kitchen table math, the sequel: The Book Knight on Liberal Arts Education

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Book Knight on Liberal Arts Education

58 comments:

Beth said...

I don't really agree with this.

First of all, real progressives hate what's going on in the public schools as much as anyone. "Progressive" shouldn't mean "mushy."

Public schools may throw around a lot of progressive jargon, but if the kids aren't interested in what they're doing, and they don't have a chance to follow their own interests, it's not a true progressive education.

Second, at the end of the program the Book Knight endorses "family projects and homework." Blech! Sending my kid to school shouldn't result in another part-time job for me. Educate the kids, not the parents. I'm sick and tired of the condescending crapola that gets sent home that I'm supposed to be involved in.

concernedCTparent said...

Yep. The family projects and homework was a bad last minute addition. I felt the same way, "No. No. No." That's not what we need more of.

However, in the context of the history of education as excellently related by Diane Ravitch in Left Back (which the BookKnight cites in the video), Progressive Ed really has been the undoing of a Liberal Arts education. Progressive Ed is the philosophy of education that still has a suffocating grip on our schools of education. In many respects, progressive education has come to mean anti-intellectualism as far as I can see. It has little if anything to do with being a progressive in the political sense-- it refers to a set of beliefs as to how schools should go about the business of teaching (or rather being guides on the side and letting children teach themselves more often than not).

I'm just impressed that he's even read Left Back (it really is worth reading) and even more surprised that such "radical" views on public education managed to garner third place in a national competition of any sort.

Beth said...

I don't find the whole "progressive vs. traditional" debate very helpful. IMHO, there are advantages to both approaches. The traditional approach, at best, offers a solid grounding in a number of important subjects. The progressive approach, at best, helps kids develop genuine interests, and lets them take real ownership of their education.

My dream school, which exists only in my fevered imagination, would combine the best of both worlds, with a solid grounding in the basics alongside a chance for kids to develop their own interests, and showing real respect for kids as the individuals they are.

When my kids have problems at school, I have never yet said "the school is too progressive" or "the school is too traditional." The problems I have seen come about not because of any particular educational philosophy, but because the school is a big bureaucracy that doesn't really care about education or kids. I'm not convinced that changing the dominant philosophy at Ed School will fix the problems that I see on the ground.

concernedCTparent said...

I don't find the whole "progressive vs. traditional" debate very helpful. IMHO, there are advantages to both approaches.

As far as the majority of public schools and schools of edcucation are concerned, there is NO debate at all. None. Progressive education in its many forms rules the roost and it matters a pittance what parents want.

I believe in the merits of a liberal arts education because it builds a foundation of content knowledge. I believe that without solid content knowledge children will struggle to develop their own interests to the extent they are able. I believe that lack of content knowledge closes doors of opportunity.

I also believe that if a parent doesn't agree with the merits of a liberal arts education and believes that another approach is better for their child that they should have other options. As it stands, even in the best public schools in our nation, parents don't have options for their children.

A liberal arts education isn't a panacea, but I believe it's a good place to start. Of course too many schools are badly managed. Too many teachers don't have access to effective curricula or the appropriate training to teach the children that walk through their doors. The list could go on and on. However, I would never underestimate an educational philosophy as unimportant because it's the roadmap a student must follow for hour upon hour and days upon days. As a parent, I would like to think that my child is following the raodmap that will lead them to the desired destination. Otherwise, what's the point?

Beth said...

I agree with you on several points:

Solid content knowledge is vital. After spending 30 hours a week in school, kids should know something.

Parents should have options for their children. There is no "one size fits all" in education.

Public schools should listen to parents, instead of ignoring them as they do now.

The part that doesn't square with my experience is where you say "Progressive education in its many forms rules the roost." Maybe it's true in your district, but it hasn't been my experience.

Our local public schools are punitive and authoritarian. The students are stressed out. The "good" (i.e., compliant) students are routinely overloaded with homework to the point that they have no time or energy for anything but academics during the school year. This can't be described as "progressive".

concernedCTparent said...

I know, it doesn't sound progressive because it isn't. It never has been. Progressive Education is the historical name for the educational philosophy that supplanted a mostly liberal arts focus in schools and accurate or not, it's the name that "stuck".

I would argue that students are stressed out precisely because of this philosophy of education-- the onus on learning has been shifted too heavily upon the student. The teacher is now a guide on the side and is supposed to let the student figure too many things out on his/her own. The student must discover things and work in groups to be engaged is his or her own learning. It's just cruel not to teach children interesting, vital, and important content and yet still call it an education.

Sadly, schools have become dogmatic and without the intervention of parents, tutors, or teachers who don't buy into the outdated theories of learning too many children are set up to fail. These education theories have no support in science or what we know about how students learn. And yet, the majority of public schools carry on doing what they do whether it's effective or not, whether it's most efficient or not, or whether it's successful or not. They do what they do.

Schools can be punitive and authoritarian places. How can any child be expected to thrive in such an environment?

So yes, you're absolutely right. Progressive education is not progressive at all and I would argue that it hasn't ever been. The history of public education is fascinating albeit extremely depressing. Nevertheless, it's important to understand history if we're ever to make the changes we wish to see. Diane Ravitch's Left Back is a good starting point-- I recommend it highly.

Beth said...

What I'm trying to say is that if a school were (hey, subjunctive!) truly progressive, it wouldn't be punitive and authoritarian. Nobody in progressive education is happy about the barrage of carrots and sticks confronting kids today.

What I think happened is that all the schools are basically traditional in tone. Then a bunch of progressive theorists came along, and their way of thinking became fashionable (I don't doubt that you hear a lot of it in ed school.)

The result is that our schools are basically traditional in structure and outlook, but the content has been hollowed out and there's a lot of progressive-sounding jargon and activities pasted on top.

It's a lose-lose situation. Traditionalists hate it and progressives hate it too, and they're all absolutely right to hate it.

The kids don't learn the basics, as they would in a good traditional setting, and they're not developing their own interests and enjoying learning, as they would in a good progressive setting.

Ethical Teacher said...

Great debate and excellent points from both of you! I particularly agree with Beth's second comment. Full disclosure: I am a public school teacher.

I would add that public education is also co-opted by strong commercial interests. Commercial publishers push their products onto states, and laws (NCLB) are enacted that force those packages on classrooms with teachers given less and less professional discretion over what they need to teach. Case in point: Miss Brave's site referred to elsewhere on this blog. There is a commercial battle between the products sold by Lucy Calkins and those sold by Fountas & Pinnell. Their inventory is ever-growing and pricey, and their consultant fees are exorbitant, paid for by tax dollars.

