "Try it."
They tried it. Two of the girls refused to take the money, and all three were heard to declare that they would never raid the larder .... . they didn't for about two months all the same. ...
In our government meetings all academic discussions are eschewed: children are eminently practical, and theory bores them. They are concrete and not abstract. I once brought forward a motion that swearing be abolished by law, and I gave my reasons... I had been showing a prospective parent round with her little boy. Suddenly from upstairs came a very strong adjective: the mother hastily gathered her son to her and went off in a hurry. "Why," I asked in general meeting, "should my income suffer because some fathead swears in front of a prospective parent? It isn't a moral question at all; it is purely financial. You swear and I lose a pupil." My question was answered by a lad of fourteen. "Neill is talking rot," he said. "Obviously if this woman was shocked she didn't believe in Summerhill, and even if she had sent her boy, the first time he came home saying Bloody or Hell she would have taken him away."
The work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget had a major impact on educational theory in the early 20th century, particularly in Europe. Piaget wrote extensively on the development of thought and language patterns in children. He examined children’s conceptions of number, space, logic, geometry, physical reality, and moral judgment. Piaget believed that children, by exploring their environment, create their own cognitive, or intellectual, conceptions of reality. By continually interacting with their environment, they keep adding to and reshaping their conceptions of the world. Piaget asserted that human intelligence develops in stages, each of which enhances a person’s understanding of the world in a new and more complex way.
He discovered the stages of children’s intellectual development
The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) began his illustrious scientific career (he wrote more than 60 books and several hundred articles) by preparing a paper on the albino sparrow while still an elementary student. He had become an expert on mollusks by his high school graduation.
After completing a Ph.D. in the natural sciences he directed his life-long interests in studying nature toward psychoanalysis; he spent a year in France working with Alfred Binet on measuring intelligence and studying the developing mind. He then returned to hold several professorships in Switzerland and became the director of studies at the International Center for Genetic Epistemology in the Jean Jacques Rousseau Institute in Geneva. This is where he developed his theories on intellectual development. His detailed research demonstrated clearly that children’s use of logic and thinking was entirely different from adults. These findings ultimately held tremendous implications for teaching and learning. He was the first psychologist to take children’s thinking seriously, and he opened the door to education reform movements that championed the belief that children are active builders of knowledge, rather than empty vessels to be filled.
Among Piaget’s most significant contributions to education were his theories that children pass through specific intellectual development stages, each with unique characteristics. These were identified as:
Sensori-motor (birth to about 2 years) This is where objects "exist" only in the perceptual field of the child, and hidden objects are encountered through random physical searching.
Pre-operational (2 years to 7-8 years) This is where thought and representation develop, but the child does not use logical thinking. This is where the child can perform simple operations of logic, such as grouping objects, but can do more advanced thinking if given physical materials to manipulate.
Formal Operations (11-12 years and continuing throughout life) This is where the individual learns to manipulate symbols and deal with ideas abstractly, without having to work directly with physical objects.
Piaget also discovered that the "concepts of conservation"—the total amount of something that remains the same, even though its appearance is altered—develop primarily in the stage of concrete operations. For example, "conservation of area," the amount of surface covered by a set of objects remains the same no matter how the objects are rearranged, does not develop until the child is between seven and eight years old. He also applied this idea to conserving numbers (six to seven years old), substance (seven to eight years old), length (six to eight years old), weight (nine to 10 years old), and volume (10 to 12 years old).
I first became interested in Piagetian psychology as a graduate student, and later did research in applying some of his theories to curriculum. But one of the greatest privileges in my professional life was when I was asked to edit transcripts of Piaget talking with a colleague about teaching and learning, and prepare an article on how his work might relate to schools ("Piaget Takes a Teacher’s Look," Learning, October 1973).
In that interview he urged teachers to function as research workers themselves, and use their own observations and do their own experiments to determine why teaching activities were successful in certain cases and failed in others. This is still useful advice for today’s classroom leaders.
Piaget's Stages of Intellectual Development
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist whose research on the development of children has profoundly affected psychological theories of development and of the teaching of children. His theory has also been widely studied for its application to the teaching of science in grade school, high school, and college.
