Tuesday, June 21, 2016
I’m not sure how Cities of God by Rodney Stark got on my list. Probably it was after I read his book, How the West Won. The subtitle describes the thesis of the book: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome.
The book uses statistical analysis to follow the rise and spread of early Christianity. He is able to use data, not easily available to create multiple hypothesis and test them. This leads largely to verifying what we already know, but he is able to quantify why what we already know is true and to what extent it is true. Yet a few times he offers new insight. One particularly interesting statistical fact shows that Paul’s ministry did not necessarily spread Christianity. He definitely helped define and focus Christian theology, but he seems to have gone where churches either already were or would have eventually been.
He begins by pointing out that most early converts were in fact Jews, not mostly gentiles as we so often picture. This is because they were already open to a monotheistic faith and Christianity stripped it of “ethnic encumbrances.” In addition, the church found its early success in large cities, not far from Jerusalem, with large diaspora communities of Jews, which were largely hellenized. He goes into why all this is so in the book. In addition, cities which had experienced an influx of the near-monotheistic religions of Isis and Cybele seemed the most open to Christianity.
He makes some interesting points contrasting monotheism with polytheism. He states that monotheism always wins this contest. It seems that polytheism creates a system in which people “god-shop.” Their level to any one particular god is relatively low. But when there is One True God, people are much more likely to engage in a “lifelong commitment and devotion.” After discussing the success monotheism engenders when confronting polytheism, Stark states, “Monotheism prevails because it offers a God worth dying for—indeed, a God who promises everlasting life.”
He goes on to explore Gnostic writers and ideas. He makes a convincing case that the Gnostics were not a sect of Christianity, but of paganism with Christian overtones. They were rightly and immediately rejected by early Christian fathers.
He also discusses the rise of Christianity within the Roman Empire. He shows that Christians were very tolerant and mixed well with the pagan religions that still existed. But he also shows that when Emperor Julian attempted to stamp out Christianity, it was in actually an attempt to stamp out effective religion. He states, “Julian’s effort to restore the temples was a fool’s errand that achieved nothing because when monotheism and polytheism collide, monotheism always wins. Easily. It does so precisely because it offers far more, and does so with far greater credibility, making it the choice of philosophers as well as of the people.”
He ends the book with a plea for historians to begin counting. Literally. He encourages them to back their assertions with quantifiable data as he has done repeatedly throughout the book. He believes the data is there for the finding and historians can avoid making claims later proved to be wrong if only they search for statistically quantifiable data.
This is a quick and easy read for those wanting to understand the spread of the early Church and what kinds of variables played a role.
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I have such deep respect for C.S. Lewis, but if I’m being honest, I haven’t really read much of his stuff. Of course the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, but that may be it. So when I saw The Abolition of Man as recommended reading on one of my classical education sources, I jumped at the opportunity. Ironically, I already had a copy.
Now I know another reason why C.S. Lewis is so revered. This book was written in 1944, but it is timeless. He deals with human nature so how could it not be.
His book deals with three separate, but related ideas. The first is the famous “Men without Chests.” This section opens with a discussion of textbooks. I suppose this is why the educators are interested in it. Although the idea he espouses certainly transcends education.
He discusses the apparently new trend in textbooks to disavow any characteristics intrinsically related to a thing and rather reduce those characteristics to a mere feeling we have about the thing. For example he cites a person saying a waterfall is “sublime,” but the textbook author quickly points out that the waterfall is not objectively sublime, rather the feelings the man gets when looking at the waterfall causes him to feel sublimity towards it. They do this under the context of trying to teach the young not to fall for pretty words, but to analyze what is actually going on. Lewis says they actually “cut out [a student’s] soul, long before he is old enough to choose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane.”
Although he wonders if these kinds of authors really intend to create a “trousered ape,” he does not dismiss the possibility that some do intend to “make a clean sweep of traditional values and start with a new set.” Yet more likely, these authors are simply engaging in some armchair philosophy without realizing the consequences. He muses that the motivation may simply be that actual literary scholarship is hard. They may also feel a pressing need to disabuse the youth of over-sentimentality. Yet Lewis says, if so, they have misdiagnosed the problem and failed to notice most “need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity.” As he very succinctly states, “A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.”
Rather, an educator’s job is “to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.” Rather than be overly critical and reject all emotion, the teacher is to help the student know what emotion to feel, what to praise and what to condemn, what to value and what to disregard. This leads to the conclusion that there exists a kind of truth. A central set of ideas which are not open to interpretation. A waterfall is either sublime or it isn’t, but it is not a subjective opinion.