I also recommend a great book: Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads by Joel Best. He also wrote Damned Lies and Statistics. Wonderful insight into what drives fads and how certain social institutions are particularly vulnerable to them.

I am also coming to believe that there is indeed a relentless privatization movement afoot that claims to want to give parents choice, but is really more about divesting public money from the public and placing it into private pockets.
Cheers!

Beth said...

Ethical teacher, Thanks! You bring up a really important point. There are all kinds of commercial forces at work here.

I used to think that the hidden motive behind NCLB was to destroy public education, but now I think it's mostly a way to make money for testing companies, which it has done very successfully.

The testing companies can now make money by selling standardized tests that all the kids are required to take, plus they sell materials to coach kids to get a better score on the test. It's a racket, and a very expensive one.

PhysicistDave said...

Beth wrote:
>What I think happened is that all the schools are basically traditional in tone. Then a bunch of progressive theorists came along, and their way of thinking became fashionable (I don't doubt that you hear a lot of it in ed school.)

Yes, I think that is factually accurate. That is one of the reasons that I am reluctant to refer to our own approach to homeschooling as “traditional”: we are not doing it the way schools do it now or fifty years ago or a hundred years ago, none of which worked that well.

However, “progressive education” does indeed have a somewhat definite meaning among educators, educational historians, and the general public, and, while “progressive educators” argue about a whole host of details, one common theme has generally been anti-intellectualism.

There is a wonderful, non-polemical academic study on this, Kliebard’s The Struggle for the American Curriculum: 1893-1958. The book is not a political hatchet job: if anything, Kliebard seems somewhat sympathetic to the progressives.

At one point in the book, Kliebard does mention explicitly that the common theme among the progressives was opposition to learning abstract, general, intellectual, academic content. That theme is implicit throughout the book.

I think everyone here would find the book worthwhile reading (though it is not light bedtime reading).

Bad ideas never die in education it seems, and a lot of the fads that motivate ‘reform’ today were born in the period covered by the book.

And, while I agree with you that the existing schools are still more “traditional” than “progressive,” I think the progressive sloganeering and reforms do serve to divert energy and attention from the truly needed academic reforms.

So, what we end up is incredibly bad traditional schools with a thin veneer of faked progressivism. Pretty disastrous, though I suspect that real progressivism would be even worse: have you ever looked into the Waldorf schools? We know several families with kids in Waldorf, and it is giving me the opportunity to make some very interesting pedagogical observations concerning progressive education. Let’s just say that I believe in freedom of religion.

Dave

Beth said...

PhysicistDave says:

*******
So, what we end up is incredibly bad traditional schools with a thin veneer of faked progressivism.
*******

Yes, I absolutely agree.

I have looked into Waldorf schools. On first hearing about them, I thought they would be a great fit for my creative older dd. But the more I learned about them the nuttier they seem. I've heard many complaints from parents of gifted kids.

I don't know whether most progressives would say Waldorf is truly progressive or not. The philosophy is actually quite controlling and top-down.

The closest I've come to actual progressive education is the Montessori school that both my kids went to for preschool. They both loved it, and they are completely different kids (and I do mean completely -- they don't even share genes.) It was preschool, so I wasn't concerned about academic content, but I think they both picked up some academic information (names of the letters, sounds associated with them, etc.)

We've applied to a Montessori elementary school for our younger dd. My husband and I were both impressed by the academic achievements of the kids when we visited. Both math and reading/writing seemed to be happening at a much higher level than at the public school.

Stay tuned! A year from now I could be posting about our experiences with Montessori.

Allison said...

Montessori is the definition of top-down controlling. That said, "Montessori" is not copyrighted. Anyone can use the word, and it doesn't necessarily mean much. "Real" Montessori programs are related to various Montessori organizations, and you can use those to see are to Maria Montessori's intentions.

Maria Montessori was a Italian Catholic Communist saving post WWII Italian street urchins by turning them into altar boys on the way to becoming priests. That sentiment might help explain a lot of what you see in a Montessori classroom.

Allison said...

--I don't know whether most progressives would say Waldorf is truly progressive or not. The philosophy is actually quite controlling and top-down.

Progressivism is top down and controlling. The political movement that is progressivism is top-down controlling in every aspect of domestic policy. Why do you think otherwise?

Allison said...

--First of all, real progressives hate what's going on in the public schools as much as anyone.

Like Bill Ayers? No, he's quite pleased. Who is a real progressive if not Ayers?

Beth said...

Allison -- here's a quote from Bill Ayers' web site:

*****
Much of what we call schooling forecloses or shuts down or walls off meaningful choice-making. Much of it is based on obedience and conformity, the hallmarks of every authoritarian regime. Much of it banishes the unpopular, squirms in the presence of the unorthodox, hides the unpleasant. There’s no space for skepticism, irreverence, or even doubt.
*******

That doesn't sound happy to me. Actually, he's objecting to a lot of the same stuff I object to.

I agree that "Montessori" is a widely used term that doesn't necessarily mean much. You definitely have to check out the individual school. What we saw were kids who were deeply engaged in what they were doing, often working by themselves with a teacher's help from time to time. The level of the work was impressive.

Our daughter visited the school for a couple of days and announced that she wants to go there.

What I've heard about Waldorf, on the other hand, is that if your 5-yr-old already knows how to read, the Waldorf school will tell her to stop reading, and tell the parents to stop reading to their kid. They also try to control how much "screen time" (computers, TV) the kid is exposed to at home. Then they have wacky stuff like not allowing black crayons, with the result that a black-haired child can't draw a self-portrait.

Beth said...

Allison says:

*******
Maria Montessori was a Italian Catholic Communist saving post WWII Italian street urchins by turning them into altar boys on the way to becoming priests.
*******

What's your concern here? My daughter could wind up Italian? Catholic? Communist? an altar boy? a priest?

I don't have to agree with everything Maria Montessori ever said or did to think that a Montessori school might be a good choice for our daughter. We toured the school and it looked good to us. The emphasis on the individual child seemed like a good fit for our daughter.

Beth said...

