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Paideia Proposal

av Mortimer J. Adler

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255578,876 (3.5)3
First vol. of the author's trilogy; the 2nd of which is Paideia problems and possibilities, and the 3rd of which is The Paideia program.… (mer)
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LT The Paideia Proposal, Mortimer Adler, 8/10/16

Theme: a manifesto and plan to transform public education, education a free society
Type: missional. polemical
Value: 2 (historic purposes)
Age: col
Interest: readable
Objectionable: no God, unbiblical, doesn't understand human nature
Synopsis/Noteworthy:
Wrong assumptions underlying book:
1. goodness of man (youth, that teachers care)
2. purpose of life: not eternal perspective, focuses on happiness in this life (make a good living)
3. no Christ (Col 2:3)
4. weak on eternal principles, ever-changing nature of issues p. 30

Dedicated to Horace Mann, John Dewey, Robert Hutchins

PAIDEIA (py-dee-a) from the Greek pais, paidos: the upbringing of a child. (Related to pedagogy and pediatrics.) In an extended sense, the equivalent of the Latin humanitas (from which “the humanities”), signifying the general learning that should be the possession of all human beings. v

Quotes:
[Reform] must be achieved at the community level without resorting to a monolithic, national educational system. "To Our Readers"
Chapter 1 Democracy and Education
The two—universal suffrage and universal schooling—are inextricably bound together. 3
The innermost meaning of social equality is: substantially the same quality of life for all. 6
As John Dewey said almost a century ago, vocational training, training for particular jobs, is not the education of free men and women. 7
Chapter 2 Schooling—Only a Part of Education
No one can be an educated person while immature. ... Only through the trials of adult life, only with the range and depth of experience that makes for maturity, can human beings become educated persons. 9-10
Education is a lifelong process of which schooling is only a small but necessary part. 10
Basic schooling—the schooling compulsory for all—must do something other than prepare some young people for more schooling at advanced levels. It must prepare all of them for the continuation of learning in adult life, during their working years and beyond. 11
Chapter 3 The Same Objectives for All
The one-track system of public schooling that The Paideia Proposal advocates has the same objectives for all without exception. These objectives are not now aimed at in any degree by the lower tracks onto which a large number of underprivileged children are shunted—an educational dead end. It is a dead end because these tracks do not lead to the result that the public schools of a democratic society should seek, first and foremost, for all its children—preparation to go on learning, either at advanced levels of schooling, or in adult life, or both. 15
In the early years, before basic schooling branches out in different directions, it fails badly to teach proficiency in the indispensable skills of learning [what are these? See LCA Teacher Handbook]. Even in these years, when it is still a one-track system, it falls far short of delivering the goods. 16
Chapter 4 The Same Course of Study for All
All sidetracks, specialized courses, or elective choices must be eliminated. Allowing them will always lead a certain number of students to voluntarily downgrade their own education. 21
In addition to competence in the use of English as everyone’s primary language, basic schooling should confer a certain degree of facility in the use of a second language. That second language should be open to elective choice. 21-22
The diagram on the opposite page depicts in three columns three distinct modes of teaching and learning, rising in successive gradations of complexity and difficulty from the first to the twelfth year. All three modes are essential to the overall course of study. These three columns are interconnected, as the diagram indicates. The different modes of learning on the part of the students and the different modes of teaching on the part of the teaching staff correspond to three different ways in which the mind can be improved—(1) by the acquisition of organized knowledge [content]; (2) by the development of intellectual skills [skills]; and (3) by the enlargement of understanding, insight, and aesthetic appreciation [growth, hunger]. 22
A coach does not teach simply by telling or giving the learner a rule book to follow. A coach trains by helping the learner to do, to go through the right motions, and to organize a sequence of acts in a correct fashion. He corrects faulty performance again and again and insists on repetition of the performance until it achieves a measure of perfection. 27
It must be the Socratic mode of teaching, a mode of teaching called “maieutic” because it helps the student bring ideas to birth. 29
The interrogative or discussion method of teaching to be employed in Column Three stimulates the imagination and intellect by awakening the creative and inquisitive powers. 29
To fulfill the objective of preparing all young people to become intelligent citizens requires the careful reading and discussion of at least the following documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, selections from the Federalist Papers, and the Gettysburg Address. Other books will fill this purpose out, but these few are basic to understanding our democracy. 30
For mutual understanding and responsible debate among the citizens of a democratic community, and for differences of opinion to be aired and resolved, citizens must be able to communicate with one another in a common language. “Language” in this sense involves a common vocabulary of ideas. This common intellectual resource is theirs only if they have read, discussed, and come to understand a certain number of books that deal with the ideas operative in the life of their time and place [Al Mohler “The Briefing,” World podcast]. 30
