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Honors apr13


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A presentation to the MTSU Honors College, 4.13.09.

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Honors apr13

  1. 1. MTSU Honors College. April 13, 2009 The Best and Wisest Gift: What We Owe All Children Phil Oliver [email_address] Assistant Professor Department of Philosophy Middle Tennessee State University My title comes from the great (though much maligned and misunderstood) “progressive” philosopher and educator, John Dewey. In 1902 Dewey published The School and Society , advancing a simple, earnest, profound declaration... .
  2. 2. What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all... Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. n Links Writings by Dewey Books about Dewey Websites about Dewey quotes
  3. 3. Among his writings, which are concerned with almost all philosophical fields except metaphysics, are Psychology (1887), The School and Society (1899; rev. ed. 1915), Ethics (with James H. Tufts, 1908), Democracy and Education (1916), Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), Experience and Nature (1925), The Public and Its Problems (1927), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Philosophy and Civilization (1932), A Common Faith (1934), Art as Experience (1934), Liberalism and Social Action (1935), Experience and Education (1938), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), Freedom and Culture (1939), and Problems of Men (1946).
  4. 4. “ The things in civilization we most prize are not of ourselves. They exist by grace of the doings and sufferings of the continuous human community in which we are a link. Ours is the responsibility of conserving,transmitting, rectifying and expanding the heritage of values we have received, that those who come after us may receive it more solid and secure, more widely accessible and more generously shared than we have received it.” ACF , 1949
  5. 5. Happy 150th! John Dewey's 70th, 80th, and 90th birthday celebrations, organized by his friends and colleagues in 1929, 1939 and 1949, received national and international attention. On the occasion of his 90th birthday the New York Times hailed Dewey as "America's Philosopher" During 2009, a number of celebratory events will mark the 150th anniversary of John Dewey's birth on October 20, 1859. For information about these events, including conferences, lectures and discussions please see the "News" page. Also watch this site for current updates of events and noteworthy postings of correspondence and scholarship. Ctr for Dewey Studies
  6. 6. Dewey's concise, humane, democratic vision was the heart of a grass-roots experiment I undertook in the Spring of 2002 – not long after David Carleton's TIGER (“Tennessee Initiative for Gifted Education Reform”) adventure, about which he told this audience in February – a yahoo listserv group called Nashville PTO Talk ... more Nashville PTO Talk is a forum for parents and teachers in Nashville, Tennessee, who want to support responsible public school reform. Nashville's metro schools are pursuing the announced goal of strengthen[ing] parent/community ownership of the school system, with significant increases in parental involvement in PTOs and as classroom volunteers; and the board of education has issued a strong mandate to the director of schools to raise student achievement...
  7. 7. When we made the family decision to enroll our children at USN in Nashville several years ago I entrusted the group to new “owners.” I'm pleased to note that it continues . ...Parents have a crucial ownership role to play, along with teachers, administrators, and the larger community, in insisting that achievement not be gained at the cost of real learning: learning that is both challenging, lasting, and fun. School should be a positive and nurturing environment where children learn to love learning, and where teachers are given the resources and the freedom they need to foster that kind of environment. Here is a place for all of us in Nashville who care about the future of our children and, therefore, of our schools, to talk about it... and to assert our ownership.
  8. 8. I've also been involved with issues surrounding gifted education in my capacity as a member of the Metro Nashville Public School's Parent Advisory Council for the Encore Gifted and Talented Program; as a regional representative for FairTest's Assessment Reform Network ARN -a national project created to support parents, teachers, students and others who are working to end the overuse and misuse of standardized testing in public education and to promote authentic forms of assessment; and as co-President (with my wife) of the Brookmeade Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) Nashville. Although our children are no longer enrolled in public schools, I remain keenly interested (if not quite so actively involved) in these issues and follow developments in public education through such information exchanges as the Public Education Network ( PEN ), whose mission Is ”to build public demand and mobilize resources for quality public education for all children through a national constituency of local education funds and individuals.”
