Summer is coming soon, and although formal class time may end for some homeschoolers, it’s easy to keep minds active if you create a lifestyle of learning. This is a wonderful season to tackle outdoor projects and learn practical skills, as well as have free time to read and contemplate. Downtime is important for many reasons (a Sabbath wouldn’t have been part of the law if resting wasn’t a good thing), so I hope you’ll be able to enjoy a great deal of unstructured time.
If you do want to incorporate some learning activities into your summer, here are a few ideas from our homeschool years:
Rather than isolating learning in a daily four-hour block of time, weave learning throughout the day. We listened to Lyrical Life Science, grammar, Spanish, and other song tapes while fixing dinner, read great books after lunch and at bedtime, listened to classical music or audiobooks while cleaning house or riding in the car, looked at fine art and practiced drawing or painting on rainy days, and generally made educational activities a natural, enjoyable part of life together.
If it’s there, they will use it
Instead of trying to make everything a class, we found that if art materials, building supplies, books on all subjects, musical instruments, and all kinds of hand tools were available, they would usually be used. Not during the scheduled school day, and not always together, but someone would eventually settle down with the French-language Tin-Tin books, or get out the knot-tying or woodcarving kits and try something new.
We read Macbeth together when the power went out and a storm howled around the eaves, and kept sketch journals when we traveled. We never did the entire geography curriculum in order, but it was a fascinating supplement whenever we needed more information.
You are the first learning model your children will see
Beyond this, you will be the first and most influential learning model your student will see. If you approach new projects and concepts with curiosity, humility, and a positive attitude, your children are likely to respond similarly. It is important that they see you actively pursue topics that interest you, because there are no greater catalysts for learning than curiosity, interest, and wonder.
You can study anything from beekeeping to flower arranging, homeopathy to home business, medieval calligraphy to organic gardening—as long as you’re interested in it, it is worth studying. When you children see how you approach a topic and begin to unravel it, they will begin to understand how to learn.
A lifestyle of learning means that resources are available when the time, interest, and circumstances are right. It means that curiosity is honored, questions are welcomed, and the fruit of the Spirit is practiced daily. When students find that it’s safe to explore a new subject without suddenly being assigned an entire unit study on the topic (I’ve heard of that happening!), they will be much more likely to embrace the learning lifestyle and learn on their own.
Mary Ellen Potter 1913-2013
I was singularly blessed to have a sweet mama who was also my grandmother. She and my grandfather chose to take me into their lives when they were nearly 50 years old, and I’m so glad they did. They gave me a secure home and boundless love, pointed me toward a saving faith in Christ, and shaped my life in countless ways.
Her approach to life is best described by a quote that was posted on her wall:A keen sense of humor helps us to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable. – Billy Graham
She lived with us for nearly two decades after daddy passed on, and there were ups and downs. Faith, accompanied sense of humor, got us through daddy’s last days with Alzheimer’s disease, and the challenges of creating a life as an extended family. I’m so thankful our boys got to know her and were able to be part of her life by filling bird feeders, planting spring flowers, and doing countless little errands with (for the most part) patience.
During her last week on earth, dear friends from California visited, and we spent time at the nursing home, talking with her. Our oldest son sang the two songs she always requested from him, and he and our friend sang some of her favorite old hymns. It was a great blessing to me.
She wasn’t always old, so here are a few photos from other phases of her life:
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 5, 2013; West End Community Center, 8102 Ridge Rd, Henrico, VA.
If you want to share a comment or memory, there will be time for that as well as space for written memories. You’re also welcome to leave a comment or memory below.
Charlotte Mason said that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life,” and she was right. An extensive study published in 2010 on “Family Scholarly Culture and Educational Success” (PDF), reports that a family’s “scholarly culture – the way of life in homes where books are numerous, esteemed, read, and enjoyed” matters.
I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to homeschoolers, but just in case you need a reason to keep building your family’s home library, here are a few significant quotes from the report.
- A home in which books are an integral part of the way of life will encourage children to read for pleasure, thereby providing them with information, vocabulary, imaginative richness, and wide horizons. (p. 3)
- Because it generates skills and knowledge central to schooling, scholarly culture should enhance educational achievement in all societies, rich and poor alike; in all political systems, Communist and capitalist alike; and in the past as well as the present. (p. 3)
- In addition to providing skills and knowledge, a large home library is a manifestation of the family’s preferences: an indication that they enjoy and value scholarly culture, that they find ideas congenial, reading agreeable, complex and intellectually demanding work attractive. It shows a commitment to investing in knowledge, and perhaps in schooling. It suggests that conversations between parents and their children will include references to books and imaginative ideas growing out of them. In short, a large library reveals a preference for the scholarly culture. (p. 4)
- Biggest gains at the bottom: an increase in scholarly culture has the greatest impact on children from families with little scholarly culture. (p. 4)
- Each additional book is associated with greater gains in educational attainment in families with few books than in families where there are already many books. (p. 9)
- The difference between a bookless home and one with a 500-book library is as great as the difference between having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) and having university educated parents (15 or 16 years of education).