Piaget's theory conceives of intellectual development as occurring in four distinct periods of stages. Intellectual development is continuous, but the intellectual operations in the different periods are distinctly different. Children progress through the four periods in the same order, but at very different rates. The stages do not end abruptly but tend to trail off. A child may be in two different stages in different areas.
Age 0-2: Sensimotor stage.
In this period a child learns about his or her relationship to various objects. This period includes learning a variety of fundamental movements and perceptual activities. Knowledge involves the ability to manipulate objects such as holding a bottle. In the later part of this period the child starts to think about events which ar not immediately present. In Piaget's terms the child is developing meaning for symbols.
Age 2-7: Preoperational stage.
Piaget has divided this stage into the preoperational phase and the intuitive phase. In the preoperational phase children use language and try to make sense of the world byt have a much less sophisticated mode of thougt than adults. They need to test thougths with reality on a daily basis and do not appear to be able to learn from genralizations made by adults. In the intutitive phase the child slowly moves away from drawing conclusions based solely on concrete experiences with objects. However, the conclusions drawn are based on rather vague impressions and perceptual judgements. It becomes possible to carry on a conversation with a child. Children develop the ability to classify objects on the basis of different criteria, learn to count and use the concept of numbers.
Age 7-12(?): Concrete Operational stage.
In this stage a person can do mental operations but only with real (concrete) objects, events or situations. Logical reasons are understood. For example, a concrete operational person can understand the need to go to bed early when it is necessary to reise early the next morning. A proeopational child, on the other hand, does not understand this logic and substitutes the psychological reason, "I want to stay up".
Piaget thought that the concrete operational stage ended at age eleven or twelve. There is now considerable evidence that these ages are the earliest athat this stage ends and that many adults remain in this stage throughout their lives. Most current estimates are that from 30 to 60 percent of adults are in the concrete operational stage (Pintrich, 1990). Thus, many college freshmen are concrete operational thinkers however, the number in engineering is small and is probably less than 10 percent (Pavelich, 1984). Concrete operational thinkers have diffuculty in an engineering curriculum.
Age 12+: Formal Operational stage.
A formal operational thinker can do abstract thinking and starts to enjoy abstract thought. He or she can formulate hypotheses without actually manipulating concrete objects, and when more adept can test the hypotheses mentally. The formal operational thinker can generalize from one kind of real object to another and to an abstract notion. The formal operational thinker is able to think ahead to plan the solution path. Finally, the formal operational person is capable of metacognition, that is, thinking about thinking.
A Nation at Risk 1982
He continues to fight the division between schools for the rich and schools for the poor.
Jonathan Kozol is one of America’s most articulate advocate for children’s rights and welfare. In 1964, Kozol became a fourth-grade teacher in a segregated classroom of the Boston public schools. Death At An Early Age, a description of that classroom, was published in 1967 and earned the 1968 National Book Award in Science, Philosophy and Religion. Since then, Kozol combined teaching with activism. He worked at South Boston High School during the city’s desegregation crisis, in Arizona with children of farm-workers, in Cleveland with illiterate adults and in the poorest community of New York City for his most recent book, Amazing Race.
Kozol’s groundbreaking 1992 book, Savage Inequalities, provokes readers to think about the rhetoric and reality of education funding.
"It’s interesting. People will tell you big inner-city school systems are poorly administered and that there’s a lot of waste. They never say that about the rich suburban school districts. The reason, of course, is that when you have $16,000 per pupil as they have in Great Neck, New York, for example, no one will ever know how inefficient you may be because there’s plenty of money to waste. The spotlight shines only on the impoverished district,"
Jonathan Kozol. Educational Leadership 1993
Kozol has the audacity to remind us that our public schools are once again segregated. Forty-five years after Brown vs. Education and a century after Plessy vs. Ferguson, American schools are as separate and unequal as any time in our history, he says. Our nation has lost interest in integration, he says, adding that he challenges the use of the term, "past discrimination," and implores us to open our eyes to the plight of many children of color.
