Monday, June 28, 2010

My Philosophy of Education

The missing ingredient in most educational approaches is the heart of the child, or character development. Focusing on academic’s at the expense of character development means that as time goes by the child will be more structured and sophisticated and commonly lose their love for learning. The dictionary’s definition of academics is; “Very learned but inexperienced in the world of practical reality …. having no practical or useful significance.”

On the other hand education is defined as “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.”

The current trend, which is a blend of Rousseau’s and Dewey’s philosophies of concentrating on skills at the expense of content, has removed all connectedness or relationship from education. Focusing thinking only on the parts of a whole, fragmented knowledge produces only brute fact. The dynamics of the parts working together are missing. Focusing on the parts at the expense of the whole is reductionism. Our culture has overdosed on reductionism and it has contributed to the loss of relationship. NCLB has wittingly or unwittingly propelled this fragmentation of education by compelling teachers to teach to the test. Education has become separated into component parts with no overarching view of the whole – it has lost it’s soul. As a result there is no shared knowledge other than that of the current youth subculture. Specialization is another component to reductionism. A foundation of classical literature, heroic lives that inspire, which provides a big picture where facts can be hung, shaped and interpreted. Textbook education is characterized by islands of specialized information, surrounded by oceans of interdisciplinary ignorance. We would never eat a cake by the individual ingredients – salt, raw eggs, baking powder, flour etc, nor should we educate our youth in a compartmentalized fashion.

We think more readily in pictures, stories pull us into time and space; we become part of the overall larger, arching picture and are drawn into it. Children exposed to good (classical) literature will write well, speak well, and have a natural understanding for mankind’s development. The key to good writing: students must be reading good writers.

Biography is one of the best methods for teaching history. Original documents, in depth research of a historical figure, here again the classics bring depth which will translate into breadth overtime.

Students need to learn the principles of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus. All these subjects were discovered and developed by the great mathematicians. Combining stories of great mathematicians, their original writings, and the re-creation of their problems and experiments, the student will excel. A student will learn to seek and recognize patterns, explore the relationship between things, compare and contrast, and seek for absolute truths.

Children are natural born scientists. They are explorers, inventors, and philosophers. To protect and cultivate a child’s natural sense of wonder is key. The heart of science curriculum is centered on a child’s five senses. Most children are comfortable learning by hands on experiments. Their sense of wonder is not threatened by direct contact with nature – in fact it grows. Children who touch rocks, catch butterflies, and watch cloud become sensitive to the relationships that encompass their world.

There is a saying; if you speak two languages you are bilingual, if you speak one you are American. After phonetic and the rudiments of spelling are mastered (usually mid second grade) is an excellent time to introduce Latin and Greek roots, adding phrases that eventually lead to chosen classical literature. Teaching language through the classics will automatically teach culture, international relations and diplomacy.
Classics are not just read they are also sculpted, painted, constructed and composed. As with math, science and literature, students who study the great masters, then practice composing, sculpting, and painting their own works learn an appreciation and connectedness for what has gone before them.

Learning is always taken more seriously when testing and assessments are present. Spelling tests need to incorporate grammar and math vocabulary; adding Greek and Latin roots. Math lessons need to be corrected daily by the student, so that they can learn from their mistakes. Math facts need to be drilled and tested until memorized. Essay questions which provoke a discussion and require a defense develop analytical thinking and writing skills.

In the Three R’s there are at least two levels of learning – literacy and mastery. Students first learn the basic reading, writing and ciphering, and then they master the abilities to read analytically and critically, write clearly and communicate effectively and think mathematically, by methods and content that nurtures the heart and character of the student. Proverbs 22:6 states the challenge best: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” Education is not about teaching the intellect, but training the heart. It is about aiming the arrow not sharpening the point. It means we should not leave the heart out of the education equation.

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