Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Book Discussion: The Underground History of American Education – Chapter 1

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

This evening we took a drive and I read aloud from The Underground History of American Education.  The kids seemed to enjoy it, even if the concepts were far over their heads.  If nothing else, this submerses them in language and they find the cadence of my voice relaxing as I read aloud.

As promised, I have developed a few questions to spark discussion of Chapter 1.  These are just a jumping-off point.  If you have other questions to raise, we’d love to hear them.  Now, ready … set … discuss!

1. Gatto writes: “Something in the structure of schooling calls forth violence.” He gives modern-day examples of “slurs, aspersion, formal ranking, insult, and inference,” which he believes are “more deadly” than physical violence?  Does this match your experience with schooling?  Which do you believe is most detrimental: physical violence or emotional violence?

2. Throughout the chapter, Gatto uses the analogy of driving a car to illustrate attitudes about compulsory education.  He points out that very with few hours of training or experience, we allow practically anyone to operate a massive deadly weapon full of an explosive liquid.  Why, then, do governments require people to attend schools to learn skills such as reading and math?

3. In ancient Rome, a pedagogue was a slave trained as a drill master for young students.  Despite the negative connotations of its etymology, the word “pedagogy” is often used to describe modern school science.  Do the origins of the term reflect current educational practices?  If so, how?

4. Gatto argues that the public education system is based upon a Hindu model, which was used to keep the lower castes in place.  Andrew Bell, who is largely responsible for bringing this method to the West, called it an “impediment to learning writing and ciphering, an efficient control on reading development.”  Do you think that compulsory education has any effect on class relations today?  If so, what effects does it have and what are their causes?

5. Lincoln, Farragut, Edison, Franklin, Washington … Gatto lists self-educated people who did great things at a young age.  Today, some of these people would still be in middle school at the age when they accomplished their crowning acheivements.  Why does our society shelter children well into their teens or twenties?  What might be the effects of allowing teens more responsibility?

If you missed the first installment in this series, you can catch it here.

You can read the full text of Gatto’s book online.

A Holy Curiosity

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Levi found my middle school yearbook yesterday, and managed to color several photos fuschia before I caught him. As I flipped through to survey the damage, I paused to reminisce.  One page spread showed pictures from various classes: physical education, math, science, social studies.  Aside from the captions, I couldn’t tell most of them apart.  Here, I’ve shared the picture labeled “Science.”  Pardon me, but I don’t see much science happening in this picture.

Contrast this with yesterday’s outing with the kids.  We took a nature hike, snapped some family photos, and took in the beautiful fall day.  They experienced firsthand the flora and fauna of a temperate forest, our local biome.  They experimented with physics by throwing small rocks over a ledge and widely missing the lake below.  They collected pods from locust trees and shook them, listening to the seeds rattle inside.  True, there is something to be said for systematic learning, and some science facts (e.g. the periodic table) must be memorized.  We’ll do plenty of both over the next several years.  Still, there is no replacement for observing one’s world, guided by innate curiosity.  Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best when he said:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

As Nate and I educate our children, one of our goals is to preserve and enhance that curiosity.  I am concerned that the type of “science” occurring in this yearbook picture would stifle it.

Sweetest of Gifts

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The kids playing at the park

“Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than his children?”
-Marcus Tullius Cicero

We apologize for the lack of posts the last few days.  We had a power outage among other things.

Cicero is right, children are sweetest of gifts.  They can be frustrating and annoying, reminding us that the apple didn’t fall far enough from the tree.  They are also amazing and worth the time and effort.  My 2-year-old (almost 3) recites the English and Greek alphabets with the phonetic sounds.  Children are full of surprises.  On the other hand, pieces of wallpaper have been ripped from my living room wall.

Most parents in my experience do believe their children are gifts, and that gift should be cherished.  We are going to go on a picnic with the kids and enjoy this lovely weather.  Have a good day.

26 Hours

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Last week at the recycled crafts class that I teach, we made clocks from old CDs. One of the girls in the class mused that she wanted her clock to go to 13 instead of 12. I only thought of her suggestion as cute at the time, but looking at it symbolically, I realized how I really could use an extra two hours in every day. I’m not formally teaching yet, but I still find it challenging to fit everything in. I have a question for you, readers. How do you find an extra hour or two in your day? What time-saving tips and tricks can you share? Share a great idea in the comments area, and you may just find yourself featured in a future post! :)