Kozol spends a great deal of time with children in America’s poorest communities. His brilliant reporting and beautiful prose can break your heart while demanding that you get mad. That anger may then be channeled into civil action.
Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel says, "Jonathan’s struggle is noble. What he says must be heard. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference."
Kozol’s own elegant words used to end Harvard’s 1997 Plessy vs. Ferguson Centennial Conference are a call-to-action on behalf of our nation’s children. His sense of nonsectarian spirituality moved the audience.
"Most of our talk when we talk about kids and separate and unequal schools has to do with the results—what’s going to happen to them when they grow up. Will they be able to get a job? Will they be useful to America? And questions of utility dominate the discussion; when my friend Marian Wright Edelman and I talk we feel compulsively that we have to speak in terms of utility, so we always have to make a dollar argument in order to get people to listen.
When we go to Congress—I’ve probably done this a 100 times—we always say, ‘Do this because it will be good for business to do it. Because every dollar you spend on Head Start will save $6 later on’—as if we always have to find a dollar corollary for justice."
"It upsets me and breaks my heart that we have done this for so long. I think we have capitulated. I don’t think we should do that any longer. People say to me, ‘We should give this child Head Start for two or three years because it will be more expensive not to, because it will cost more to keep her in prison later on.’
"I look at the person and I want to say, "This is the thinking of Dickensian shopkeepers. You do it because it will save you money. Why not do it because this is a baby, given to us by God, and she deserves to have some fun before she dies. And that’s the best reason."
Quotations from Savage Inequalities 1992
In public schooling, social policy has been turned back almost one hundred years.
"Almost anyone who visits in the schools of East Saint Louis, even for a short time, comes away profoundly shaken. These are innocent children, after all. They have done nothing wrong. They have committed no crime. They are too young to have offended in any way at all. One searches for some way to understand why a society as rich and, frequently, as generous as ours would leave these children in their penury and squalor for so long--and with so little public indignation.
"Ideal class size for these kids would be 15 to 20. Will these children ever get what white kids in the suburbs take for granted? I don't think so. If you ask me why, I'd have to speak of race and social class. I don't think that the powers that be in New York City understand, or want to understand, that if they do not give these children a sufficient education to lead healthy and productive lives, we will be their victims later on. We'll pay the price someday--in violence, in economic costs. I despair of making this appeal in any terms but these. You cannot issue an appeal to conscience in New York today. The fair-play argument won't be accepted. So you speak of violence and hope that it will scare the city into action."
"After lunch I talk with a group of students who are hoping to go to college but do not seem sure of what they’ll need to do to make this possible. Only one out of five seniors in the group has filed an application, and it is already April. Pamela, the one who did apply, however, tells me she neglected to submit her grades and college-entrance test results and therefore has to start again. The courses she is taking seem to rule out application to a four-year college. She tells me she is taking Spanish, literature, physical education, Afro-American history and a class she terms, "job strategy." When I ask her what this is, she says, "It teaches how to dress and be on time and figure out your deductions…" The children in the group seem not just lacking in important, useful information that would help them to achieve their dreams, but, in a far more drastic sense, cut off and disconnected from the outside world."
"Spare Us the Cheap Grace" An essay, 1995
It is hard to say what was more shocking about the death of Elisa Izquierdo--the endless savagery inflicted on her body and mind, or the stubborn inaction of the New York City agencies that were repeatedly informed of her peril. But while the murder of Elisa by her mother is appalling, it is hardly unexpected. In the death zones of America's postmodern ghetto, stripped of jobs and human services and sanitation, plagued by AIDS, tuberculosis, pediatric asthma and endemic clinical depression, largely abandoned by American physicians and devoid of the psychiatric services familiar in most middle-class communities, deaths like these are part of a predictable scenario.
After the headlines of recrimination and pretended shock wear off, we go back to our ordinary lives. Before long, we forget the victims' names. They weren't our children or the children of our neighbors. We do not need to mourn them for too long. But do we have the right to mourn at all? What does it mean when those whom we elect to public office cut back elemental services of life protection for poor children and then show up at the victim's funeral to pay condolence to the relatives and friends? At what point do those of us who have the power to prevent these deaths forfeit the entitlement of mourners?