Here's an interesting quote from another forum on why Waldorf doesn't necessarily count as "progressive":

********
I have a friend who graduated from Bank Street College, a very progressive teaching school in NYC. She visited many private schools during her education, and she was really shocked by how NON-progressive Waldorf was. She couldn't believe that children still sit in assigned seats in straight rows facing the teacher. She was surprised how math is taught in such a rote way. She felt that they way reading was taught was nice for some kids, but saw a lot of frustrated children who could have been saved their frustration at a school with more flexibility. She was horrified by the discipline measures being used. One example being that in K and 1st grade, children are being sent to stand in the corner and humiliated in front of the whole class.
***********

It's from an interesting thread called the "Waldorf Doubter's Thread" at MotheringDotCommunity.

http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=9476&page=3

Allison said...

--What's your concern here? My daughter could wind up Italian? Catholic? Communist? an altar boy? a priest?

I'm not concerned. I found a lot of parents were bewildered by the Montessori practice of teaching preschoolers how to hold little bottles and pour liquids to and from them these days. Understanding that such a skill mattered a great deal if you were to be an altar boy, and that being an altar boy was about the only way off the streets then, helps put it in context.

Allison said...

So, again, what's a "real progressive" here? someone who wants flexibility?

That has nothing to do with political progressivism. What do you think "progressive" means?

Here's what Ayers believes in: critical pedagogy. And despite the niceness of the quote you pick, he has exactly one way of viewing the world in critical pedagogy:

The primary assumption of critical pedagogy is that disparities between individual and social group outcomes in life are due to entrenched societal oppression. So, if anyone or any group has ‘more’ than another it is because they are either oppressing others or benefiting from the ‘oppression of the masses’.

There is no liberation of thought. There's "liberation" of the masses, the way the Marxists mean it. That's progressivism. Don't be fooled.

Now, you may be a Marxist, or a fellow traveler, and find that's an okay way to view the world. I won't be the one to dissuade you. But there's nothing flexible present in that view.

Allison said...

So, again, what's a "real progressive" here? someone who wants flexibility?

That has nothing to do with political progressivism. What do you think "progressive" means?

Here's what Ayers believes in: critical pedagogy. And despite the niceness of the quote you pick, he has exactly one way of viewing the world in critical pedagogy:

The primary assumption of critical pedagogy is that disparities between individual and social group outcomes in life are due to entrenched societal oppression. So, if anyone or any group has ‘more’ than another it is because they are either oppressing others or benefiting from the ‘oppression of the masses’.

There is no liberation of thought. There's "liberation" of the masses, the way the Marxists mean it. That's progressivism. Don't be fooled.

Now, you may be a Marxist, or a fellow traveler, and find that's an okay way to view the world. I won't be the one to dissuade you. But there's nothing flexible present in that view.

Beth said...

Allison -- you're calling me a Marxist because I'm hoping to send one of my kids to a Montessori school? Are you for real?

Or is it something to do with Ayers? I honestly don't know anything about the man, except that you said he was a progressive who would therefore support what's going on in the public schools. I then spent approximately two minutes on his web page coming up with a quote showing that he doesn't like the standard public school either.

Progressive education is about giving children as much freedom as possible, and giving them real ownership of their education. It's about helping kids to create their own understanding. It's about seeing a child's interest in learning as vital, not irrelevant.

Progressives like Alfie Kohn argue strenuously against carrots and sticks like constant grading and punishment for unfinished homework, and I think he's right (not invariably, but in this instance).

I think there are many useful insights in the progressive education movement, and I'm sympathetic to their ideas in many ways. Most of the real learning I've done in my life is stuff that I've sought out and done on my own terms.

Now, many traditionalists would argue that there is a solid body of knowledge that we want to transmit to the next generation, and we need to do this in an efficient way, and not require kids to re-invent the wheel. I think this is a completely valid point.

This is why, as I remarked before, my ideal school would combine the best of both the progressive and traditional approaches.

This discussion is getting crazy. I have never before been accused of being a Marxist. I'm done.

Allison said...

I failed to get the above formatting right twice. Once more:


So, again, what's a "real progressive" here? someone who wants flexibility?

That has nothing to do with political progressivism. What do you think "progressive" means?

Here's what Ayers believes in: critical pedagogy. And despite the niceness of the quote you pick, he has exactly one way of viewing the world in critical pedagogy:

"The primary assumption of critical pedagogy is that disparities between individual and social group outcomes in life are due to entrenched societal oppression. So, if anyone or any group has ‘more’ than another it is because they are either oppressing others or benefiting from the ‘oppression of the masses’."
(from http://www.verumserum.com/?p=10846)


There is no liberation of thought. There's "liberation" of the masses, the way the Marxists mean it. That's progressivism. Don't be fooled.

Now, you may be a Marxist, or a fellow traveler, and find that's an okay way to view the world. I won't be the one to dissuade you. But there's nothing flexible present in that view.

Allison said...

I didn't accuse you of being a marxist. I said you may be one, because I don't know your politics. It had nothing to do with your comments on Montessori, which is why I separated the comment responses re: Montessori from the ones about Ayers.

But *you* said "real progressives hate..."

That is, you spoke for "real progressives." Every "Real" progressives I've read, heard of, or met is a Marxist. That's a factual statement, not a pejorative.

Bill Ayers is such a progressive.

Bill Ayers is strongly in charge of what's happening in public schools: he's the VP for Curriculum Studies by the 25,000 member American Educational Research Association, the nation's largest organization of ed school professors. Read his 50 page CV and see what he's done, where he gets grant money, and the like.

Ayers is pushing the content of progressive education. Read up on critical pedagogy. Read up on Freire. You can claim that progressive education is about freedom, but that false.

The myth of homework, constant grading, or punishment is so far from what's in schools now that people citing that are talking about their own childhoods. Find me three (non charter) public schools anywhere you like that use formative assessment, I dare you. Teachers haven't punished students for things not done in years now.

But most of all, your conception of progressive education is naive. Critical pedagogy, and "why can't a girl have a penis", that's progressive education.

PhysicistDave said...

Beth wrote:
> Or is it something to do with Ayers? I honestly don't know anything about the man, except that you said he was a progressive who would therefore support what's going on in the public schools.

Beth, Bill Ayers is a guy who had some involvement in some very serious crimes (bombings) back in the New Left days along with his wife and who avoided huge jail time only on a technicality (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Ayers ).

He is therefore a poster boy for how progressivism in general and educational progressivism can go really, really bad.

He also had some ties to Barack Obama; the depth of those ties *is* disputed

You must have had the willpower to avoid the nightly news during the Presidential campaign: all this was *big* news then (those of us old enough to remember the New Left knew who Ayers and his wife were decades ago – they were also big news way back when).

I will leave to Allison any conclusions she wishes to draw.

I’m just giving you a heads-up on the common public knowledge about Bill Ayers.

