“Real knowledge, like everything else of the highest value, is not to be obtained easily. It must be worked for, studied for, thought for, and, more than all, it must be prayed for.”
— Thomas Arnold
My two sons began their new homeschooling year in earnest today, and my wife and I have big dreams for them… by today’s standards, at least.
You see, we want them to have SOME clue as to how many Supreme Court justices there are, and to be able to list all three branches of government in the U.S.A., or to know why the Declaration Of Independence was written.
I know: crazy, right?
But if we manage to do just that, the two of them will be geniuses, comparatively speaking.
…Ilya Somin has another great report which follows a recent speech by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’connor. In it, Her Honor laments the general ignorance of Americans when it comes to critical matters of how their own nation works, and wonders how we’re supposed to govern ourselves out of our problems if we don’t even know the rules of the game we’re playing:
—Two-thirds of Americans cannot name a single Supreme Court justice, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told the crowd that packed into a Boise State ballroom to hear her Thursday.
About one-third can name the three branches of government. Fewer than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how citizen participation benefits democracy.
“Less than one-third of eighth-graders can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and it’s right there in the name,” she said.—
Of course, it’s not as if everyone has gotten the message that civics (as well as classic literature, algebra, and geography) are all THAT important to today’s youth. No, there are those in academia whom argue quite the opposite, such as David Kirp, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote a recent piece on Slate.com which argued against Private or Charter schools and their focus on more Classical methods of education.
Actually, he went much further than that:
“…the autonomy of private and charter schools—the attribute so prized by the market advocates—may really be getting in the way of their improvement.
Rather than taking advantage of their freedom by being creative in how they teach math, many private schools still use an outmoded pedagogy that stresses memorizing formulas, not problem-solving.”
So according to Professor Kirp, the basic rules of Euclidean geometry which I memorized long, long, ago (e.g. A-squared + B-squared = C-squared) are less important than “problem solving”?
Would someone like to explain to me how you’d know how to “problem solve” the hypotenuse of a triangle without knowing that formula?
Moreover, I didn’t realize that learning was supposedly such a zero-sum affair. Back when I was being raised, slightly before the discovery of fire, we were expected to learn both WHAT to do (formulas) and HOW to do it (problem solving).
The nuns never so much as implied we could choose just one or the other. Silly nuns.
Yet if memory serves, committing such building blocks of learning to memory was once referred to as “knowledge”, and in addition to math included memorizing tracts of verse, being able to describe various historical battles, or knowing how to diagram a sentence. These were all the minimum standard. When did they become not the minimum, but superfluous?
I can only posit that truly knowledgeable children aren’t easily fooled, …which might explain why there seems to be such a dearth of them today.
The Kirps of the world likely believe us to be loathsome sadists, by filling our boys’ skulls with useless facts ‘n such. No matter. According to one of our Supreme Court judges (…there’s NINE of ’em, by the way…), my wife and I are actually readying both boys to be smarter than the majority of the nation.
Huh. Who knew?
“If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
— Benjamin Franklin