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Education An Historical Perspective
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Who's Learning Disabled?

Pedagogy

One of the most provocative courses I took in college was an Issues in Education course that presented both sides of controversies in education.   One controversy dealt with  the method of teaching children to read.  It was a Whole Language/whole word/language experience versus phonics debate (whole language/whole word/language experience vs. phonics).  Interwoven with with this basic controversy one finds the education establishment's current conflict over philosophy of instruction (child centered [Rousseau's philosophy exemplified in his novel, Emile] vs. teacher directed instruction).  These controversies are based on differences of opinion on how children learn best (inferential/experiential vs. systematic/direct instruction).   Eventually, the controversy will influence what content will they be taught (relevance vs. excellence).  As you can see there is a great chasm between the two prevailing views of education.  One philosophy and methodology dominates in government schools and the other finds a home in private, church schools, home schools and in a growing number of charter schools.

Ironically, our colleges of education are simply trying to reinvent the wheel.  These ideas are not new.  Indeed, Socrates was condemned to death over a controversial educational issue.  Parents have always been serious about education. 

The World History textbook from which I taught most recently spent a lot of time surveying education throughout the centuries beginning with the first writings in cuneiform to the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet which simplified writing and reading.  Ironically almost 3500 years after the Phoenicians gave us the alphabet the battle over memorizing symbols (cuneiform/hieroglyphyics/whole language) or analyzing blending sounds represented by letters to form words still rages.  As parents, taxpayers and future teachers it is a debate one must be aware of as millions of tax dollars are spent each year teaching children to read and teaching teachers to teach children to read.  With 60% of first time entering freshmen taking remedial reading in one local Junior College, it is certainly an issue about which all should be informed.


Liberation Pedagogy is how one group of these very influential educators see the process of teaching.  In their own words:

Paulo Freire is a defrocked Marxist priest who once advocated liberation theology in Nicaragua and is now a philosopher of whole language advocating liberation pedagogy. 

Michael Apple writes:


Sources of the above philosophy politicizing the classroom:

Freire, P. (1985). The politics of education: Culture, power and liberation.   South Hadley , MA :   Bergin and Garvey.

Giroux, H.A. (1991).  Literacy, cultural diversity, and public life.  In K.S. Goodman, L.B. Bird, &  Y.M. Goodman (Eds.), Whole Language Catalog (p. 417).  Santa Rosa , CA : American   School .

Goodman, K.S. (1989).  Whole language research: Foundations and development, Elementary School Journal, 90, 207-221.

Goodman, K.S., L.B. Bird, & Y.M. Goodman (Eds.)  (1991).  Whole Language Catalog.  Santa Rosa , CA : American School .

Pearson, P.D. (1989).  Reading the whole-language movement.  Elementary School Journal, 90,  231-241.

Rich, S.J. (1989).  Restoring power to teachers: The impact of whole language.   In G. Manning &  M. Manning (Eds.), Whole language: Beliefs and practices K-8.  Washington , DC : National   Education Association.

Shannon, P. (1989).  Broken promises:  Reading instruction in twentieth-century America Granby , MA : Bergin and Garvey.

Shannon, P.  (1990). The struggle to continue: Progressive reading instruction in the United States . Portsmouth , NH : Heinemann.


Perhaps the classroom has always been political. 

Spielvogel states:  p. 56  Homer gave the Greeks a model of heroism, honor, and nobility.  But in time, as a new world of city-states emerged in Greece, new values of cooperation and community also transformed what Greeks learned from Homer.  Which of these sounds remarkably like socialism? 

Up until the 20th century Homer was read in the original Greek as a part of the educational process.  The community appreciated the model of heroism, honor and nobility of that early literature.  Today schools require children to read books such as "The Giver" that exposes elementary school children to concepts like suicide, infanticide, and euthanasia in a classroom constrained by values clarification from making a moral judgment.  Are both politically motivated?  Have the Intellectuals Paul Johnson writes of below decided to impose a new standard of morality upon society?  Can historians who write textbooks be considered intellectuals?