Dave

PhysicistDave said...

Beth wrote:
> What I've heard about Waldorf, on the other hand, is that if your 5-yr-old already knows how to read, the Waldorf school will tell her to stop reading, and tell the parents to stop reading to their kid. They also try to control how much "screen time" (computers, TV) the kid is exposed to at home. Then they have wacky stuff like not allowing black crayons, with the result that a black-haired child can't draw a self-portrait.

I have not heard any of that from any of the families we know at Waldorf. And their kids seem quite happy there.

What I have heard in great detail from our friends is a lack of emphasis, that seems rather incredible to me, on traditional academic subjects in grade school. For example, one kid we know, who is very bright, does not know the addition/multiplication tables in fifth grade.

Dave

Anonymous said...

"You must have had the willpower to avoid the nightly news during the Presidential campaign..."

Please cut Beth some slack. I know who Bill Ayers is because of David Horowitz's book, "Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the '60s." I don't have a television hooked up to broadcast, so I missed most/all of the Bill Ayers stuff on the nightly news.

Beth may have a similar story for why she hadn't heard of him. Not following the nightly news isn't criminal, ya know :-)


-Mark Roulo

PhysicistDave said...

Mark wrote to me:
>Beth may have a similar story for why she hadn't heard of him. Not following the nightly news isn't criminal, ya know :-)

I didn’t say it was. I was not criticizing Beth. I really was just explaining who Ayers was and pointing out that he is not at all an obscure figure. Admittedly, my generation has known about him for four decades (I remember seeing his wife’s pictures in the papers way back then, though I don’t remember his picture), but he also was big news in ’08.

The debate between Allison and Beth seemed to be proceeding without Beth’s knowing the key facts about Ayers, and I thought she should be informed about those facts.

Just providing a public service, Mark.

And ignoring the ’08 Presidential campaign may have been a wise decision.

Dave

Allison said...

I'd bet a lot of donuts that watching the Nightly News during the election cycle never led anyone to hearing about Bill Ayers' past or his current connections in Chicago let alone his pedagogy.

I assumed Beth had to know, not because of the news, but because of this blog. He was discussed often. Maybe she wasn't here then, but I thought she was.

Laura said...

Teachers haven't punished students for things not done in years now.

I wouldn't agree with that--they just get punished for different things. Like not doing their Investigations homework or not wanting to write about what they did over the weekend, etc.

I'm no fan of purist progressivism, but it does seem like a different beast from public school, bureaucratized progressivism, where many of the same outdated methods of enforcing behavior are still followed (punishment, shaming, as opposed to far more effective reinforcement and challenging, which of course Kohn turns his nose up), just to different ends.

In fact, along the lines often discussed here, progressivism is the perfect mate for school bureaucracy--it makes it easier to hide outrageous inefficiency and inefficacy. That's what I think hard-core progressivists don't get.

Beth said...

Okay, I would really like to get off the discussion of Ayers. No, I did not watch the Nightly News during the election cycle. The reading I've done about progressive education did not include Ayers, so I really don't know.

I was intending to stay out of this discussion, because it's getting crazy, but I had to respond to this:

Allison says:

*******
The myth of homework, constant grading, or punishment is so far from what's in schools now ...
******

Allison, the homework overload, constant grading, punishment and humiliation in front of the class were the main factors in my taking my daughter out of our local public school. It's no myth. I only wish it were.

lgm said...

>>The myth of homework, constant grading, or punishment is so far from what's in schools now that people citing that are talking about their own childhoods.
Find me three (non charter) public schools anywhere you like that use formative assessment, I dare you. Teachers haven't punished students for things not done in years now.

It's a little different here in NY. No formative assessment other than class discussion. Excessive hw, constant grading and daily punishment are all here.

Homework: if it's an unclassified student in a fully included elementary or middle school situation, expect about 3 hours nightly as everything the teacher didn't get to will be sent home for the parent to teach. That leaves little time for studying or free reading. It's way too much for this age group, especially since the 3 hours doesn't include parental teaching time.

Beyond that, it's up to the student and their abilities. It's quite common for students who got in to honors/AP/IB on their parents' political status to be overloaded nightly and complain loudly. Most high school students who are properly placed and have competent teachers have the time to participate in varsity sports, fine arts, and still make the grades they need.

Constant grading - middle and high school students are graded every period on class participation. It's a 0,50, or 100%. No homework done means you get a 50 if you participate in discussion, 0 if you don't. If the student didn't get over 80% of the homework correct and participates, he still gets a 50 - it's his fault that he didn't get help.

Homework is 1/3 of the grade. Participation is 1/3 of the grade. Tests and quizzes are the other third. Participation is restricted by district policy to be +/-10% of the hw grade.

Punishment - lunch detention for no hw; no credit if attendance is below a certain rate, no matter what your test scores; inappropriate class placement; dropped out of Regents math sequence after Int. Alg. I if grade in preceding course not 80 or better

Keep in mind that common mid-terms, finals, and Regents exams mean that the student will be tested over material that was not covered in class, especially if it was an included class. So..if you are a Regents student but don't have the $$ for the right review books, or a file from a previous student who was in an honors version of the class, getting the grade can be challenging.

My public high school in the midwest in the late 70s was totally different. No homework other than band practice - students were expected to get their work done in class or study hall; studying was what you did at home if you needed to. Grading was all tests and quizzes. No need to worry about how you were going to get the teacher to call on you to get the participation credit. You could ask a question or get help and be helped without the implication that you were unintelligent. The focus was on learning in school, not on covering for poor teachers or the wasting of time due to inclusion.

Cranberry said...

lgm, why do you stay in that district?

As a shy adult, who was a shy teen, that system seems rigged to wash out the thoughtful, and those without the money for "extras," like review books, tutors, etc. It sounds punitive.

lgm said...

Cranberry,

Originally I stayed for IB, as the program was open admission and is graded differently.. Unfortunately the area has declined, IB is cancelled as it is now viewed as elitist, and the schools have filled with students and administrators coming up from NYC public schools or immmigrating from countries with no public schools. They don't do hw, respect the teachers, or attend at the 90% or better level, hence the severe penalties. A middle class family familiar with the school can easily succeed at the Regents level if they're willing to gap fill and tutor.

Moving is desireable..but that pesky housing bubble is just starting to burst here and most schools in the area have similar policies. I hope to get in to one of the two decent districts, but am a bit apprehensive as the banks aren't lowering prices too much and the house flippers seem to be moving in, keeping prices up. It's simply much cheaper to tutor and take distance learning AP or college courses than it is to buy in to a district that has, say, actual math courses for college bound seniors on campus. Should the job market open up, I'd have more freedom in moving beyond the commute radius.