He refers to this “doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and other really false” as the “Tao.” The Tao tells us that there are qualities that demand “a certain response from us whether we make it or not.” And he believes that if we do not respond as the Tao would call for, we are in error. The defect is in ourselves. “Therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason (when we feel liking for what ought to be approved) or out of harmony with reason (when we perceive that liking is due but cannot feel it)… The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.”
He goes on to state, “The head rules the belly through the chest — the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest - Magnanimity - Sentiment — these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man.” (p. 24) He believes those textbook authors are producing “Men without Chests…. It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so… You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful.” (p. 25)
The second idea he elaborates on he calls “The Way.” In this section Lewis seeks to show that those who operate outside the Tao, in fact have their own version of it. They reject traditional idea believing their own ideas are immune from the same debunking process. But in rejecting fundamental truths, they have nothing on which to base their own ideals and values. “The direct frontal attack [on the Tao] ‘Why?’ — ‘What good does it do?’ — ‘Who said so?’ is never permissible; not because it is harsh or offensive but because no values at all can justify themselves on that level. If you persist that kind of trial you will destroy all values, and so destroy the bases of your own criticism as well as the thing criticized.” (p. 48) Those things the Tao holds to be “self-evident” have been debunked. What now is self-evident? Those Lewis calls Innovators stand on sinking sand. They both seek to discredit the Tao and use its axioms simultaneously. To which Lewis replies, “Only by such shreds of the Tao as he has inherited is he enabled even to attack it. The question therefore arises what title he has to select bits of it for acceptance and to reject others. For if the bits he rejects have no authority, neither have those he retains: if what he retains is valid, what he rejects is equally valid too.” (p. 41) In other words, we don’t get to pick and choose our truths or the very concept of “truth” has no meaning at all.
He goes on to state the case very succinctly, “This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world.” (p. 43) This doesn’t imply that all values are therefore static. The Tao can develop from within based on its own spirit. But it cannot be superseded by an outsider.
In the third section he moves on to discuss those who would say, “Let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him be such.”(p. 51) In short, let us make man in our own image.
People will point to man’s increasing “power over nature” to prove we can just as easily obtain man’s power over human nature. Yet Lewis convincingly argues that man’s power over nature is in reality “a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.”(p. 55) In fact, what we call “power over nature” is actually the recognition of the truths within Nature. As we discover more and put those discoveries to use, we are actually adding to the power of Nature. Once we discover how gravity works and put it to use, for example, we are now at the mercy of gravity. Whereas before we discovered the truth, we imagined we could harness it or repudiate it or make it work for us in whatever way we we pleased. Instead we discover we must follow the dictates of gravity. It will not follow our dictates.
As to creating a better form of man going forward, Lewis says, “In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger.” (p. 57) “For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.”(p.59)
But how will they decide what kind of new man to make. They have rejected the Tao and so all values are necessarily rejected. They have no right to the use of the words “good” or “bad.” Those exist within the Tao. These people, which Lewis calls the Conditioners, “have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artifacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of man.”(p. 64) They have created a redefined man, which leads to a definition-free man as the Conditioners compete for the definition that serves them best. And without a definition, they have undefined man. There is now no such thing.
Lewis points out the irony of man seeking to control Nature, has now been wholly taken over by nature. That is in rejecting the Tao, he is controlled by impulse. His base nature is all that is left to govern him. And “nature, untrammeled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man’s conquest Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man.” (p. 68) Apparently, reality really is a b—.
Lewis sums up his argument with this, “Either we are rational spirit obliged forever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.” (p. 73)
Bringing all this up to the issues we face today, we see once again, man trying to remake man in his own image. Or no image at all. We see marriage redefined but increasingly undefined. We see gender redefined and increasingly undefined. These two concepts, which are defined within the Tao, are now rendered meaningless by those who seek to reshape them. Because Truth will always win out, the Conditioners will not succeed. But they will wreak a lot of havoc in their wake. We cannot truly abolish man, but we can almost destroy him.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Another book recommended by the classical educators is The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet. This book was written in the 1950s, so after the Progressive reforms and furthermore, he’s from Teachers College of Columbia, so… let's say I was surprised that it was recommended by classical educators. But I really liked this book. He takes a different view from John Gregory and believes that teaching is much more art than science.
He begins by introducing the book with, “Our interest here, therefore, is not to distinguish the good subjects from the bad subjects, but to work out the principles by which a subject — once it has been chosen — can be well taught.” Because bad teaching can have such a tremendous impact on the students, spoiling “lives which might have been full of energy and happiness,” he felt compelled to write this book. That is a breath of fresh air to me!
He begins, like Gregory, with a discussion of the importance of the teacher. “A teacher must believe in the value and interest of his subject as a doctor believes in health. The neglect of this principle is one of the chief reasons for the bad teaching that makes pupils hate schools and universities and turn away from valuable fields of knowledge.” A teacher must know and LOVE his subject! And not only love it, but like it and desire to continue to grow in the field. In addition, the good teacher must actually like young people. “You must not be the policeman watching the mob. You must be the leader of a group.” These characteristics seem so obvious, but clearly Highet has seen examples of teachers who do not like their subject or their students.
He here inserts an aside. He believes that when the idea of universal, public education arose, it necessarily swept up people who had no interest in being a student. Simultaneously, it changed the idea of an education as a privilege to one of drudgery. I think he is onto something, however, that genie cannot be put back in the bottle. I think that is why charter schools are a good solution. At least with choice, families can feel they have a stake in the game and are more likely to see the education their child is getting as a privilege.
Back to the teacher. He must know his students names and faces. He must see them as individuals. If the teacher wishes to mold them into “real people” he must see them as real people. At the same time, he warns against the impossibility of knowing each student on a deeply personal level. He suggests “typing” them as a way of short-handing the student. However, he says be aware that a few students will not fit a type. They are the “eccentrics.” These must be treated “with extreme care. They are explosive mixtures.” Some of these are the brooders, but some are the geniuses. They can be hard to spot at first, but the teacher must be on the lookout for those that don’t fit the normal stereotypes and work in a way to maximize their education. “The best way to avoid wasting the powers of a good pupil is to plan his work for him… Make him keep records. Make him write… Then, at the end of three months, give him a rest and congratulate him, and while he is still elated, take him rapidly over his whole achievement. This gives him a sense of unexpected power.”
Not only do teachers need to know their subject and their students, they need to have wide and varied interests. “Teachers in schools and colleges must see more, think more, and understand more than the average man and woman of the society in which they live.” This helps the teacher connect the student to the outside world. It also tells a student that the subject under consideration is being taught by an interesting person. This reinforces the student’s desire to learn the subject and thus become interesting himself.
The essential abilities of a teacher include a good memory, determination, and kindness. This describes someone with that essential strength of personality that exudes confidence. HIghet calls this quality “largeness of heart.” In short, a good teacher will love and enjoy his students and the world around him.
Then he moves on to the teacher’s methods. First of all, he advocates the teacher provide for a class a summary of the ground to be covered. This allows the students to see the subject matter as a cohesive whole and allows them to begin preparing questions for the material to be covered. As for what is in the plan, he says, "The first essential would be to cut down the monotonous reading and scansion, and to increase the quantity of explanatory lectures and discussions; the next would be to vary the types of teaching, so that the class should not always expect exactly the same tasks; and the third would be to conceive the subject-matter of the course not a as shapeless stream of foreign words to be read, translated, and scanned, but as an intellectual and artistic whole composed of various parts." He also cautions against "teaching the same old stuff year after year." This is a fault because the world is changing, the knowledge of the subject is changing, and therefore the teacher should be changing. He also highlights the need to read and know the original sources. This can freshen up teaching when you know the original documents and can add your own original commentary.
He moves on to a discussion of the "three main methods of communicating knowledge from teacher to pupil." The first one he deals with is lecturing. The purpose is the steady flow of information from teacher to student. A good lecturer knows the students cannot copy down everything said, so he therefore knows how to emphasize that which is noteworthy by delivering slowly and emphatically. It is also very important that the teacher, while not reading a lecture, come prepared for what he is to say. "Before he opens his mouth, the lecturer must know exactly what points he wishes to tell his audience, in what order, and with what emphasis."
The second is the Socratic Method in which the teacher asks a series of leading questions designed to get the student to arrive at a predetermined point in his thinking. "This system is the most difficult, the least common, and the most thorough way to teach. It is most difficult because it demands constant alertness, invariable good humor, complete earnestness, an utter self-surrender to the cause of truth, on the part of both teacher and pupil.” He calls this the best form of education because if it has been done well, the student is convinced that he has not been taught, but has discovered on his own so many wonderful truths.
The third form is simply doing a lesson. “The pupil learns from three different activities: first, from doing his own work alone; second, from observing the mistakes he has missed, and also from defending himself on points where he believes he is right; third, from looking over the completed and corrected work and comparing it with the original assignment and his first draft. The first of these is the work of creation, the second is criticism, the third is appreciation of wholeness.” These must all work seamlessly together.
Elaborating on this most common of methodology Highet says the students must first prepare privately for the class. Then the teacher fills in gaps in the understanding. Then the students are questioned to see if they have in fact prepared beforehand and if they are understanding what is being presented. This questioning should not be simply parroting back information from the text. It should be used as a means to integrate the information in a meaningful way, and make it more vivid. Allow the students to problem solve or find connections with what they just read. One method had the teacher writing, “What is the problem?” boldly on the chalkboard. Then the class discusses possible problems and solutions and comes to a conclusion. This energizes the class and leads to a spirit of competition which prods all students to really think about the issues presented.
Like Gregory, Highet emphasizes the importance of fixing the lesson in the mind of the students. The first method is review. He cannot overemphasize the importance of this step. Never end a unit on the final lesson. Never end a lesson on the final thought. Always review. Next, use questions to fix an idea. One method that sounds particularly intriguing is called “quodlibets” which means “whatever you like.” The students fired questions at the teacher as a means of review. And the teacher makes sure to clarify any misconceptions while leaving his students with the distinct impression there is much more to be learned on the subject. Finally and obviously related, never exhaust a topic. Leave the students feeling like there is more to know and implicitly provide a challenge to go further in their studies.
In a discussion of great teachers, Highet reminds us that a good teacher knows, “What he stimulates his pupils to think out for themselves often has a far more potent influence upon them.” In addition, “the wise father and the good teacher will challenge their sons and pupils to equal them, and help them, where it is wise, to differ and even to excel.”
As he continues to discuss great teachers he illuminates the Renaissance style of teaching. He states that they began early and immersed small children in letters, reading, and writing. “Next, the subjects were more limited in number, so that the energies of the pupils were not dissipated. But, at the same time, teaching was not rigidly departmentalized, as it tends to be nowadays.” This integration led to a more natural love of learning and little compulsion. “How did [the good schools] get the young to study difficult subjects?” The the teachers so love their subjects and "talked so interestingly about them that their pupils were fascinated.” Sometimes this flamboyance of learning led to a lack of complete accuracy, but it engendered a pure love of learning. Highet seems somewhat unconcerned about the mistakes communicated during a time that produced Shakespeare and Montaigne. Finally, the Renaissance teachers made learning fun! They incorporated games and plays. “They emphasized the fact that learning is a pleasure.” They created competitions and “encouraged the boys to compete with one another… They invented difficult tasks, challenging their best boys to complete them.”
He also gives high marks to the Jesuit teachers. Their primary characteristic was their ability to adapt. They recognized that each student and class was different. The teacher must learn to “adapt his teaching to different classes, and tread different pupils differently.” Today we call this “diversity,” a mushier version of what the Jesuits practiced. But it is interesting to know that unlike the stereotypes we hear of pre-Progressive education, teachers were well aware that students and classes differed and must be adapted to. He also points out as an aside the Jesuits' ability to talk in pictures. Everything was a metaphor. This ability to create analogies is extremely important in the teaching process. In addition, they set high expectations and used the great books to hook the souls producing “a long list of wise and learned Jesuit preachers, writers, philosophers, and scientists.”
Once again, he bemoans universal education as the source for all that ails education today. Education came under the purview of Boards and Ministries of Education and, “the result of the grim quasi-religious moral attitude of the early nineteenth century, which thought that important subjects could only be treated in a deadly serious way, which admired the discipline of floggings and harsh examinations as a preparation for life, and which believed the aim of education to be the collection of large masses of useful facts, as the aim of life was the collection of large masses of stocks, bonds, and landed properties.” In short, universal, mandated, publicly-funded education sucked the soul out of true education.
He concludes with a nod to advertisers who definitely have something to teach the teachers. They know how to communicate a message effectively. “1. Make it vivid… 2. Make it memorable…3. Make it relevant.” They might be using these techniques for “debased” ends, but they are quite effective at teaching.
As teachers, we can offer something so much better than a new brand of toothpaste or a flashy automobile. We offer the ability to help create great souls, people who are better and more capacious than they otherwise would be except for being in our classroom. We have an amazing opportunity learn with and love young people and to help them become more. I can't wait!
Thursday, June 9, 2016
I read The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory because it came up repeatedly on classical education websites as recommended reading. It was brilliant. I can’t adequately describe how much I loved this book from 1884! It’s hard to believe how relevant it is to today. Apparently we’ve been struggling with the same educational theories and irons for a long time!
He boils teaching down into seven laws, which he believes to be as reliable as the laws of science. So while another book I read says teaching is an art, not a science, John Gregory would probably beg to disagree.
Gregory identifies seven factors about which he states, “These are essential elements in every full and complete act of teaching. Whether the lesson be a single fact told in three minutes, or a lecture occupying as many hours, the seven factors are all present, if the work is effective. None of them can be omitted, and no others need be added. If there is a true science of teaching, it must be found in the laws and relations of these seven factors.”
He states the laws and then spends the rest of this short book expounding on the laws. They are as follows:
- A TEACHER must be one who KNOWS the lesson or truth or art to be taught.
- A LEARNER is one who ATTENDS with interest to the lesson.
- The LANGUAGE used as a MEDIUM between teacher and learner must be COMMON to both.
- The LESSON to be mastered must be explicable in the terms of truth already known by the learner — the UNKNOWN must be explained by means of the KNOWN.
- TEACHING is AROUSING and USING the PUPIL’S MIND to grasp the desired thought or to master the desired art.
- LEARNING is THINKING into one’s own UNDERSTANDING a new idea or truth or working into HABIT a new art or skill.
- The TEST AND PROOF of teaching done — the finishing and fastening process — must be a REVIEWING, RETHINKING, REKNOWING, REPRODUCING, and APPLYING of the material that has been taught, the knowledge and ideals and arts that have been communicated.
(all caps in original)
He rewrites them, addressing them to the teacher:
- Know thoroughly and familiarly the lesson you wish to teach — teach from a full mind and a clear understanding.
- Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Do not try to teach without attention.
- Use words understood in the same way by the pupils and yourself — language clear and vivid to both.
- Begin with what is already known to the pupil upon the subject and with what he has himself experienced — and proceed to the new material by single, easy, and natural steps, letting the known explain the unknown.
- Stimulate the pupil’s own mind to action. Keep his thought as much as possible ahead of your expression placing him in the attitude of a discoverer, an anticipator.
- Require the pupil to reproduce in thought the lesson he is learning — thinking it out in its various phases and applications till he can express it in his own language.
- REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW, reproducing the old, deepening its impression with new thought, linking it with added meanings, finding new applications, correcting any false views, and completing the true.
Now in more depth:
1. The Law of the Teacher - THE TEACHER MUST KNOW THAT WHICH HE WOULD TEACH.
He must have “such knowledge and appreciation of the truth in its deeper significance an wider relations, that by the force of its importance we ACT upon it — our CONDUCT is modified by it.”
RULES FOR TEACHERS
- Prepare each lesson by fresh study.
- Find in the lesson its analogies to more familiar facts and principles
- Study the lesson until it takes shape in familiar language.
- Find the natural order of the several steps of the lesson
- Find the relation of the lesson to the lives of the learners
- Use freely all legitimate aids, but never rest until the real understanding is clearly before you.
- Bear in mind that complete mastery of a few things is better than an ineffective smattering of many.
- Have a definite time for the study of each lesson, in advance of the teaching.
- Have a plan of study, but do not hesitate, when necessary, to study beyond the plan.
- Do not deny yourself the help of good books on the subject of your lessons… If possible, talk the lesson over with an intelligent friend; collision often brings light. In the absence of these aide, write your views; expressing your thoughts in writing may clear them of obscurities.
VIOLATIONS AND MISTAKES
- The very ignorance of his pupils may tempt the teacher to neglect careful preparation and study… The cheat is almost sure to be discovered, and from that time the teacher’s standing with the class is gone.
- Some teachers assume that it is the pupils work, not theirs, to study the lesson…
- Others look hastily through the lesson, an conclude that though they have not thoroughly mastered it, … they have gather enough to fill the period…
- A more serious fault is that of those who, failing to find stimulation in the lesson, make it a mere framework upon which to hang some fancies of their own.
- There is a meaner wrong done by the teacher who seeks to conceal his lazy ignorance with some pompous pretense of learning…
2. The Law of the Learner - THE LEARNER MUST ATTEND WITH INTEREST TO THE MATERIAL TO BE LEARNED.
He describes as “secondary passive” attention when one is absorbed in the work so that learning seems almost effortless. Yet it still requires effort and persistence. He states, “It seems to be generally true that these sustained and abiding ‘interests’ are to be purchases only at a price — and the price is strenuous effort.”
RULES FOR TEACHERS
- Never begin a class exercise until the attention of the class has been secured.
- Pause whenever the attention is interrupted or lost, and wait until it is completely regained.
- Never wholly exhaust the attention of your pupils
- Adapt the length of the class exercise to the ages of the pupils.
- Arose attention when necessary by variety in your presentation…
- Kindle and maintain the highest possible interest in the subject.
