For a long time, I thought the education system in most states was way off the mark, and I am not alone in thinking that. I was reminded of the importance of a classical education when I found an interesting article in School Book, an online magazine for the NYC school system. A Lesson in Teaching to the Test was written by Anne Stone and Jeff Nichols, both associate professors at NY colleges and the parents of eight-year-old twins in the third grade in New York City schools. They recently introduced their children to E.B. White’s wonderful book, The Trumpet of the Swan, about a mute swan given voice by a trumpet stolen for him by his father.
The book contains a passage that the couple cite in their article about a teacher who is in the midst of a mathematics lesson. This is what she asks one boy. as well as his response.
“Sam, if a man can walk three miles in one hour, how many miles can he walk in four hours?”
“It would depend on how tired he got after the first hour,” replied Sam.
What follows is a lively discussion among the students and the teacher covering all kinds of things that might factor into the distance and the timing. I encourage you to go read the entire piece as it is quite interesting. Unfortunately, that exchange is not something that would probably happen in a classroom today, although it should. The authors make the point that the little scene from White’s book “…captures what volumes of education research have shown: we are born curious, and the best education models do not proceed on the basis of ‘what we want students to learn.'”
My interest in this topic was spurred by a recent column I read in The Dallas Morning News. The author of that column, Kim Rice, wrote, “My entire educational experience consisted of learning one happy fact after another. A name here, a date there and those delightful little rules all over. Alas, I was a miserable memorizer.”
That opening to her column resonated with me, because facts fall through my brain as if it had holes. Like, Kim, I was lucky to have a college professor who “cracked open a door that exposed the difference between being trained to do and being educated to think. I discovered ideas.”
I was also lucky enough to have a bit more of a classical education in high school – this was before the idea of standardized testing came to be. It’s hard to quantify what I learned because I did not come out with facts and figures that could be measured. What I did come out with was a mind that was quick and eager to learn, and really has not stopped.
What about you? What kind of education did you receive? Do you think we are losing something vital by not offering a classical education anymore?
On another note, I just have to share part of this wonderful review I recently received for One Small Victory.
“Excellent! That is one small word that hardly describes a novel written with such heart. Maryann Miller is an accomplished writer, weaving her tale of intrigue, romance and determination. She takes her readers on a wild ride of adventure that will not be soon forgotten.” Highly Recomended by Reviewer: Elaine Fuhr, Allbooks Reviews Int.