Beth said...

lgm, what you describe is just like our local public schools, in a wealthy district in suburban PA. They're punitive to the point of being brutal.

That's why it just baffles me to hear people say the problem with public schools today is that they're "too progressive." In my dreams! If the public schools were too progressive, I would send my kids there and save a ton of money.

I pulled my daughter out of the public schools after she became deeply anxious and depressed because of the constant punishment and humiliation. There's nothing progressive about that.

Allison says:

******
Teachers haven't punished students for things not done in years now.
******

It is completely standard in our district that kids are punished for incomplete homework, with loss of recess, scolding, and being shamed in front of their friends. It happens every day. They're also punished for poor performance.

In my daughter's last day in "accelerated" math, before I pulled her, the teacher handed back a test and announced, "Somebody in this class got less than 50 per cent!" Of course, all the kids were craning their heads around and checking each other's papers to see who it was. It was my daughter. Can you imagine how that felt? I don't know of anyone in progressive education who would approve of that.

Cranberry said...

Ah, yes, many of us are constrained by the housing market.

Our local high school has begun to offer online AP courses to the student body, mainly in response to parental complaints about the lack of AP classes. As I understand it, though, the grades received appear on your transcript, but aren't used in figuring class rank. (I could be wrong, as I have this from a current parent. I think the feeling is a general level of mistrust vis-a-vis grading standards.)

It seems to me that many high schools' policies aren't easily accessed by interested families. The changing demographics explain the emphasis on homework and "participation," although it seems to stack the deck in favor of "teacher's pets."

concernedCTparent said...

Beth- this discussion has certainly gone places I'd never imagined it would when you and I began our discussion many, many comment entries ago. Ironically, at this point we seem to be back right where we began. I can't help but think that at least in the context of the original debate, that we're defining key ideas quite differently.

Just to be clear, when I say I prefer a classical education (note: not traditional education) to a progressive education I'm thinking of something along these lines:

Progressive Education


And as for what happened to your daughter on her last day of accelerated math, I don't know anyone who believes in a classical/liberal arts education who would approve of it either. It's not conducive to learning. Period.

*As a disclaimer, I am a mom in a high SES suburban CT district who removed her 3 children from the public schools to homeschool them. My children once were students of Montessori pre-schools and I am happy to say that I was very pleased with the outcome. Looking back, that's not one of the decisions I've ever regretted in terms of their education and I certainly don't believe either that or the random fact that I have read Das Kapital, for example, make me a Marxist.

PhysicistDave said...

concernedCTparent,

The link you entered is broken, broken so badly that I can’t figure out what you tried to enter. You might try reposting it.

You wrote:
>I can't help but think that at least in the context of the original debate, that we're defining key ideas quite differently.

That is indeed clearly happening.

Beth has a concept of “progressive education” that is not clear at all to a lot of us.

And, it seems Beth is not aware of the meaning that the phrase “progressive education” has generally had for a century or more – as I pointed out in my post on Kliebard’s The Struggle for the American Curriculum, this meaning of “progressive education” is not a polemical or pejorative one: it is a meaning that has been used by all sides of the debate since early in the twentieth century. For example, when I was a young kid in the fifties, the term was used as it is today (and was a big topic of debate back then, too).

It’s true, of course, that there is not a simple connection between one’s views on progressive education and one’s political views. But it is also true that “progressive educators” have, historically, tended to be very far to the left, indeed far beyond the normal American political spectrum. Again, Kliebard documents this in great detail (and, as I said, above, his book is not a political hatchet job: he is actually somewhat sympathetic to the progressive educators).

Perhaps, part of the confusion is that, in ordinary English, “progressive” just means trying to make progress. In that sense, of course, everyone thinks he is “progressive.”

But the word has acquired a much more specific meaning in the field of education, going back nearly a century. For a very long time, “progressive” in education has meant an anti-academic, anti-intellectual pedagogical approach – the Waldorf schools are an (admittedly eccentric) example.

Dave

concernedCTparent said...

Sorry about that...

http://www.coreknowledge.org
/CK/about/CommonKnowledge
/v18IV_2005
/v18IV_2005_JReedy.htm

PhysicistDave said...

concernedCTparent,

The new link has to be cut-and-pasted to make it into a single line – at least in my browser, but then it works.

Yeah, the article you link to does express the general meaning of the phrase “progressive education.” I think we should all recognize that different progressive educators would want to emphasize different aspects, and, of course, they would all want to rewrite Reedy’s description in their own words.

But, as much as progressives may disagree on the details, there is and long has been a recognizable critter known as “progressive education” to friend and foe alike, and Reedy captures the basic characteristics of that critter.

The same, of course, applies to “classical education.” I am much more critical of classroom learning than many proponents of classical education, I think a preplanned curriculum is often undesirable, I have some doubts about testing procedures that are favored by many classical educators, and I put a much higher emphasis on advanced science and math at an early age.

Nonetheless, for all my specific disagreements, it would be fair to categorize me as an advocate of ‘classical education.”

“Categorizing” is not always wrong – in fact, we humans cannot think without it.

Dave

Anonymous said...

I would have weighed in on this long and rambling thread, but PhysicistDave and ConcertedCTParent have basically covered everything far better than I would have.

I would like to reiterate what ConcernedCTParent said about the connection of progressive ed, as we know it, and constructivism (child centered learning, children constructing their own knowledge, guides on the side, etc.)

The implication of all this is that children are responsible for their own learning. They never do anything wrong that needs to be addressed in a simple, direct manner. They are making "wrong choices" and are in need of character ed to discover the proper strategy for success.

The entire philosophy almost exonerates bad schools and bad teachers. How can they be responsible if they are only guides on the sides? Hey, they provided him with a strategy. Sure, even the kid's parents can't figure it out, but that's not their problem.

And there's plenty of room for punitive behavior from progressive schools. I've seen it with my own children as they are expected to have the executive functions of a college student.

They are also expected to reveal their personal opinions daily in order to receive a decent "class participation" grade, a grade that used to be used as extra credit,but has now turned into a level-the-playing-field grade.

SusanS

Hainish said...

What I think happened is that all the schools are basically traditional in tone. Then a bunch of progressive theorists came along, and their way of thinking became fashionable (I don't doubt that you hear a lot of it in ed school.)

The result is that our schools are basically traditional in structure and outlook, but the content has been hollowed out and there's a lot of progressive-sounding jargon and activities pasted on top.