- Present those aspects of the lesson, and use such illustrations as will correspond to the ages and attainments of the pupils.
- Appeal whenever possible to the interests of your pupils
- The favorite stories, songs, and subjects of the pupils are often keys to their interest and attention
- Look for sources of distraction… and reduce them to a minimum
- Prepare BEFOREHAND thought-provoking questions
- Make your presentation as attractive as possible…
- Maintain and exhibit in yourself the closes attention to and most genuine interest in the lesson. True enthusiasm is contagious.
- Study the best use of the eye and the hand. Your pupils will respond to your earnest gaze and your lifted hand.
VIOLATIONS AND MISTAKES
- Recitations are commenced before the attention of the pupils has been gained, and continued after it has ceased to be given.
- Pupils are urged to listen after their power of attention has been exhausted…
- Little or no effort is made to discover the tastes or experiences of the pupils, or to create a real interest in the subject.
- Not a few teachers kill the power of attention in their pupils by failing to utilize any fresh inquiries or any new, interesting statements to stimulate interest in the subject.
3. The Law of the Language - THE LANGUAGE USED IN TEACHING MUST BE COMMON TO TEACHER AND LEARNER.
Language is both the instrument and vehicle of thought. Teachers must use language that is easily understood by the learner and must seek to clarify any new terms or concepts.
RULES FOR TEACHERS
- Study constantly and carefully the language of the pupils, to learn what words they use and what meanings they give to these words.
- Secure from them as full as statement as possible of their knowledge of the subject, to learn both their ideas and their modes of expressing them, and to help them to correct their knowledge.
- Express yourself as far as possible in the language of your pupils, carefully correcting any errors in the meaning they read into your words.
- Use the simplest and thefts words that will express your meaning
- Use short sentences, of the simplest construction.
- If the pupil obviously fails to understand you, repeat your thought in other language, if possible with greater simplicity.
- Help the meaning of the words by illustrations.
- When it is necessary to teach a new word, give the idea before the word.
- Try to increase the number of the pupil’s words, and at the same time improve the clearness of meaning.
- Do not be content to have your pupils listen in silence very long at a time… Encourage them to talk freely.
- MAKE HASTE SLOWLY. Each word should b learned thoroughly before others are added.
- Test frequently the pupil’s understanding of the words that he uses…
VIOLATIONS AND MISTAKES
- The interested look of the pupils often cheats the teacher into the belief that his language is thoroughly understood… when he has perhaps caught only a mere glimpse of the meaning.
- Children are often entertained by the manner of the teacher… they will sometimes profess to understand simply to please their instructor and gain his praise.
- The misuse of language is one of the common faults in teaching… teachers who attempt to cover up their own ignorance or indolence with a cloud of verbiage…[and] many honest teachers who…do not suspect that they may have used words which had no meaning for the class, or into which the children read a wrong meaning.
- It may be a single unusual or misunderstood term that breaks the connection… and too often [children] are charged with stupidity or inattention when no amount of attention would have helped hem to understand the unfamiliar language.
- Even those teachers who naturally use simple language to they classes sometimes fail in the higher uses of this instrument of teaching. They do not take the trouble to secure from the child in return some clear statement…
- Many teachers have no proper appreciation of the wonderful character and complexity of language;
- Many of the topics studied in school lie outside the daily life and language of the children; and every science has a language of its own which must be mastered by the student…
4. The Law of the Lesson - THE TRUTH TO BE TAUGHT MUST BE LEARNED THROUGH TRUTH ALREADY KNOWN.
“All teaching must begin at home point of the subject or lesson. If the subject is wholly new, then a known point must be sought by showing some likeness of the new to something known and familiar… All teaching must advance in some direction… Learning must proceed by graded steps.”
RULES FOR TEACHERS
- Find out what your pupils know of the subject you wish to teach to them; this is your starting point.
- Make the most of the pupils’ knowledge and experience.
- Encourage your pupils to clear up and freshen their knowledge by a a clear statement of it.
- Begin with facts or ideas that lie near your pupils, and that can be reached by a single step from what is already familiar…
- Relate every lesson as much as possible to former lessons, and with the pupils’ knowledge and experience
- Arrange your presentation so that each step of the lesson shall read easily and naturally to the next.
- Proportion the steps of the lesson to the ages and attainments of your pupils. Do not discourage your children with lessons or exercises that are too long, or fail to rise to the expectations of older pupils by giving them lessons that are too easy.
- Find illustrations in the commonest and most familiar objects suitable for the purpose
- Lead the pupils themselves to find illustrations from their own experience.
