I suspect every ‘elder’ generation observes the childred of the present to be more flawed, less intelligent, more distracted, and culturally diminished than the kids of their own youth. This is certainly not unique to our times. Countless social observers have shed tears over the advance of civilization and the fate of the future watching the latest dance steps — be it the waltz, bunny hop, or break dance routine. Yet, the future, like the tide, is consistently arriving each day and with it evolutionary behaviors.
Education is always a priority topic of parents, politicians, pundits, and policymakers. We never seem to be content with the overall results we are getting out of the classroom. Stir in the social engineering agenda of partisan politics and the church (as has always happened throughout the world) and friction occurs. It seems that today, the factional friction continues to smoulder and always seems on the verge of ignition.
The current trend emphasizing STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) is a positive movement to attract students to the more pragmatic intellectual pursuits. One does not need to be a learned demographer to realize we will need tens of thousands of scientists and engineers in the decades ahead. It is a keen strategic initiative, one that works from the assumption that for America to be competitive with such soaring giants as China, India, and Brazil, we will need to supercharge the pipeline with tomorrow’s doctoral candidates, today.
This is a good strategy, to be sure. But society must remember that the well rounded community is populated with a grand mixture of skills and talents. A disproportionate investment in STEM studies may be at the expense of vital, enriching studies.
Recently, I discovered the works of Mortimer J. Adler, former chair of the board of editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. His book, The Paideia Program, offers a view of the educational process that follows the Ancient Greek approach to developing a functional society of educated citizens (albeit male) to create harmony, intellect, and advancements in science.
The book is a series of 16 essays produced by senior members of the Paideia Group dedicated to educational reform. Their focus is on a curriculum of intellectual diversity with a focus on encouraging children to think.
Paideia leaders recognize ten essential areas of study to be taught and learned:
– English Language and Literature
– Social Studies
– Foreign Language
– Fine Arts
– Manual Arts
– The World of Work
– Physical Education
No one concentration has a higher priority than the next. Each is vital and coordinated in the whole. When presented in a stimulating, challenging manner, each supports and inspires growth in all other areas of study.
Paideia is more demanding of the student to be an active participant in the learning experience. In the discipline, there are three kinds of teaching and learning: the conduct of seminars, individual coaching, traditional didactic instruction. Seminars take 10-15% of the day, coaching 70%, traditional instruction 15-20%,
A Paideia classroom is far more interactive — not with digital instruction — but with engaging dialogue between teacher and student — and among the students themselves. Active, living conversations and expression of ideas, opinions, and facts. Stimulation and the contagion of thought.
Without a well rounded, thinking society, the machines will simply usurp labor — and meaning — from civilization. Remember, Albert played a mean violin.
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein
Learn more about the Paideia Principles here.