Beth, YES: 100%.

As someone who wants ALL children to be able to get a quality education, I completely agree: we've kept the traditional structure but laid a veneer of "progressive" education on top of it.

IMO, what plays a far greater role than educational or political outlook is the content knowledge (both in the subject being taught and in the ability to understand mathematics/statistics/research) of the people in the field. Without that, there's just going to be a lot of gullibility and not a lot of wise innovation.

Beth said...

SusanS said:

*****
And there's plenty of room for punitive behavior from progressive schools.
*****

The punitive behavior I complained about was not at a progressive school. It was at a public school. They used a traditional math curriculum (Houghton-Mifflin) with a completely stage-on-the-sage approach.

I believe my original point was that it is not fair to claim that the problem with public schools is that they're too progressive. In our district, the schools are absolutely not progressive, in the sense that I can't imagine any progressive educator walking in and saying, "yeah, this is what I had in mind." The kids have no control over what they do, and they're not following their own interests. They're constantly being bashed by sticks or lured with carrots.

When I think "progressive", I'm thinking about people like Alfie Kohn, John Holt, and Maria Montessori. As I said, I don't agree with them about everything, but I agree about some things.

If Alfie Kohn could see what was going on in our local public schools, he would be appalled, and rightly so. All you traditionalists would likely be appalled, too, possibly for different reasons. And that is what I've been trying to say all along.

The public schools, at least in our district, are not bad because they're too progressive or too traditional. They're just bad.

PhysicistDave said...

Beth wrote:
>If Alfie Kohn could see what was going on in our local public schools, he would be appalled, and rightly so. All you traditionalists would likely be appalled, too, possibly for different reasons.

Yeah, that is certainly true.

You also wrote:
>The public schools, at least in our district, are not bad because they're too progressive or too traditional. They're just bad.

I think that is part of the issue under debate. There are certainly very few public schools that are truly progressive from the perspective of traditional progressive education.

However, it may still be (and I think it is) the case that part of what is wrong with the schools is that they have implemented some progressive ideas. For example, a number of threads here on ktm have documented examples in public schools of “constructivism.” And, I suppose almost all of us endured “social studies” pushing out geography and history, at least in early grade school.

Historically, constructivism and “social studies” are connected to progressive education.

So, it is possible to sensibly argue that progressivism has wrecked the schools and still agree with you that the schools are far from being truly progressive.

Here is an analogy: one drop of a potent poison may kill you, even though your body is not soaked in the poison.

Similarly, a fairly small dose of progressivism may be enough to wreck a school, even though the school is not “truly” progressive.

I actually think that is the case, as do, it seems, some other people here.

That being said, as I have indicated above, I also agree with some of your complaints about “traditional” schooling: I do not think the solution to the problems of the schools is simply to try to turn the clock back to 1900.

That is why I tend to describe our own approach in our homeschooling as “academically-oriented, high-content, developmentally inappropriate” rather than as “traditional” or even “classical.” From some of your comments, I suspect that you might largely agree with the approach we are taking. (I even suspect, that if you and Allison started talking about exactly what you thought should be taught and how it should be taught, you might find significant agreement.)

And, parenthetically, I really was not casting aspersions in suggesting that you must not have followed the nightly news during the election season! I am a bit of a political junkie – the kind of fellow who used to watch C-SPAN during my free time (when I had free time – before we had kids). But the only real story in the election was “Charismatic Young Black Guy Beats Inarticulate Old White Guy.” Those Americans who skipped following the daily news minutiae were almost certainly making a wise use of their time.

All the best,

Dave

concernedCTparent said...

Beth, I'm not sure what you mean by "traditionalists". The truth is that I wouldn't exactly consider myself traditional and don't necessarily want a traditional education for my children. I do NOT want Everyday Math and I absolutely DO want Singapore Math. Singapore Math is NOT traditional-- but it's what I want for my children.

I only ask because the kind of liberal arts education I defend has more to do with content and breadth of knowledge than with a particular philosophy of teaching or classroom management. I believe in effective curricula, effective instruction, and implementation of practices that are supported by what we know about how children learn (see Daniel Willingham, for example). I want an education that is based not on what sounds fun and engaging (group learning, differentiated instruction that's NOT, discovery, and so on) but what inspires a love of learning and inquisitiveness that is not superficial-- the kind of learning that inspires self-confidence through mastery and deep content knowledge.

What I want to see more of in public education has everything to do with content and curricula and much less to do with theories that sound good on paper and in the education school classroom, but leave children thirsting for more and woefully unprepared for the expectations of college and career.

So, I don't necessarily want what you think I want. I want a liberal arts education where content knowledge reigns supreme. I want it delivered in a way consistent with what works in a boots-on-the-ground sort of way, in the Daniel Willingham sort of way, in the Palisadesk and Rafe Esquith sort of way.

That's the public school education that I would like to see available to all children.

Beth said...

PhysicistDave -- I didn't think you were casting aspersions when you suggested I didn't follow the nightly news. I don't take that as a criticism.

But I can't agree with your characterisation of progressive ed as a "poison". Good old Maria Montessori? She's not poisonous to me.

I understand your point about anti-intellectualism and hollowed-out content, and I think these are valid criticisms. But I also think that progressive ed thinkers like Alfie Kohn have useful points to make about student interest and motivation, and the deadening effect of carrots and sticks. Even constructivism seems to me like it could be a useful motivator, if it was used thoughtfully and as just one piece of the curriculum.

Sometimes I think that the public schools cherry-picked the absolute worst aspects of every theory and implemented those. "Traditional ed? That means carrots and sticks, strict discipline, make the kids shut up and do what they're told. Okay, we can do that. Progressive ed? That means we don't need to worry about content and we can tell the kids to teach themselves. Okay, we can do that. Perfect! Now everybody's happy!"

ConcernedCTParent -- I'm using Singapore Math with my daughter, and it's been a big help. It's clear, not too repetitive, and it does the job in a way that no previous math teaching has done for her. I'm a big fan. We've also started working through the "Classical Roots" books that were recommended on this blog. Again, I'm a fan.

Anonymous said...

Beth,

Sorry to interrupt this thread, but could you tell me about your experience with the "Classical Roots" books? Have you just started using them recently, or have you been at it for a while? Logistically, how do you break up the lessons or units over the course of the week? Also, what made you choose those books over other Greek/Latin roots curricula?

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide on this subject.

PhysicistDave said...