- Make every new fact or principle familiar to your pupils…
- Urge the pupils to make us of their own knowledge and attainments in every way that is practicable, to find or explain other knowledge.
- Make every advance car and familiar, so that the progress to the next succeeding step shall in every case be on known ground.
- As far as possible, choose problems which you give to your pupils from their own activities, and thus increase the chances that they will be real and not artificial problems.
- Remember that your pupils are leaning to think, and that to think properly they must learn to face intelligently and reflectively the problems that arise in connection with their school work, and in connection with their life outside of school.
MISTAKES AND VIOLATIONS
- It is not unusual for teachers to set their pupils to studying new lessons, or even new subjects, for which they are inadequately prepared or not prepared at all…
- Many teachers neglect entirely to ascertain carefully the pupils’ equipment with which to begin the subject.
- A common error is the failure to connect the new lessons with those that have gone before in such a way that the pupils can carry over what they know or have learned into the new field…
- Oftentimes past acquisitions are considered goods stored away, instead of instruments for further use.
- Too often elementary facts and definitions are not and thoroughly familiar.
- Every step is not always thoroughly understood before the next is attempted.
- Some teachers err in assigning lessons or exercises that are too long for the powers of the pupils, or for their time, making impossible an adequate mastery of principles that may be needful for future progress int the subject.
- Teaches frequently fail to lace their pupils in the attitude of discoveries. Children should learn to use what they have already been taught in the discovery of new problems.
- A common fault is the failure to show the connections between parts of the subject that have been taught and those that are yet to come.
5. The Law of the Teaching Process - EXCITE AND DIRECT THE SELF-ACTIVITIES OF THE PUPIL, AND AS A RULE TELL HIM NOTHING THAT HE CAN LEARN HIMSELF.
Since self-learning is the best kind of learning, the teacher's job is to stimulate a desire to learn in the student and create the conditions that foster real learning. "Like a skillful engineer who knows the power of his engine, [the teacher] chooses to stand and watch the play of the splendid machine and marvel at the ease and vigor of its movements. It is only the unskilled teacher who prefers to hear his own voice in endless talk rather than to watch and direct the course of the thoughts of his pupils... Questioning is not, therefore, merely one of the devices of teaching, it is really the whole of teaching. It is the excitation of the self-activities to their work of discovering truth."
RULES FOR TEACHERS
- Adapt lessons and assignments to the age and attainments of the pupils.
- Select lessons which relate to the environment and needs of the pupils.
- Consider carefully the subject and the lesson to be taught, and find its point of contact with the lives of your pupils.
- Excite the pupil's interest in the lesson when it is assigned by some question or by some statement which will awaken inquiry. Hint that something worth knowing is to be found out if the lesson is thoroughly studied, and then be sure later to ask for the truth to be discovered.
- Place yourself frequently in the position of a pupil among your pupils, and join in the search for some fact or principle.
- Repress your impatience which cannot wait for the pupil to explain himself.
- In all class exercises aim to excite constantly fresh interest and activity. State questions for the pupils to investigate out of class. The lesson that does not culminate in fresh questions ends wrong.
- Observe each pupil to see that his mind is not wandering so as to forbid its activities being bent to the lesson in hand.
- Count it your chief duty to awaken the minds of your pupils and do not rest until each child shows his mental activity by asking questions.
- Repress the desire to tell all you know or think about the lesson or subject; if you tell something by way of illustration or explanation, let it start a fresh question.
- Give the pupil time to think, after you are sure that his mind is actively at work, and encourage him to ask questions when puzzled.
- Do not answer too promptly the questions asked, but restate them, to give them greater force and breadth, and often answer with new questions to secure deeper thought.
- Teach pupils to ask What? Why? and How? -- the nature, cause, and method of every fact or principle taught them; also Where? When? By Whom? and What of it? -- the place, time, actors, and consequences of events.
- Recitations should not exhaust a subject, but leave additional work to stimulate the thought and the efforts of the pupils.
VIOLATIONS AND MISTAKES
- Do not attempt to force lessons by simply telling, "I have told you ten times, and yet you don't know!" A teacher of this sort is unable to remember that knowing comes by thinking, not by being told.
- It is another mistake to complain of memory for not keeping what it never held. If facts or principles are to be remembered, the attention must be concentrated upon them at the time, and there must be a conscious effort to remember.
- A third violation comes from the haste with which teachers require prompt and rapid recitations in the very words of the book.
