Thursday, October 21, 2010

Twitter Book Club: Alfred North Whitehead (1917-1929) The Aims of Education - Chapter 1

The Aims of Education

I have to admit, I am a bit embarrassed that I have gone this far in my career without ever hearing of this author. I suspect it has a lot to do with American nationalism within education curriculum. Whitehead was British and advocating for many of the same things as John Dewey but from the other side of the Atlantic. In my teacher education I heard a great deal about Dewey but never Whitehead. I wonder if that would have been different if I receive my formal schooling elsewhere abroad.

This book is a collection of essays and speeches Whitehead gave over the course of twelve years. I am unsure what the dates are for each of the essays. This first essay on The Aims of Education is a fascinating read. Being a math teacher, Whitehead doesn't exactly demonstrate the poetic skill of some of the other authors I have read for Twitter Book Club but his ideas are definitely engaging. I find it awe inspiring to read someone who was advocating for things like interdisciplinary learning, discovery learning, specialized study, and caution against standardization from a time and place where the British School dominated the education landscape. Today we look at these ideas as new and revolutionary.

I am reading Whitehead's Aims of Education on recommendation from John I Goodlad....less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

...last time I did this was when I read Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society b/c of reference to it by Seymour Papert.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

"A merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God's earth. What we should aim at producing is men (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Every intellectual revolution which has ever stirred humanity into greatness has been a passionate protest against inert ideas." Whiteheadless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"From the very beginning of his education, the child should experience the joy of discovery." Whiteheadless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"Education is the acquisition of the art of the utilization of knowledge." Whiteheadless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"In education, as elsewhere, the broad primrose path leads to a nasty place." Whiteheadless than a minute ago via Twittelator

Whitehead does have his poetic moments. I love this quote. Makes me think of Robert Frost. It also makes me think of all the times we have heard this product or that solution as making teaching or learning "easy." Is easy always better? Is the easy path ever all that educative?

"no educational system is possible unless every question directly asked of a pupil at any examination is (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

Whitehead makes a strong case against standardized testing here. Yesterday I sat in on a staff development session on assessing NWEA data. Came to realize that in our MYP programme we are giving each student a test in both reading and math each quarter plus they take the state tests in reading, math, and science twice in their time with us. Thats 2 NWEA tests times 4 quarters times 5 years plus 3 MAP tests times 2 times = 46 externally created tests our kids get in their time with us. Now, each time one of these tests is administered (except for two of the MAP tests) it takes up one week of building-wide computer lab access. Thats 42 tests times 5 days = 210 days students and teachers do not have access to our school's computers for use in learning. Since we have fewer than 200 student contact days in a school year that is one full year of a student's MYP program where our schools computers are unavailable. Since we are nowhere near close to having a 1:1 ratio (more like 1:4) our kids only realistically have available access to computers in school for 1 year of their 5 year MYP programme. During that time that they are available I have observe that those machines sit idle and unused about 1/2 to 2/3 of the time. That means that the average student only has in-school access to a computer for learning for 1/3 to 1/2 of a year over the course of their 5 years in our school. If computers do help facilitate and accelerate learning then I think I have a data-driven argument against the use of computers for this kind of testing.

"The solution which I am urging, is to eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"I am certain that in education wherever you exclude specialism you destroy life." Whiteheadless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"The machinery of our secondary education is rigid where it should be yielding, and lax where it should be rigid." Whiteheadless than a minute ago via Twittelator

"I suggest that no system of external tests which aims primarily at examining individual scholars can (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

"the first requisite for educational reform is the school as a unit, with its approved curriculum based on (cont) than a minute ago via Twittelator

Wow, between 1917 and 1929 Whitehead was calling for interdisciplinary Educ., differentiated instruction, & against standardized tests.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific

@anderscj TY - very interesting to me :O)less than a minute ago via Seesmic twhirl

@Darcy1968 I wonder if I had receive my ed credentials on the other side of the pond if I wld have been as familiar with Whitehead as Dewey.less than a minute ago via web

@anderscj Thanks - "It's not what they are at 18, it is what they become afterwards that matters." I like that thought. Read on!less than a minute ago via web

@mrunkle I thnk he contradicts himself with that one. What of students who don't live to see 18? Do their lives not matter?less than a minute ago via Mobile Web

@mrunkle He goes to great length to explain that the present is the only time that matters.less than a minute ago via Mobile Web

Additionally, the following were sent to me via DM:

Following your Whitehead quotes. My favorite from his Metaphysics book, "Appearance sheds it's note of derivation." So few read anymore...

Once a thing is what it becomes, the process of how it got to be that way is lost. When we appreciate an oak tree, we don't think, "acorn".

I am not sure why Chris sent these to me as a DM and not an @reply and I am not in the habit of sharing what I get via DM but I don't think either of these message constitute any need for privacy or confidentiality.

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