Historically have those in control of curriculum taken heed to the Biblical injunction "As a man thinketh, so is he" ?

 "Over the past two hundred years the influence of intellectuals has grown steadily.  Indeed, the rise of the secular intellectual has been a key factor in shaping the modern world... With the decline of clerical power in the eighteenth century, a new kind of mentor emerged to fill the vacuum and capture the ear of society.  The secular intellectual might be deist. skeptic. or atheist.  But he was just as ready as any pontiff or presbyter to tell mankind how to conduct its affairs.  He proclaimed, from the start, a special devotion to the interests of humanity and an evangelical duty to advance them by his teaching.  He brought to this self-appointed task a far more radical approach than his clerical predecessors.  He felt himself bound by no corpus of revealed religion.  The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive codes of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide.  For the first time in human history, and with growing confidence and audacity, men arose to assert that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellects:  more, that they could devise formulae whereby not merely the structure of society, but the fundamental habits of human beings could be transformed for the better."  (Paul Johnson, Intellectuals, p. 1) 

I include the tongue-in-cheek letter Thank You Whole Language just so you will be acquainted with some powerful names in current establishment (Progressive) education and concepts of reading. 

The pro-phonics (Traditional) side consists of educators such as  Patrick Groff,  Jeanne Chall of Harvard,  Marilyn Jaeger Adams, and organizations such as the National Right to Read Foundation.  See also:  http://www.classical-homeschooling.org/application.html

For your own education....

Trace curriculum in education through the centuries and compare it to today.

1.  Languages

2.  Grammar

3.  Dialectic--Dialectic (Greek: διαλεκτική) is an exchange of propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a synthesis of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue. It is one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are rhetoric and grammar) in Western culture. In ancient and medieval times, both rhetoric and dialectic were understood to aim at being persuasive (through dialogue). The aim of the dialectical method, often known as dialectic or dialectics, is to try to resolve the disagreement through rational discussion. One way -- the Socratic method -- is to show that a given hypothesis (with other admissions) leads to a contradiction; thus, forcing the withdrawal of the hypothesis as a candidate for truth. Another way of trying to resolve a disagreement is by denying some presupposition of the contending thesis and antithesis; thereby moving to a third (syn)thesis. 1  Wikipedia

4.  Rhetoric--

Aristotle's treatise on rhetoric is an attempt to systematically describe civic rhetoric as a human art or skill (techne). He identifies three different types of rhetorical proof:

He also identifies three different types of civic rhetoric: forensic (concerned with determining truth or falsity of events that took place in the past), deliberative (concerned with determining whether or not particular actions should or should not be taken in the future), and epideictic (concerned with praise and blame, demonstrating beauty and skill in the present).

*At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a revival of rhetorical study manifested in the establishment of departments of rhetoric and speech at academic institutions, as well as the formation of national and international professional organizations. Theorists generally agree that a significant reason for the revival of the study of rhetoric was the renewed importance of language and persuasion in the increasingly mediated environment of the twentieth century. The rise of advertising and of mass media such as photography, telegraphy, radio, and film brought rhetoric more prominently into people's lives.

Kenneth Burke, who defined the human being as the "symbol-using animal," defined rhetoric as "the use of symbols to induce cooperation in those who by nature respond to symbols."

5.  Logic--

6.  Reading methodology...cuneiform writing to phonetic writing

7.  Who was taught to read?

8.  By whom were they taught to read? 

9.  Where were they taught?

10.  How were universities established? 

11.  What values were emphasized?  excellence/individualism/competition    vs.  equity/group learning/cooperation

12.  What was the issue that brought about Socrates demise?  How does that same issue affect education today?

13.  What about the zeitgeist (the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era) of the world can we infer from pedagogy of today compared to the past?

 

 

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster