Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Education - what children need - Part 2

I read more slowly Deborah Meier's 2 blogs on Charles Murray. My new title is ' if you read Charles Murray , be sure to read Deborah Meier's and Case Hurley's comments. One needs a definition of what it means to be educated to make meaning and reflect on Murray.

'Along came an article by Charles Murray of "The Bell Curve" infamy. He proclaims that the failure of current reforms is proof that he’s right—serious intellectual work is not appropriate for most kids, and certainly not most poor kids of color. It’s genetic! So let’s get off the kick about all kids going to college, he argues. To my surprise, his solution rang a bell—as it did for you, Diane. It set us both thinking!' - D Meier

Deborah Meier is focused , not on getting all kids into college based on their test scores and how much they know , but focusing on how they think and how much they care, helping them become interdependent and contributing citizens.

On some level it would appear that Charles Murray and Deborah Meier on the same page.

'We both know that on the biggest question—of human potential—Murray is dead wrong. It takes only one example to prove that point. It is no longer a matter of hope or faith for me, but experience. Although one example doesn’t demonstrate how it can be done on a larger scale.' – D Meier

The question is what meaning do we make of Murray's research and other tests scores data. In the past the NCLB act – No child left behind act was passed and this focused on a ' skills 'n drill type of education. Today the focus is on high stakes standardized testing , teaching to test and a very narrow curriculum. Vocational training alone in no way provides the type of education Deborah Meier promotes. Without a definition of what it means to be educated we don't know what to think about the situation.

Case Hurley author of the book the six virtues of the educated man explains this point well.

'Even if we looked at what we are doing, we would not know what to think because we have not defined what it means to be educated in a useful way. (The usefulness of a definition of "educated" is important -- I got that from Alfie Kohn.)

Without a definition of what it means to be educated, Murray and Hess can use the "higher test score" definition as evidence of public education's failures, and nobody has recourse because nobody has a useful, rich, alternative definition of what it means to be a public school graduate. We are leaving the rich definitions to the private schools, which plays right into the hands of those who want to give up on public education.

So I completely disagree with the second commenter -- all kids DO need the same thing. The six virtue definition of the educated person says they all need understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity. Only when we define "educated" in terms of virtues, instead of knowledge and skills, will we be able to confront those who want to give up on public education. Only then will we know how to assess what we are trying to do, and only then will we be able to say exactly what all kids need -- two intellectual virtues, two character virtues, and two spiritual virtues.

BTW -- these virtues have nothing to do with Bill Bennett's ideas, character education, or the sentiments published on greeting cards. They always have been and always will be the virtues of the educated person. (I am saying it again.) '


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