  9. 9. Assessment Reform Network ARN Our goal is to open the doors to disadvantaged children by removing barriers to achievement, while improving the quality of education for everyone. Our primary strategy is to facilitate an exchange of ideas, resources and strategies among a wide audience. Alfie Kohn , "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades [and] test scores."
  10. 10. Encore Program ...designed to nurture, challenge, and develop the potential of gifted and talented students... whose intellectual abilities and potential for achievement are so outstanding that they need special attention to meet their educational needs. Eligibility is determined based on demonstration of advanced classroom performance, superior results on a national-normed achievement test, and evidence of higher level thinking as measured by assessment of abstract reasoning and logical thinking... serves eligible students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Encore classes meet one-half day each week in local schools. Parents are responsible for providing transportation to Encore classes since Encore is an optional program. Characteristics of an Intellectually Gifted Child * displays a great curiosity about objects, situations or events * wants to know "how" and "why" * has an exceptional memory * shows a keen sense of observation about human interaction * displays a sensitivity to the feelings of others * observes details * shows a keen sense of humor * displays an early tendency to do things alone When you recognize some of these traits in your child or another child you know, contact the child's school and inquire about having him or her assessed for advanced academic talent. Parents, guardians, pediatricians, child care professionals, certified school personnel and students themselves may make referrals for assessment. Students may be referred to the local school support team or directly to the Gifted and Talented Office for assessment consideration.
  11. 11. The “signature” for all my posts to the group was the “best and wisest” Dewey quote. It remains the anchor of all my thinking on education policy including gifted education. We must do our best to meet the distinctive needs, capacities, and interests of all children. I enjoyed Dr. Roland Pack's lecture here in February. He raised the question of elitism and defended the proposition that we should never apologize for targeting resources to aid our “best and brightest” students. I agree, and would simply add that we must help all children discover and develop their unique personal gifts – academic, artistic, athletic, idiosyncratic... All are gifted, all deserve nurture and encouragement, none should be neglected or stigmatized or consigned to 2d-class status.
  12. 12. John Dewey was an American psychologist, philosopher, educator, social critic and political activist. He was born in Burlington, Vermont, on 20 October 1859, and died in New York City on 1 June 1952. Philosophy recovers itself when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men. "The Need for a Recovery in Philosophy" (1917)
  13. 13. Howard Gardner has long trumpeted the importance of recognizing intelligence as a multi-faceted phenomenon. * Linguistic Intelligence * Musical Intelligence * Logical-Mathematical Intelligence * Spatial Intelligence * Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence * Interpersonal Intelligence * Intrapersonal Intelligence * Naturalist Intelligence Dewey was saying similar things long ago. Disciplinary Synthesizing Creating Respectful Ethical
  14. 14. Our mission is focused on students. We are more than just test scores and college admissions statistics. We are about learning well... Our academic program is rigorous, but we are as interested in the development of character as we are in scholastic achievement... He established The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in order to discover and demonstrate the varieties of intelligent doing implicit in human plurality . Learning by doing has guided the efforts of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools since Professor Dewey opened its doors ...
  15. 15. John Dewey (1859-1952) The school is primarily a social institution. Education being a social process, the school is simply that form of community life in which all those agencies are concentrated that will be most effective in bringing the child to share in the inherited resources of the race, and to use his own powers for social ends....
  16. 16. John Dewey, “My Pedagogic Creed ” - I believe that all education proceeds by the participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race... that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child's powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself... ...that the psychological and social sides are organically related... In sum, I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that society is an organic union of individuals...
  17. 17. Education , therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. D&E Dewey believed that learning was active and schooling unnecessarily long and restrictive. His idea was that children came to school to do things and live in a community which gave them real, guided experiences which fostered their capacity to contribute to society. For example, Dewey believed that students should be involved in real-life tasks and challenges... M ath could be learnt via learning proportions in cooking or figuring out how long it would take to get from one place to another by mule... history could be learnt by experiencing how people lived, geography, what the climate was like, and how plants and animals grew, were important subjects...