It is not as if we do not know what might have saved some of these children's lives. We know that intervention programs work when well-trained social workers have a lot of time to dedicate to each and every child. We know that crisis hot lines work best when half of their employees do not burn out and quit each year, and that social workers do a better job when records are computerized instead of being piled up, lost and forgotten on the floor of a back room. We know that when a drug-addicted mother asks for help, as many mothers do, it is essential to provide the help she needs without delay, not after a waiting period of six months to a year, as is common in poor urban neighborhoods.
All these remedies are expensive, and we would demand them if our own children's lives were at stake. And yet we don't demand them for poor children. We wring our hands about the tabloid stories. We castigate the mother. We condemn the social worker. We churn out the familiar criticisms of "bureaucracy" but do not volunteer to use our cleverness to change it. Then the next time an election comes, we vote against the taxes that might make prevention programs possible, while favoring increased expenditures for prisons to incarcerate the children who survive the worst that we have done to them and grow up to be dangerous adults.
What makes this moral contradiction possible?
Can it be, despite our frequent protestations to the contrary, that our society does not particularly value the essential human worth of certain groups of children? Virtually all the victims we are speaking of are very poor black and Hispanic children. We have been told that our economy no longer has much need for people of their caste and color. Best-selling authors have, in recent years, assured us of their limited intelligence and low degree of "civilizational development." As a woman in Arizona said in regard to immigrant kids from Mexico, "I didn't breed them. I don't want to feed them"--a sentiment also heard in reference to black children on talk-radio stations in New York and other cities. "Put them over there," a black teenager told me once, speaking of the way he felt that he and other blacks were viewed by our society. "Pack them tight. Don't think about them. Keep your hands clean. Maybe they'll kill each other off."
I do not know how many people in our nation would confess such contemplations, which offend the elemental mandates of our cultural beliefs and our religions. No matter how severely some among us may condemn the parents of the poor, it has been an axiom of faith in the U.S. that once a child is born, all condemnations are to be set aside. If we now have chosen to betray this faith, what consequences will this have for our collective spirit, for our soul as a society?
There is an agreeable illusion, evidenced in much of the commentary about Elisa, that those of us who witness the abuse of innocence--so long as we are standing at a certain distance--need not feel complicit in these tragedies. But this is the kind of ethical exemption that Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." Knowledge carries with it certain theological imperatives. The more we know, the harder it becomes to grant ourselves exemption. "Evil exists," a student in the South Bronx told me in the course of a long conversation about ethics and religion in the fall of 1993. "Somebody has power. Pretending that they don't so they don't need to use it to help people--that is my idea of evil."
Like most Americans, I do not tend to think of a society that has been good to me and to my parents as "evil." But when he said that "somebody has power," it was difficult to disagree. It is possible that icy equanimity and a self-pacifying form of moral abdication by the powerful will take more lives in the long run than any single drug-addicted and disordered parent. Elisa Izquierdo's mother killed only one child. The seemingly anesthetized behavior of the U.S. Congress may kill thousands. Now we are told we must "get tougher" with the poor. How much tougher can we get with children who already have so little? How cold is America prepared to be?
Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences1993
Mary Budd Rowe & Wait Time
As a child, Mary Budd Rowe once received an impromptu science lesson from Albert Einstein, who helped her figure out how she could use her hands to produce a strobe effect enabling her to "see" individual water droplets falling in a fountain at Princeton University. That early experience affected her profoundly, and she spent her life teaching adults and children the important lesson she learned that day, that "science is exploring, and exploring is fun."
Mary Budd Rowe, who died in 1996 at 71, became a science educator of international stature and worked with numerous science and education organizations throughout the world to improve teaching at every level. Her career included stints as a state science coordinator in Colorado, leading the science research division at the National Science Foundation, being president of National Science Teachers Association, and professorships at Columbia University, the University of Florida and Stanford University. Her projects included developing the Science Helper series from Learning Team, Armonk, N.Y., including CD-ROMs giving teachers access to interactive teaching materials, staff development video series, and teacher education programs in the United States and abroad.
However, Rowe was perhaps known best for her original research on classroom teaching techniques. This included groundbreaking studies on questioning "wait-time," demonstrating that teachers typically wait silently less than one second after asking a question before they make a comment, answer their own questions, or call on other students. She also found that teachers wait the least amount of time for slower students to respond.
In contrast, Rowe’s research found that increasing wait-time to at least three seconds produced dramatic improvements. This simple change unleashed a torrent of results in the quality of student responses and in the number of individuals who participated in discussions. These effects included longer responses, more unsolicited and relevant comments, increased incidence of speculative responses, greater use of evidence to support inferences, greater participation by slower learners, and an increase in the questions asked by the students themselves.
Similarly, increasing wait-time also changed teacher behavior. Using this simple technique, teachers began asking more "higher-level" evaluative questions, they shifted from teacher-talk to student participation, gained greater flexibility in accepting responses, and heightened expectations for student performance. These compelling results were validated repeatedly at elementary, middle, high school and college teaching levels. The results of this research led Phi Delta Kappan magazine to cite Mary Budd Rowe as one of the two researchers of this century who influenced education practice the most (the other is Jean Piaget).
E(ric) D(onald) Hirsch Jr.
E.D. Hirsch, Jr., is a Professor of English at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. The quote below is from one of his most influential works, Cultural Literacy, which in its entirety makes the case that "cultural literacy" in the U.S. is being eroded because the foundational elements of a shared culture are no longer being laid in the school system. Hirsch argues in favor of a shared cultural canon; one is "culturally literate" if one is familiar with the canon. To support this view, Hirsch and two of his colleagues included an appendix to the book entitled "What Literate Americans Know: A Preliminary List." The list, which Hirsch meant to "reflect culture" in the U.S. and to serve as a springboard for national curricular change, has been criticized as reflecting only the dominant culture, to the detriment of the multiple cultural heritages which are a part of the national cultural system.
Excerpt from Cultural Literacy, 1987
My father used to write business letters that alluded to Shakespeare. These allusions were effective for conveying complex messages to his associates, because, in his day, business people could make such allusions with every expectation of being understood. For instance, in my father's commodity business, the timing of sales and purchases was all-important, and he would sometimes write or say to his colleagues, "There is a tide," without further elaboration. Those four words carried not only a lot of complex information, but also the persuasive force of a proverb. In addition to the basic practical meaning, "act now!" what came across was a lot of implicit reasons why immediate action was important.
For some of my younger readers who may not recognize the allusion, the passage from Julius Caesar is:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
To say "There is a tide" is better than saying "Buy (or sell) now and you'll cover expenses for the whole year, but if you fail to act right away, you may regret it the rest of your life." That would be twenty-seven words instead of four, and while the bare message of the longer statement would be conveyed, the persuasive force wouldn't. Think of the demands of such a business communication. To persuade somebody that your recommendation is wise and well-founded, you have to give lots of reasons and cite known examples and authorities. My father accomplished that and more in four words, which made quoting Shakespeare as effective as any efficiency consultant could wish. The moral of this tale is not that reading Shakespeare will help one rise in the business world. My point is a broader one. The fact that middle-level executives no longer share literate background knowledge is a chief cause of their inability to communicate effectively.
Two Excerpts from The Schools We Need 1996
"Dependency of Learning Upon Shared Knowledge"
Psychological research has shown that the ability to learn something new depends on an ability to accommodate the new thing to the already known. When the automobile first came on the scene, people called it a "horseless carriage," thus accommodating the new to the old. When a teacher tells a class that electrons go around the nucleus of an atom as the planets go around the sun, that analogy may be helpful for students who already know about the solar system, but not for students who don’t. Relevant background knowledge can be conceived as a stock of potential analogies that enable new ideas to be assimilated. Experts in any field learn new things faster than novices do, because their rich, highly accessible background knowledge gives them a greater variety of means for capturing the new ideas. This enabling function of relevant prior knowledge is essential at every stage of learning.
