January 13, 2016

The “Great Books of the Western World” and its companion collection, “The Great Ideas Today,” were published more than a half-century ago. Their introduction was designed to stimulate thinking and their publication was an attempt to bring the best of education to Americans everywhere.

Unfortunately, education has slid backward from that earlier promise.

Even in the time of their original publication, the naysayers were attacking “The Great Books,” “by those modernists who believed that the world began last Thursday; by the cultural jingoists, who believed it began in America . . . “ (“Robert Maynard Hutchins” by Milton Mayer, p.304)

Today, public education has suffered even more damaging blows. It has morphed from a “culture of learning” into a “culture of testing.” And, that is not a good thing.

Regurgitation of facts and information has become the almost-exclusionary emphasis in our public schools.

Equally myopic, the value of these public schools is judged almost exclusively by standardized test scores.

And, our children lose.

Laura Eberhart Goodman nailed it in this excerpt taken from “Mom: What do I expect from my children’s elementary school? Certainly not this.” (WASHINGTON POST, “Answer Sheet” blog by Valerie Strauss):

“ . . . For my elementary-school-age children, I care more about whether or not they love going to school than I do about their academic progress. I am clever enough to know that if they are enjoying themselves at school, they will learn. Academics follow naturally if the proper environment for learning is there.

From a parental perspective, a good learning environment is one with positive energy. The teachers want to be there, and the children want to be there. No one is counting the minutes to the end of the day before it has even started.

From an educator’s perspective, an environment that is engaging, hands-on, with opportunities for meaningful learning, practice, discussions and creativity, makes kids happy. When kids are happy, they learn more, and without having to resort to bribery. It’s not rocket science.

When the learning environment becomes very serious and relies heavily on assessment and grades, learning targets and goals, it is not as enjoyable. It is “work,” and children don’t enjoy work. It’s not in their nature to enjoy work; children are created to learn through play. . . . “

And, that’s the better answer!

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning (Mondays & Wednesdays)

(This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant. They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)