  18. 18. Why do so many students hate school? It seems an obvious, but ignored question. Dewey said that an educator must take into account the unique differences between each student. Each person is different genetically and in terms of past experiences. Even when a standard curricula is presented using established pedagogical methods, each student will have a different quality of experience. Thus, teaching and curriculum must be designed in ways that allow for such individual differences. For Dewey, education also serves a broader social purpose, which is to help people become more effective members of a democracy. The one-way delivery style of authoritarian schooling does not provide a good model for life in democratic society. Instead, students need educational experiences which enable them to become valued, equal, and responsible members of society ...
  19. 19. Richard Nisbett's Intelligence and How to Get It suggests that a precious gift we owe all children is an education that nurtures all of their gifts, and does not reduce “intelligence” to narrowly-defined measures of aptitude. One finding: The most dramatic results come from adoption. When poor children are adopted by upper-middle-class families, they show an I.Q. gain of 12 to 16 points... The challenge is to find educational programs and practices that are as effective as adoption in raising I.Q. “ The new environmentalism,” based on fresh evidence in neuroscience and genetics, and on studies of educational interventions and parenting styles, stresses the importance of nonhereditary factors in determining I.Q.
  20. 20. Beyond a certain threshold — an I.Q. of 115, say — there is no correlation between intelligence and creativity or genius. As more of us are propelled above this threshold — and, if Nisbett is right, nearly all of us can be — the role of intelligence in determining success will come to be infinitesimal by comparison with such “moral” traits as conscientiousness and perseverance. Jim Holt, NYTimes 3.29.09 We owe all children, all students, the opportunity to develop their entire characters and personalities. We owe them a solid grounding in their own moral, intellectual, and philosophical traditions, and we owe them reliable instruction in the tools of critical thought. In a word: we owe them a comprehensive, quality education in the humanities. Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910) was one of the first to say so...
  21. 21. An almost childlike spirit of playful delight permeates his discourse. He sings the praises of perception as such, divorced from all mentation; but the suspicion is unavoidable that James' own most characteristic form of transcendence is the singing itself.
  22. 22. Our capacity to be excited and engaged by some "sub-world" or other is most acute in childhood... when virtually all is novel and vital and curiosity is aroused at every turn.
  24. 24. William James thought we owe all children a fundamental respect, rooted in the acknowledgment of their unique and various natures. We are each "a syllable in human nature's total message." An excellent conference paper at this distinguished philosophical organization's most recent annual meeting put the point distinctly...
  25. 25. We should respect the persons who our students are through a sympathetic imagining of their mental lives, in which consciousness has continuity. We should respect the fact that the student, as James notes “doesn't chop himself into distinct processes and compartments.” Our students don’t walk into a philosophy class and suddenly find the rest of their lives forgotten or not impacting the present moment. This respect for each person, and the differences in the different “active unities” of their mental lives or selves, is profoundly democratic. Norris Frederick
  26. 26. Beginning in 1891, James offered a series of popular “ talks to teachers... and to students” that concluded by endorsing and extending the older wisdom of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). The gist of his advice: teach your students actively to seek their good, not merely to understand themselves in terms of their aversions...
  27. 27. Spinoza long ago wrote in his Ethics that anything that we can avoid under the notion that it is bad we may also avoid under the notion that something else is good. He who habitually acts sub specie mali, under the negative notion, the notion of the bad, is called a slave by Spinoza. To him who acts habitually under the notion of good he gives the name of freeman . See to it now, I beg you, that you make freemen of your pupils by habituating them to act, whenever possible, under the notion of a good. Get them habitually to tell the truth, not so much through showing them the wickedness of lying as by arousing their enthusiasm for honor and veracity. Wean them from their native cruelty by imparting to them some of your own positive sympathy with an animal's inner springs of joy . WJ We owe our children a positive example, and encouragement to be good for something.
  28. 28. A student said of James, “He was the most inspiring teacher I ever had – treating his pupils as fellow-students with himself, and giving to our crude opinions a weight that greatly encouraged us.” Such was James' profound respect for the center of each student’s world, and an openness to find something worthwhile there. It is an openness to what other teachers might have turned away because of certainty about their own world view, and not wanting to be tainted by inferior views. It is seeing each student sub specie boni , from the perspective of healthy-mindedness. NF
  29. 29. "We dangle our three magic letters (Ph.D.) before the eyes of these predestined victims, and they swarm to us like moths to an electric light. They come at a time of life when failure can no longer be repaired easily and when the wounds it leaves are permanent" ––William James, "The Ph.D. Octopus", 1903.
  30. 30. We owe all students an opportunity to think, to explore, to philosophize. The Socratic method of discourse is a way for children to seek and find insights and truths by their own lights. Socrates believed that we only discover what we truly think about something by engaging in constructive and empathetic discourse with others. Chris Phillips The examined life - Who am I? What am I capable of? Who can I become?
  31. 31. In 2007, psychologists in Scotland did a study on the benefits of teaching schoolchildren philosophy. In a survey of 105 ten-year-olds, it found children showed significant improvements in tests of their verbal, numerical and spatial abilities at the end of the 16-month period of lessons, compared to those who were not taught philosophy. But Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, Nick Seaton said: 'Schools have enough to do teaching the basic three Rs without worrying about philosophy for children at that age. Considering how many youngsters leave education without a fundamental grasp of the basics, schools should concentrate on building a foundation of knowledge for youngsters in the limited school time they have.' You've gotta love journalistic objectivity. "On the one hand, X actually promotes goal Y. But wait -- here's someone saying that Y is too important for us to worry about X (the effective means to Y, remember). Oh noes! How will we ever decide?" 4.12.09 Philosophy, et cetera - Providing the questions for all of life's answers
  32. 32. "Daily companionship with a questioning child is a reminder of what intelligence is for—not, ultimately, for dominion, but for communion." -Scott Russell Sanders
  33. 33. It goes nearly without saying that we owe all children an opportunity to discover the peculiar conditons of their personal happiness, each in their own way... but we must say it, to check our well-intentioned but misguided parental and pedagogical tendency to supply those conditions ready-made...
  34. 34. "I suffer whenever I see that common sight of a parent or senior imposing his opinion and way of thinking and being on a young soul to which they are totally unfit. Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way? You are trying to make another you. One's enough." -Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882 "Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, & uplifted into infinite space, — all mean egotism vanishes.I become a Transparent Eyeball!" Nature
  35. 35. The Sage of Concord, “American Socrates”- I hate quotations . Tell me what you know.
  36. 36. Psychologist Richard Weissbourd contends that parents who are obsessed with their children's happiness are ignoring other important values — like goodness, empathy, appreciation and caring — that are necessary to a well-rounded personality. Fresh Air We owe all children a sense of their moral connectedness with others. There is one capacity in particular that is at the heart of such motivation— appreciation , the capacity to know and value others ...
  37. 37. The greatest barrier to the successful delivery of the gift of intellectual freedom to all our students – aside from budgetary crises and administrative hostility – is the ingrained fear that children who think will be, in Spinoza's terms, free . But if we value freedom of thought and spirit for any child and any student, we must extend it to all. To do less is indeed narrow and unlovely - and un-democratic.
  38. 38. Harry Brighouse , University of Wisconsin, Madison. “I have diverse interests, including but not limited to the following”: · The aims of education. · What constitutes a good childhood. · The place of the family in a theory of justice · Education reform, especially as it concerns choice and privatization. There's a very kind review of On Education by Julian Baggini here . You can also buy my dad's books, How To Improve Your School and The Joy of Teaching which are infinitely more useful than mine. I made a momentary appearance being beaten up by an LAPD officer, and then sitting in the Police Bus, in the 2000 movie Bread and Roses . Elsewhere on my website you can find some published and unpublished papers, some of my commentaries on American education policy for the Times Educational Supplement, and some links to other useful (and, frankly, some frivolous) sites. You might also want to visit the academic weblog I contribute to, Crooked Timber .
  39. 39. They should be educated so that they can have rich and flourishing lives independently of their participation in the economy... a liberal education . ...children have a right to learn about a range of ways of living... to revise or reject the way of life their parents would pass down to them.
  40. 40. Parents' rights lobbies insist that parents should have much more control than [I] would allow over their children's moral development, and even that they should be able to shield them from alternatives to their own way of life... in a way that reinforces the home culture. 3
  41. 41. The child who develops at school a life-long love for poetry, history, or algebra* gets something vitally important even if it never serves her (or her future employers') economic goals... 4 *or philosophy...
  42. 43. Many states have recently renewed the demand that children learn to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools... teaching patriotism is wrong... 5 “ Citizenship education” - Trojan horse for state indoctrination?
  43. 45. ...what the school can and should contribute to education is influenced by what happens beyond the school. 6 ...most children need to interact with a reasonably wide variety of people in a formal and paternalistic setting in order to develop into autonomous persons and cooperative citizens. 7 We owe a duty to children that their childhood be rich and enjoyable. But we also owe them a duty to prepare them so that they can have a significant range of opportunities to lead a flourishing life in adulthood... 9
  44. 46. guarantee that all children have the opportunity to live well, the state must ensure that all children have a real opportunity to enter good ways of life other than those into which their parents seek to induct them. 18 ... skills of rational reflection and comparison... autonomy
  45. 47. The Convention of the Rights of the Child ( CRC ), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989, promotes "the principle of the best interests of the child"... States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  46. 49. “ Don't talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name all kinds of great men who were not very gifted. They acquired greatness, became 'geniuses'...” CP 226 If we must speak of inborn gifts, let us acknowledge them as potencies for personal growth and invitations to individual exertion made stronger by bonds of affection and community. Supportive peers, trusting parents, and patient mentors can nourish children's growth at every stage. Schools, programs, and curricula can help identify and nurture students' potential. Narrow, exclusive conceptions of giftedness cannot. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
  47. 50. The great gift I and so many of my “accelerated” peers enjoyed: the inchoate, nearly-unspoken, but clearly-communicated expectation that we would discover our unique personal gifts, would rise in the world, would flourish and be fulfilled and find happiness... eudaimonia flow If we worked hard, played fair, cultivated virtue personally and among our peers... And encountered not too many mishaps along the way.
  48. 51. What, then, is the best and wisest gift that we owe all children? Baruch Spinoza, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, John Dewey, Howard Gardner, Richard Nisbet, Chris Phillips, Dale McGowan, and I think it is the residue of self-confidence, a capacity for optimism, and a belief in one's own creative and inter-personal gifts as a cooperative but also a distinctive individual...
  49. 52. In a word, it is the gift of
  50. 53. Wendell Berry writes: "A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendants is to study life and our conditions, searching always for the authentic underpinnings of hope." But, he elaborates significantly, the search must center on ourselves, in our own time: We can do nothing for the human future that we will not do for the human present. For the amelioration of the future condition of our kind we must look, not to the wealth or the genius of the coming generations, but to the quality of the disciplines and attitudes that we are preparing now for their use. We must teach our children well.
  51. 54. Hope comes from a reasonable faith in the possibility of free and responsible human activity in response to life and in exercise of those personal and natural enthusiasms that are ours to enjoy together and singly. The prime requisite of hope is confidence that what we do matters and may make all the difference further along the chain of life. Meanwhile, conscience and hope command our respect for the immediately contiguous links who are our contemporaries, A chain really is no stronger than its weakest link. As Dewey reminded us, we are all links in the chain that is the continuous human community, and it is education's purpose and privilege to do what it can to strengthen them all. and sometimes command as well our intervention to secure their hold (which is also ours) on the communal life of our species.
  52. 55. And on my view, hope is one of the great prerequisites of happiness. I concluded some published reflections on William James with these words from another lustrous but less extroverted New Englander: "Hope" is that thing with feathers— That perches in the soul— And sings the tunes without the words— And never stops—at all—
  53. 56. PHILOSOPHY IN A TIME OF CRISIS – John Lachs, Vanderbilt University – Lyceum Lecture, MTSU 4.8.09
  54. 57. Teachers are responsible for more than the transfer of facts, skills and theories; they must participate in the creation of human beings who will be mature persons and intelligent democratic citizens. Such construction requires (1) examined values (2) a critical attitude and above all (3)imaginative acquaintance with possibilities. None of these requirements can be met without philosophy.
  55. 58. Teaching the young involves activities that pull in different directions: the culture’s practices and values must be handed on, but they must also be criticized and suitably revised. In doing the former, teachers act as servants of the past, giving a favorable account of the fruits of long experience. In doing the latter, they labor for the future, presenting ideas for how our practices can be improved. The first activity is centered on sketching the geography of what exists and explaining the rules governing it; the second is about the ways the possible can bring improvement to the actual. The first without the second yields stagnation, the second without the first creates chaos. When properly related, the two preserve what is of value from the past even as they encourage active dreaming about a better future.
  56. 59. The objective and quantitative realism of administrators may make them think that philosophy offers little to the undergraduate curriculum. Without significant facts, confirmed theories and discovery of some hidden corner of reality, it surely looks like a dispensable luxury. Is this an accurate picture of the field? It is, as Santayana said, if we keep in mind that it was taken in bad light from a distance. A better understanding of what philosophy contributes would immediately focus on its role in examining our values and on the skills of criticism it teaches. But, above all, it would appreciate the rich store of the possible, the unreal, the ambiguous, the uncertain, the as-yet unknown, the dreamy, the imaginable and ultimately the ideal that philosophy lavishes on undergraduates and on our society. Philosophy lives in the world of possibilities, and the exploration of possibilities is the soul of education.
  57. 60. New course, Fall 2009: Readings in Philosophy- The Philosophy of Happiness Philosophy 4800, sec. 1 Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 pm James Union Building Room 202 “ People are shouting too many philosophies of health and happiness at us,” notes a commentator on the recent explosion of interest in a topic of vital interest to us all - our own perceived well-being. But long before the shouting began, philosophers like Aristotle, Epicurus, Montaigne, Spinoza, Mill, Hume, Russell, and James were carefully considering the question of how to get happy and stay that way. A new school of Positive Psychology has now begun to explicate the ways and means of human flourishing. In this course we'll survey older philosophical ideas about happiness, the new approach in Psychology, and some of the best fictional literature addressing the subject as well. Our approach will be calm, reasonable, and inter-disciplinary, with no gratuitous shouting. We'll do our best to disprove the notion that happiness, like a butterfly, eludes all attempts at capture. And we'll try to have some fun. For more info contact Dr. James P. Oliver, [email_address] - 898-2050 -307B JUB
  58. 61. April 6, 2008 In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined ...Once scoffed at as a luxury major, philosophy is being embraced at Rutgers and other universities by a new generation of college students who are drawing modern-day lessons from the age-old discipline as they try to make sense of their world, from the morality of the war in Iraq to the latest political scandal. The economic downturn has done little, if anything, to dampen this enthusiasm among students, who say that what they learn in class can translate into practical skills and careers...
  59. 62. The question of subjectivity is nothing less than the question of how we may lay firm hold of the childlike capacity for excitement in the presence of our environing worlds and carry it with us into our maturity, where it faces the challenge of survival in the shadow of our "adult" capacity (and yearning) for more objective, less fevered ways of ordering our experience. The child in us is delightedly astonished and intrigued by the seemingly endless procession of new experiences, new relationships, new revelations of what might be possible in the vast openness of time and space. space. See Talks in ch'hd.odp