Young people need physical exercise for their health’s sake and also as an outlet for their abundant energy. Twelve years of physical education and participation in various intramural sports and athletic exercises are provided to fill this need. The program should be accompanied by instruction about health. For a number of years, fewer than all twelve, boys and girls alike should participate in a wide variety of manual activities, including typing, cooking, sewing, wood-and metalworking, crafts using other materials, automobile driving and repair, maintenance of electrical and other household equipment, and so on. 33
The system of public education in this country has always been pluralistic and should remain so. Preserving pluralism need not and should not prevent the adoption by all our schools of the central features of our model as an ideal to be realized in a variety of specifically different ways [08 agreement]. 34
Chapter 5 Overcoming Initial Impediments
At this point the reader may be provoked to ask: “Isn’t it obvious that the homes and environments from which children come to school will give some a distinct advantage in pursuing the program, while others will suffer from equally distinct disadvantages? 37
Preschool deprivation is the cause of backwardness or failure in school. 37
But in actuality a democratic society is limited in its ability to effect such equality. It can do so only through the public agencies it is able to finance and over which it can exercise some control. Preschool tutelage should, therefore, be provided at public expense for those who need but cannot afford it. 38
Chapter 6 Individual Differences
Despite their manifold individual differences, the children are all the same in their human nature. They are human beings and their human equality consists in the fact that no child is more or less human than another. 42
Individual differences are always and only differences in degree, never differences in kind. 43
Chapter 7 The Heart of the Hatter
The quality of learning, in turn, depends very largely on the quality of the teaching—teaching that guides and inspires learning in the classroom, and that directs and motivates learning to be done in homework. 49-50
Teachers who do not understand these truths misunderstand the true character of learning. Worse, they do violence to the minds in their care. By assuming that they are the primary cause of learning on the part of their pupils, by filling passive receptacles, they act merely as indoctrinators—overseers of memorization—but they are not teachers. 51
John Dewey’s oft-repeated but oft-misunderstood maxim that learning is by doing applies here most crucially and should govern the teaching effort. 52
To learn how to do any of these things well, one must not only engage in doing them, but one must be guided in doing them by someone more expert in doing them than oneself. 52
When such homework is done, it must be carefully examined and corrected by the teacher. Without that, it comes to nothing. Moreover, parental support of homework is needed to see that it is done effectively. 54
Finally, a word must be said about deportment. Laxity in this respect can be completely destructive of learning and completely frustrating to the efforts of the best teachers. Students must be required to behave in class and in school in a manner that is conducive to learning. Infraction of rules of conduct devised for this purpose must be effectively dealt with. Where discipline breaks down, where offenses against teachers or fellow students go unpunished, schools and classrooms are places where little or no effective learning and no teaching can take place. 55
Chapter 8 The Preparation of Teachers
The teacher who has stopped learning is a deadening influence rather than a help to students being initiated into the ways of learning. 59
Chapter 9 The Principal
A second condition is that the principal should have the authority and be given the power to enforce standards of conduct—that measure of decorum and good behavior on the part of the student body that is indispensable to learning and teaching. It is not only necessary for the principal to have such disciplinary powers; it is also necessary for parents to recognize the principal’s authority in enforcing rules of conduct that make the school community a safe and sane place for learning. 65
Chapter 10 Higher Learning
The goal at which any phase of education, true to itself, should aim,” John Dewey declared, “is more education. Other objectives may surround that goal, but it is central.” 69
The education that takes place there is often called the higher learning. It would be more appropriate to refer to it as further learning, for there is still more education to be had and further learning to be done, beyond the higher learning. 69
But we can and should do something to mitigate the barbarism of intense specialization, which threatens to be as destructive in its own way as the abandonment of specialization would be. 72
Chapter 11 Earning a Living and Living Well
Our concern is double-edged. We have two fundamental goals in view. One is equipping all the children of this country to earn a good living for themselves. The other is enabling them to lead good human lives. 73
Two things, then, must go hand in hand with the recommended reform of basic schooling. One is the commitment of our society to a policy of full employment, securing for everyone his or her right to earn a living. The other is the enlightenment of parents with regard to the goals of basic schooling—not just earning a living, but living well. 75
Chapter 12 The Future of Our Free Institutions
  keithhamblen | Aug 10, 2016 |
A fantastic Utopian proposal, actually implemented in one of the Chicago school districts. But inevitably doomed to failure in our dumbed-down, committed to mediocrity, anti-intellectual, narcissistic, Oprah-fied culture. ( )
  KirkLowery | Mar 4, 2014 |
First book of its kind that I read. Worthy of consideration when you're thinking about education reform. ( )
  woofrock | May 18, 2009 |
This book proves it is possible for me to agree with the philosophy and goals of a proposal, and yet find the proposal to be almost entirely wrong-headed in execution. Adler and a group of other educators got together and came up with a proposal for reforming the U.S. education system, which resulted in The Paideia Proposal.

