Using Greek ideals to improve progress in education

January 8, 2016 at 7:44 am 4 comments

Nick Falkner has been using his blog in a series of posts to address a question that I’ve wondered about here: Why does research influence so little practice (see post here) and policy (see post here)?  Nick is taking a novel approach — he’s using the three values of Ancient Greece, brought together as a trinity through Socrates and Plato: beauty, goodness and truth.  He’s exploring how we can use these to define high-quality teaching. It’s an interesting series and approach which I recommend.

I used to say that it was stunning how contemporary education seems to be slow in moving in directions first suggested by Dewey a hundred years ago, then I discovered that Rousseau had said it 150 years before that. Now I find that Quntilian wrote things such as this nearly 2,000 years ago. And Marcus Aurelius, among other stoics, made much of approaches to thinking that, somehow, were put to one side as we industrialised education much as we had industrialised everything else.

This year I have accepted that we have had 2,000 years of thinking (and as much evidence when we are bold enough to experiment) and yet we just have not seen enough change. Dewey’s critique of the University is still valid. Rousseau’s lament on attaining true mastery of knowledge stands. Quintilian’s distrust of mere imitation would not be quieted when looking at much of repetitive modern examination practice.

What stops us from changing? We have more than enough evidence of discussion and thought, from some of the greatest philosophers we have seen. When we start looking at education, in varying forms, we wander across Plato, Hypatia, Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, in addition to all of those I have already mentioned. But evidence, as it stands, does not appear to be enough, especially in the face of personal perception of achievement, contribution and outcomes, whether supported by facts or not.

Source: A Year of Beauty | Nick Falkner

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , .

Interaction beats out video lectures and even reading for learning Developing a Framework to Define K-12 CS Ed: It’s about consensus not vision

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  January 8, 2016 at 8:00 am

    This is interesting in part because it does not mention Howard Gardner’s book of the last few years aiming in very similar direction:

    There is something to be said for polymorphism, but there is also the peril of overloading very old words having rather traditional meanings given the changes in perspective that have happened in the last 400 years. For example “truth” in science has a quite different meaning compared to the Greeks, the Middle Ages, or its evocation here.

    Similarly the term “understand” is qualitatively different (I’ve advocated using Heinlein’s word “Grok” and similarly making up new words for some of the other areas which have changed that are less cluttered with old meanings).

    I think something could be made of this discussion if a better foundation were laid.



    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  January 8, 2016 at 10:22 am

      Thanks for the reference, Alan — just ordered.

  • 3. Leigh Ann DeLyser  |  January 8, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Perhaps one of the best classes I took as a PhD student was David Klahr’s Scientific Research in Education Course. His syllabus is here.

    One of the best readings from the course was Ellen Langemann’s book “An Elusive Science: The troubling history of education research”. I loved that PIER’s first course was focused on not only what constitutes education research in the classroom, but also, the history of failure in translating good results into classroom practice.

    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  January 8, 2016 at 10:21 am

      I had to take a two-semester sequence at Michigan on the history of education. We read Plato’s Republic, Rousseau’s Emile, Dewey, Augustine, and on and on. It was a difficult and fascinating class where I learned new ways to think about education. For example, that’s where I learned (for example) how Brown v. Topeka Board of Education economically decimated the Black middle class in the US — if you’re integrating two systems, you don’t need two teachers anymore, so guess which one got fired.

      And that’s where I first learned how old the ideas of progressive education are. Plato promoted learning through games. Rousseau sowed the seeds of constructionism, which Dewey harvested.

      I just ordered Langemann’s book — thank you for the reference.


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