When a child "gets" what is being offered in a classroom, it is like someone getting a joke. A click occurs. People with the requisite background knowledge will get the joke, but hose who lack it will be puzzled until somebody explains the background knowledge that was assumed in telling the joke. A classroom of twenty-five to thirty children cannot move forward as a group until all students have gained the taken-for-granted knowledge necessary for "getting" the next step in learning. If the class must pause too often while its lagging members are given background knowledge they should have gained in earlier grades, the progress of the class is bound to be excruciatingly slow for better-prepared students. If, on the other hand, instead of slowing down the class for laggards, the teacher presses ahead, the less-prepared students are bound to be left further and further behind. In the American context, this familiar problem is not adequately overcome by placing students in different "ability" tracks, because the basic structural problem has little to do with ability. Even smart people don’t always get jokes…
For effective classroom learning to take place, class members need to share enough common reference points to enable all students to learn steadily, albeit at differing rates and in response to varied approaches. (23-24)
"Romanticism and the Naturalistic Fallacy"
Many Americans still have faith that things natural must be better than things artificial… From Romanticism the American educational community inherited the faith that early childhood is a time of innocence and naturalness, a time for being a child…. It is wrong to spoil the one time of life when children can develop in tune with the order of things. It is wrong to be parents who live out their own unfulfilled ambitions by rushing their children, creating unseasonable pressure and ruining their lives. Self-evidently, premature book learning goes against nature. According to the educational community, "research has shown" that untimely interventions and constraints are "developmentally inappropriate" and create a hothouse, force-feeding environment…
If the debate in our society were between children’s happiness and unhappiness, or between forced seatwork on the one side and multisensory play on the other, any humane person would side with the Romantic developmentalists. But what is the weight of evidence regarding the mental health and creativity of young children who have undergone an academically challenging early education?
…Recently, French social scientists completed longitudinal studies of some four thousand children on the long-term effects of [French preschools]. The results are striking. Those who attend school at a younger age are more effective academically and, by all indirect measure, better adjusted and happier for having had early exposure to challenging and stimulating early academic experiences.
The French results are even more compelling from the standpoint of social justice. When disadvantaged children attend [French preschools] at age two, their academic performance by grade six or seven equals that of highly advantaged children who have not attended preschool until age four. If advantaged children also attend preschool at age two, they continue to retain their academic lead in later grades, but in that case all students are performing a very high level. The French experience shows that a good, academically focused preschool can overcome the egregious academic differences that currently develop between social classes in American schools. …
If one also brings in studies from neurobiology, the claim that early education requires extreme gradualness and hands-off spontaneity is refuted by research that has determined what "nature" is actually telling us about the brain’s development. The following is from a recent popular article on advances in neurobiology:
"It’s crazy," says Pasko Rakic, a Yale neurobiologist. "Americans think kids should not be asked to do difficult things with their brains while they are young: "Let them play; they’ll study at the university." The problem is, if you don’t train them early, it’s much harder."
It is never too early for a child to exercise his mind. Some of the benefits of early brain workouts have been known for centuries. Teachers of music, gymnastics and chess, for example, have long insisted that practicing being early. Linguists have marveled that children can learn a new language without an accent, while adults cannot….
There is, says Rakic, a fairly simple scientific explanation: Children’s brains can make far more synaptic connections than can adults’. Shortly after birth the brain makes connections at an incredible pace. As puberty approaches the number tapers off… "This doesn’t mean you cannot learn in later life. You can learn tremendously. But in childhood there is an ability to learn quickly which is unparalleled."
How did we arrive at a situation in which the American professional associations are setting forth what would be considered by most overseas experts and by mainstream American psychologists to be impractical and misleading advice? (78-83)
William Glasser, M.D., has been working with schools since 1956. His first book for teachers, Schools Without Failure, has been read by over a million educators, but the goal of actually running a school without failure has been hard to accomplish. In 1990 Dr. Glasser created the concept of a quality school--a school where there is no failure because all students are doing competent work and many are doing quality work. Denouncing conventional coercive teaching methods as counterproductive, he advocates a less adversarial method of education. The renowned author of "Reality Therapy" argues that we can save our schools only by radically retooling the way we teach. He explains that traditional coercive management in school is the root of today's educational problems.