Beth wrote to me:
>But I can't agree with your characterisation of progressive ed as a "poison". Good old Maria Montessori? She's not poisonous to me.

Beth, I actually do not know much about Montessori, one way or the other – I don’t think I have ever mentioned her before.

I myself do think some aspects of progressive education – “social studies” replacing history and geography, “constructivism” replacing the standard algorithms in math – are “poison.”

But, in any case, I was just using the “poison” analogy to explain how someone could agree with you that the existing public schools are not truly “progressive” but also feel that the “progressive” features they do have (such as the two I just mentioned) are enough “progressivism” to do great harm.

I was just trying to make the abstract point that, as a matter of logic, you yourself can be right that the public schools are not really very “progressive,” and that Allison can also be right that “progressivism” is nonetheless wrecking the public schools.

You also wrote:
> But I also think that progressive ed thinkers like Alfie Kohn have useful points to make about student interest and motivation, and the deadening effect of carrots and sticks. Even constructivism seems to me like it could be a useful motivator, if it was used thoughtfully and as just one piece of the curriculum.

I see your point.

But, of course, in a very real sense, the “traditional” approach to geometry (axiom/theorem/proof) is more “constructivist” than the modern let’s talk-about-shapes approach to geometry: in the “traditional” approach, you have to “construct” a lot of proofs for yourself.

And, I suspect that almost all of the “traditionalists” here prefer the traditional proof-constructing approach to geometry over the modern silliness.

But, as it happens, the term “constructivist” in modern educational debates is generally applied to the invent-arithmetic-algorithms-for-yourself approach, but not to the prove-geometric-theorems-for-yourself approach.

So, most of us use the term “constructivist” that way, since that is how it is commonly (if illogically) used nowadays.

In some sense, “constructivism” is trivially correct: until you manage to “construct” knowledge in your own head, you yourself do not have that knowledge.

But, in the rather specific sense that “constructivism” is used in educational debates today, I think it is fair to say that “constructivism” is generally a bad thing.

You also wrote:
>Sometimes I think that the public schools cherry-picked the absolute worst aspects of every theory and implemented those. "Traditional ed? That means carrots and sticks, strict discipline, make the kids shut up and do what they're told. Okay, we can do that. Progressive ed? That means we don't need to worry about content and we can tell the kids to teach themselves.

I agree, and few private schools are all that much better – that is why we are homeschooling.

Dave

Beth said...

Anonymous, I just started with the "Classical Roots" books. I've worked through chapter 1 of the first workbook with my daughter. She enjoyed it, and I think it's a useful approach, although we found one explanation that wasn't clear (how "onion" is derived from "unus", if you're interested.) I didn't do a lot of research -- someone recommended "Classical Roots" on this blog, I looked at it on Amazon, and I thought "what the heck -- it's worth ten bucks to try it out."

Beth said...

SusanS said:

*******
The entire [progressive] philosophy almost exonerates bad schools and bad teachers. How can they be responsible if they are only guides on the sides? Hey, they provided him with a strategy. Sure, even the kid's parents can't figure it out, but that's not their problem.
*******

SusanS, I understand your point, and it's valid. But I had a public-school principal who used the traditional philosophy the same way. "You dare to question me? I'm the expert here! Sit down and shut up!" A bad school (or principal) will use whatever is to hand to exonerate themselves and avoid making changes.

SusanS also said:

*******
And there's plenty of room for punitive behavior from progressive schools. I've seen it with my own children as they are expected to have the executive functions of a college student.
*******

Susan, I hear you. I've seen the exact same thing. But again, I don't think we get to blame "progressives" for this. I don't know of any progressive ed proponent who thinks it's a good idea to take a child's recess away because she forgot one detail of the 10 random bits of homework she was supposed to turn in that day.

Beth said...

PhysicistDave, I understand your point that it is theoretically possible that progressive ed hasn't been fully implemented by the public schools, but at the same time it has ruined the schools. I just don't agree with it.

Actually, Alfie Kohn has an article about "Bad Apples" where he argues the same point, but from the opposite side. He says that as long as you've still got grades, punishments, and an authoritarian classroom, you've "poisoned" any attempt you might make at progressive education.

Finally, I would really like to discuss Maria Montessori. As I said earlier, Montessori is the only truly progressive education my kids have experienced, and it was great for them. It's "progressive" in the sense that it is very much about kids teaching themselves, the teacher is a guide on the side, and kids are encouraged to make sense of the world in their own way and at their own pace.

It's interesting to me that even in this discussion, with people who can't stand anything progressive, there's only one person on record as not liking Maria Montessori.

Why does Montessori succeed where other attempts at progressive ed fail? I would say it's because Montessori is thoroughly progressive, as opposed to the public schools, where a few badly-understood progressive notions have been pasted onto a deeply traditional system.

Maria Montessori designed an entire curriculum, and teaching materials, and a space for children to work in. She invented various manipulatives to teach math. She succeeded in teaching kids who had been categorized "retarded" so that they performed better than the average normal kid. (I wonder if they were the "ADHD" kids of her day.)

A good Montessori school actually carries out the progressive ideas that public schools just talk about. In the Montessori school we've applied to for younger dd, when you walk into the classroom you'll see kids totally engaged in various projects. Many work on their own, but you'll also see some small groups. The teacher circulates as a "guide on the side". Many of the projects the kids work on have been carefully designed to be "self-correcting" -- sort of like puzzles. I think this is especially true of the math projects.

Now, having written that, I hope the school we saw has a place for dd, and I hope it lives up to our expectations!

By contrast, when I walked into my daughter's public school, I did not see kids engaged in projects. I saw a lot of bored kids looking vacant (including my daughter.) I saw a teacher struggling to maintain constant control of the classroom. That's not progressive education.

Beth said...

While I'm on Maria Montessori, I'll address this:

Allison said:

********
Maria Montessori was a Italian Catholic Communist ...
********

In Maria Montessori's world, "Catholic" and "Communist" were starkly opposed ideologies. Saying she was "Catholic Communist" is like saying she was "right-wing left-wing." It's highly unlikely.

In any case, I have never seen anyone but Allison describe MM as "Communist", and I've never seen any evidence that she was Communist. There's plenty of evidence that she was Catholic, though.

Karen W said...