6. The Law of the Learning Process - THE PUPIL MUST REPRODUCE IN HIS OWN MIND THE TRUTH TO BE LEARNED.
“The work of education, contrary to common understanding, is much more the work of the pupil than of the teacher.” The student must find a way to apply what he has learned and make it of some practical purpose. The earnest student must be able to ask these questions, “What does the lesson say? what is its meaning? How can I express this meaning in my own language? Do I believe what the lesson tells me, and why? What is the good of it — how may I apply and use the knowledge which it gives?”
PRACTICAL RULES FOR TEACHERS AND LEARNERS
- Help the pupil to form a clear idea of the work to be done.
- Warn him that the words of his lesson have been carefully chosen; that they may have peculiar meanings, which it may be important to find out.
- Show him that usually more things are implied than are said.
- Ask him to express, in his own words, the meaning of the lesson as he understands it, and to press until he has the whole thought.
- Let the reason WHY be perpetually ASKED till the pupil is brought to feel that he is expected to give a reason for his opinions. But let him also clearly understand that reasons must vary with the nature of the material he is studying.
- Aim to make the pupil an independent investigator — a student of nature and a seeker after truth. Cultivate in him the habit of research.
- Help him to test his conceptions to see that they reproduce the truth taught, as far as his powers permit.
- Seek constantly to develop in pupils a profound regard for truth as something noble and enduring.
- Teach the pupils to hate shams and sophistries and to shun them.
VIOLATIONS AND MISTAKES
- The pupil is left in the twilight of an imperfect and fragmentary mastery by a failure to think it into clearness. the haste to go on often precludes time for thinking.
- The language of the textbook is so insisted upon that the pupil has not incentive to try his own power of expression. Thus he is taught to feel that the words are everything, the meaning nothing.
- The failure to insist upon original thinking by the pupils is one of the most common faults of our schools.
- Frequently no reason is asked for the statements in the lesson, and none is given. The pupil believes what the book says, because the book says it.
- The practical applications are persistently neglected. That the lesson has a use, is the last thought to enter the minds of many pupils.
7. The Law of Review and Application - THE COMPLETION, TEST AND CONFIRMATION OF THE WORK OF TEACHING MUST BE MADE BY REVIEW AND APPLICATION.
“Other things being equal, the ablest and most successful teacher is one who secures from his pupils the most frequent, thorough, and interesting reviews… Not merely to know, but to have knowledge for use — to possess it fully, like money for daily expenditures, or tools and materials for daily word — such is the aim of true study.”
PRACTICAL RULES FOR TEACHERS
- Consider reviews as always in order
- Have set times for review. At the beginning of each period review briefly the preceding lesson.
- At the close of each lesson, glance backward at the ground which has been covered. Almost every good lesson closes with a summary. It is well to have the pupils know that any one of the m may be called upon to summarize the lesson at the close of the class period.
- After five or six lessons, or at the close of a topic, take a review from the beginning. The best teachers give about one-third of each period to purpose of review.
- Whenever a reference to former lessons can profitably be made, the opportunity thus afford to bring old knowledge into fresh light should be seized.
- All new lessons should be made to bring into review and application the material of former lessons.
- Make the first review as soon as practicable after lesson is first learned.
- In order to make reviews easily and rapidly, the teacher should hold in his mind the material that has been learned, in large units or blocks, ready for instant use. He is thus able to begin at any time an impromptu review in any part of the field.
- New questions on old lessons, new illustrations for old texts, new proof for old statements, new applications of old truths, will often send the pupil back with fresh interest to his old material, thus affording a profitable review.
- The final review, which should never be omitted, should be searching, comprehensive, and masterful, grouping the different topics of the subject as on a map, and aiding the pupil to a familiar mastery of the material which he has learned.
- FIND AS MANY APPLICATIONS AS POSSIBLE.
- Do not forget the value of handwork in review.
- Do not forget the value of handwork on the material of previous lessons. Let this be done frequently; the pupils will soon learn to come to their classes with questions ready to ask, and with ready answers for other questions.
VIOLATIONS AND MISTAKES
- The first violation of the law is the total neglect of review
- The second is the wholly inadequate review. This is the fact of the hurried and impatient teacher who is often more concerned with getting through the work of the term or semester than making the work the pupils’ own.
- The third mistake is that of delaying all review work until the end of the semester or term, when, the material of the course being largely forgotten, the review amounts to little more than a poor relearning, with little interest and less value.
- The fourth error is that of making the review merely a process of lifeless and colorless repetition of questions and answers and often the very questions and answers which were originally used. This is review in name only.
I probably highlighted more from this book on a percentage basis than any other book. I just need to memorize it!!