The primary thrust of the book is that all children should get an equal education as a prerequisite for being prepared to participate fully in a functioning democracy, which is a laudable goal. To achieve that goal, the book proposes that multi-track educational systems that direct some kids into one or more college preparatory tracks, and others into various vocational tracks should be abolished, and that all children should get an education through the end of 12th grade that is identical in content. This, in my opinion, is both wrong headed, and counterproductive.

One assumption made through the book is that a classic liberal arts education through the end of high school is required to create a functioning member of a democratic society. The book consistently downplays the importance of physical education, vocational education, and other "unnecessary" courses. The book also downplays the differences between students, both up the scale, and down it. These differences are hand waved away with the assumption that those lacking in aptitude for traditional academic subjects will pull themselves up if only educational expectations are raised.

The problem with this assumption is that it ignores those at the top of the educational scale - who will become bored and frustrated by the now slow pace of their classes (remember, we got rid of all tracked education), and expects those who struggle to keep up without truly accounting for their capabilities. Assuming a single curriculum will fit all children simply flies in the face of reality.

One annoying side light is that the authors assume that levels of homework should be increased across the board, which seems to be one of the parts of the book that has been adopted. But teachers get kids for eight hours a day five days a week as it is. Do they really need to tack on two to three hours of homework on top of that? (Especially since studies have shown that the educational benefits for children resulting from homework are negligible at best). Is eight hours of daily instruction not enough to squeeze in sufficient learning?

In the end, while I agree with the authors that all children should have equal educational opportunity, at least through the end of the public school experience, a single curriculum is clearly not the answer. Further, the core learning experience necessary to provide a sufficient grounding to understand and participate in a democratic society should form the basis of the public education experience, but that should serve as a core upon which to build a curriculum that offers student choices (at least at the high school level), not a straitjacket that pushes everyone into a single track.

The book is built upon a promising idea. Unfortunately, I simply cannot agree with the prescription that results. ( )
1 rösta StormRaven | Apr 6, 2009 |
Basically what Adler was proposing was impossible and wouldn't work. His idea- get rid of honors classes, get rid of specialty classes, drop woodworking (he didn't say it quite that way, but I got the message, and, having had loved woodworking, I felt justifyably angered), and basically put everyone through the same thing. Hey Adler, guess what- I want my honors classes, my art classes, my creative writing classes, my extra English and Science and Spanish classes, in short, I want choices! Your program sounds like it might be fine for children (who have a similar one anyway), but not for adolescents who are groing up and need to make some choices. ( )
  the1butterfly | Oct 16, 2006 |
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First vol. of the author's trilogy; the 2nd of which is Paideia problems and possibilities, and the 3rd of which is The Paideia program.

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