Excerpt from The Quality School 1998
Picture the students in a required academic class at a randomly selected secondary school as a gang of street repair workers. If they were working as hard as the students do in class, half or more would be leaning on their shovels, smoking and socializing, perfectly content to let the others do the work. Of those who were working, few would be working hard, and it is likely that none would be doing high-quality work.
It is apparent, however, that students have thought about quality and have a good idea of what, in their school, is considered quality. I have talked at length to groups of high school students about this subject, and most of them see quality in athletics, music, and drama, a few see it in advanced placement academics or shop classes, but almost none see it in regular classes. While they believe they are capable of doing quality work in class, all but a very few admit that they have never done it and have no plans to do it in the future. The purpose of this book is to explain how to manage students so that a substantial majority do high quality schoolwork: Nothing less will solve the problems of our schools.
If we accept that the purpose of any organization, public or private, is to build a quality product or perform a quality service, then we must also accept that the workers in the organization must do quality work and that the job of the manager is to see that this occurs. In school, the students are the workers, and right now almost none are doing quality work in class. Those who manage in the schools - teachers who manage students directly and administrators who manage teachers and some students - are in most instances highly dedicated, humane people who have tried very hard but have yet to figure out how to manage so that students do significant amounts of quality work.
Is this problem unsolvable? Should we, as we seem to be doing, give up on the idea of many students doing quality work and instead increase the amount of low-quality work - as we do when we settle for trying to reduce the number of dropouts? But if quality education is what we need, does it make that much difference whether a student stays in school and "leans on his shovel" or drops out and "leans on his shovel"?
Or should we look for organizations in which almost all the workers are working hard and doing a quality job and try to apply to the schools what the managers in these places are doing? Although not widely known or applied in this country, there are far better management practices than most school managers know about. This book describes these highly successful practices and explains how school managers can learn to use them. What is significant about these practices is that they are specifically aimed at persuading workers to do quality work. In today's competitive world, only organizations whose products and services are high quality thrive, and our schools are far from thriving.
Among those who have taught managers to manage so that almost all workers do high-quality work, one name stands out. To quote from Dr. Myron Tribus, one of his disciples:
The man who taught the Japanese to achieve high quality at low cost (after World War 11) is an American, Dr. W. Edwards Deming.... The Japanese faced an "export or die" situation. They had a reputation for shoddy products.... With the aid of the MacArthur government, they located Dr. Deming, and he proceeded to teach them the methods rejected by our managers. The rest is history.
What this history tells us is that the Japanese workers, led by managers trained by Dr. Deming, for the first time in modem history made very high-quality products, especially automobiles and electronics, available at a price the average person could afford. Given the opportunity to get high quality for the same price as low quality, consumers are stampeding toward "made in Japan," and the result is that Japan is now one of the world's richest countries.
I must mention that today, many years after Dr. Deming introduced his ideas so successfully in Japan, some people have become critical of both how the Japanese now manage and of American managers who claim to be using the same ideas. When this criticism is examined, however, it becomes clear that what is being criticized is not what Dr. Deming taught but rather the distortion of his noncoercive ideas by managers who are only paying lip service to Deming as they return to the traditional, coercive management practices that have been associated with the problems Deming has shown how to solve.
This book will explain how Dr. Deming's ideas can be brought undistorted into our schools so that the present elitist system, in which just a few students are involved in high-quality work, will be replaced by a system in which almost all students have this experience. Once they do have this experience, which for almost all of them would be a totally new one, students will find it highly satisfying. They will no more turn down the chance to continue doing this kind of work than does the well-managed factory worker. But further, as I will soon explain, students are not only the workers in the school, they are also the products. Once they see that they themselves are gaining in quality, they will make an effort to continue this option, just as we continue to buy the quality products of Japan.
Deming, before his death in 1994, labored for thirty years in Japan before more than a few American industrialists paid attention to him. More are now listening because they have become aware that paying attention to what he had to say may mean their very survival, but teachers and administrators have no such incentive. They have every reason to believe that they will survive whether or not they change what they have done for so long. So as much as Deming's ideas are likely to increase the quality of our education, moving "managing for quality" into practice in our schools will not be easy.