Consider the different approaches of the Montessori method and current public school practices. The Montessori curriculum includes geography, history, grammar and penmanship. The reading/spelling programs uses phonics. The 3-6 math program emphasizes place value and learning math facts. Children are encouraged and expected to memorize facts. The names of parts of plants and animals. Geographical place names. The parts of a volcano. The names of geometric solids and shapes including the names for different kinds of triangles. They practice sorting invertebrates from invertebrates, living and non-living, magnetic and non-magnetic. Children are not forced into group work and certainly not in mixed-ability groups. Children are actually expected to master a work before they can move on to the next level. Despite appearing like a "guide on the side", a Montessori teacher presents direct instruction lessons to individual students, small groups and the whole class. Control of error is used to help the child correct his work. There are right answers in the Montessori classroom. I think Montessori success supports the emphasis on content, direct instruction, and mastery frequently mentioned at KTM.

Beth said...

Karen W. -- your comment makes me even more interested in the Montessori school we've applied to. I hope they've got a place for dd!

PhysicistDave said...

Beth wrote to me:
>Actually, Alfie Kohn has an article about "Bad Apples" where he argues the same point, but from the opposite side. He says that as long as you've still got grades, punishments, and an authoritarian classroom, you've "poisoned" any attempt you might make at progressive education.

And, again, I’d say that Alfie, Allison, and I can all be right – I certainly agree that the existing schools are far from the progressive ideal, but I also disapprove of that ideal.

I think the debate here is largely just a matter of using the word “progressive” in two different ways. The way it has generally been used (see Kliebard’s book that I mentioned above for details of the history) includes two separate sets of features: content/curriculum features and style/organization features.

For nearly a century, people who call themselves “progressive educators” have been overwhelmingly opposed to strong academic content.

I take it you yourself are *not* progressive in that sense, at least given your praise for Singapore Math and Classical Roots!

You are, however, “progressive” in terms of the style/organization features: opposition to grades, etc.

That’s fine. Your views seem fairly close to my own (and, I suspect, closer to Allison’s than the early part of this thread would have indicated). I’m probably a bit less “progressive” than you on the style/organization features, but we’d have to exchange views in more detail for me to really know.

But, please, just be aware that, given the history of educational debate for at least a century, when you say “progressive” in the context of education, most people who know about past and present educational debates will tend to assume, as Allison and I did, that you are referring to “progressive education” in both the content/curricular sense and the style/organizational sense.

I do understand now that you are just using the word “progressive” in a different sense than it is commonly used.

Incidentally, I think that Kohn et al. do tend to emphasize the style/organization aspects of the debate because that is their strong point: most adults have unpleasant memories of having to get permission to use the rest-room, for example. The curriculum/content aspects of progressivism are their weaker points, and so they tend to downplay those to some degree, but that is still a very big part of progressive education historically and in practice.

At any rate, your kid is *your* kid, so even if everyone here did disapprove of your approach to education, it really would not matter. It’s not our decision.

I’ll be interested to hear how the Montessori school works out. I’ll be particularly interested to hear if they encourage kids to take a high-content approach: do kids early in grade-school learn about evolution, black holes, mummies, and knights and castles, or is all that deemed “developmentally inappropriate"? On that issue, I am a committed “Hirschian.”

Dave

RMD said...

about Montessori . . .

I haven't seen any studies that examine the Montessori method. I think that's because while we talk about it as a cohesive curricula, it's more of a set of guidelines and philosophy than a spelled out curriculum. (at least I haven't seen one guide that spells out all Montessori curricula)

I'm not saying Montessori is good or bad, nor can I comment on whether it's progressive, liberal, or any other terms. However, I haven't seen any evidence that it is effective. It's just too hard to say because implementations vary considerably.

Here are some research take-aways that might be helpful if you're interested:

- Follow Through told us that, in general, more-structured curricula are more effective than less-structured curricula. Direct Instruction, the most structured curricula, clearly worked in all cases, while Open Classroom, the least structured, was one of the few methods that performed below average (i.e., students were worse off than the "typical" or average curricula).

- Tools of the Mind, another preschool curricula, actually has substantial evidence backing up its effectiveness. It's the only such curricula that I know of that has evidence it works.

- Engelmann did a small study comparing his early Direct Instruction method vs Montessori. (Google "acceleration intellectual development"). He compared the success of his methods vs children who didn't gain admission to a Montessori program. I can't remember all of the details, but the gains from Direct Instruction were rather significant (maxed out one of the math tests) with only an hour or so of instruction per day.

Beth said...

PhysicistDave -- absolutely, there are a lot of different meanings of "progressive" being thrown around here. I would like to clarify the basic points I have been trying to make.

In my experience, the problem with the public schools is not that they are "too progressive". The local public schools that I pulled my daughter out of have almost no progressive features (not even constructivist math, that I know of.) Nonetheless, they are terrible schools -- authoritarian, punitive, brutal. You can't blame everything on progressive ed.

Similarly, I feel that it is not fair to blame "progressive ed theory" for practices that every progressive ed proponent I've ever read is strongly against. For instance, if your child gets punished at school for some trivial bit of incomplete homework, you have every right to complain, but don't blame "progressives".

It isn't right to take "progressive" as a catch-all term for bad educational practices. I think there are valid objections to progressive ed (hollowed-out content), and valid objections to traditional ed (not supportive enough of children's intrinsic motivation to learn.)

I agree with the progressive insight that it is a poor trade to fill a child full of facts and skills if the process robs the child of his interest in learning.

My dream school would take a good unbiased look at all the various theories and practices and take the best features of each. I would like to see solid content and curriculum aligned with real respect for each child.

Karen W said...

RMD--there is a Montessori curriculum--traditionally teachers create albums of the course of study during teacher training. Some teacher training programs sell copies of them now instead of requiring the student to create them.

PhysicistDave--yes to black holes and evolution. Montessori introduces children to the beginning of the universe, the development of life on Earth beginning with bacteria, the appearance of the earliest humans, the history of the development of writing and the history of the development of numbers. The five great lessons are supposed to give the children a sense of wonder about the world and a sense of the place of human beings in it. The curriculum includes astronomy, matter and energy, ecology, botany, and zoology. It looks high content to me--at least in comparison to my local public schools, although, as noted by others, Montessori schools can vary quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

This is partly right--and partly wrong. There was no golden age of education--and there was NO time when fifth graders, on average, were more proficient than they've been in the past 50 years. I DO have a NUMBER of historic books, and I also know what grades they were intended for! How was your College Arithmetic class? Wait, you didn't know that arithmetic was a for-credit college course? It used to be, at the turn of the century! Education used to be MUCH, MUCH more narrow than today. Look at the courses in the most prestigious schools in 1900 versus the average high school today. If anything, we're attempting too much and therefore doing it badly (a la Everyday Math, for instance!).