- Scholarly culture’s advantage goes back for generations, as far back as the memory of survey respondents can take us, and in all political systems [both pre- and -post WWII West, pre- and post Communist Eastern Europe, pre- and post-Cultural Revolution China, and pre- and post-Apartheid South Africa]. (p. 13)
- Thus it seems that scholarly culture, and the taste for books that it brings, flows from generation to generation largely of its own accord, little affected by education, occupational status, or other aspects of class. (p. 17)
- Parents give their infants toy books to play with in the bath; read stories to little children at bed-time; give books as presents to older children; talk, explain, imagine, fantasize, and play with words unceasingly. Their children get a taste for all this, learn the words, master the skills, buy the books. And that pays off handsomely in school. (p. 17)
- A book-oriented home environment, we argue, endows children with tools that are directly useful in learning at school: vocabulary, information, comprehension skills, imagination, broad horizons of history and geography, familiarity with good writing, understanding of the importance of evidence in argument, and many others. In short, families matter not just for the material resources they provide, not just because of parents’ formal educational skills, but also – often more importantly – because of the scholarly culture they embody. (p. 19-20)
Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house. ~Henry Ward Beecher
Another article you may enjoy: How to Build a Quality Home Library Inexpensively
Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life. ~Jesse Lee Bennett
Find new books you might enjoy at GoodReads.com. You’re welcome to connect with me there;-).
The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression,
and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory
from which the image is never cast out
to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived.
Work cited: Evans, M. D. R., et al. Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratiﬁcation and Mobility (2010), doi:10.1016/j.rssm.2010.01.002
In last week’s post, I provided an overview of the Common Core Standards (CCS), with a video overview, and links to more information. This week, I am focusing on the literature portion of the Standards. I am not going to devote a great deal of time to these, as there are many others doing so. However, I do have a few initial thoughts.
I have not looked at the math standards, as I am not qualified to provide an informed analysis, but I have looked at the Language Arts Standards. A classically educated student would easily exceed all that the Standards mandate, but of course, returning to the classical model would be much too sensible for the Rube Goldbergs at the helm of education planning.
Instead of reading and discussing Plato or Petrarch, students will be presented with such gems as “The Cost Conundrum: Health Care Costs in McAllen, Texas” or “U.S. General Services Administration. Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management.”
Those aren’t the only texts, of course, but two that struck me as particularly egregious. If the goal is to cause students to tune out and despise the art of reading, that is exactly the type of text that is needed. Rather than grappling with big, meaty ideas such as truth, justice, and integrity, students will be provided with the mental equivalent of rabbit pellets. Every trivial piece of nonsense students are forced to cover steals time from something more valuable.
Charles Dickens offers a remarkably prescient view of the CCS in the first chapter of Hard Times. A government functionary is visiting the class of Mr. Gradgrind, and in the course of a repulsively realistic classroom exercise in manipulation, the government representative admonishes:
“‘Fact, fact, fact!’ said the gentleman. And ‘Fact, fact, fact!’ repeated Thomas Gradgrind.
‘You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman, ‘by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact.”
C. S. Lewis described imagination as ‘the organ of meaning,” and he was right. Great literature engages both mind and heart, evokes interest, and sparks connections in memory. A reduced focus on literature and story means a reduction in the understanding of metaphor, and the ability to think abstractly. What the Common Core proposes is to accelerate the drain of meaning from language, and for those who value truth, wisdom, and virtue, this is intolerable.
Here are a couple of articles that explain why literature is essential:
“Why Study Literature?” by Steve R. Hake, Ph.D. Professor of English Literature, Patrick Henry College (PDF)
“The Importance of Imagination for. C.S. Lewis and for Us” by Art Lindsley, Ph.D (PDF)
You’ll find other articles on literature here on my blog and at ExcellenceinLiterature.com.
Viewpoints on Literature in the Common Core
Sandra Stotsky provides a look at “Common Core Standards’ Devastating Impact on Literary Study and Analytical Thinking” on the Heritage Foundation website.
An article on Huffington Post reports that “Common Core Nonfiction Reading Standards Mark The End Of Literature, English Teachers Say.”
Here is an expert’s view on the Common Core Standards (CCS). Will Fitzhugh, founder of The Concord Review, offers a thoughtful analysis of the language arts portion of the CCS standards.
Hard Times: A Portrait of Modern Education
And here, for your reading pleasure (consider it a palate cleanser), are the first three chapters of Hard Times by Charles Dickens. His depiction of the essence of the Common Core and modern educational methods is spot on, though he wrote over 100 years ago. Ironically, students educated in this way would be sure to miss the point, as well as the humor in Dicken’s character names. I hope you’ll find this excerpt edifying.
THE ONE THING NEEDFUL
‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders,—nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was,—all helped the emphasis.
‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
MURDERING THE INNOCENTS
Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind—no, sir!
In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general. In such terms, no doubt, substituting the words ‘boys and girls,’ for ‘sir,’ Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.
Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts, and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one discharge. He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be stormed away.
‘Girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, ‘I don’t know that girl. Who is that girl?’
‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.
‘Sissy is not a name,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘Don’t call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.’
‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey.
‘Then he has no business to do it,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘Tell him he mustn’t. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?’
‘He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.’
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.
‘We don’t want to know anything about that, here. You mustn’t tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don’t he?’
‘If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.’
‘You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?’
‘Oh yes, sir.’
‘Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.’
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.’
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely white-washed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.
‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’
‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’
She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time. Bitzer, after rapidly blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennæ of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down again.
The third gentleman now stepped forth. A mighty man at cutting and drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other people’s too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always with a system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always to be heard of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to fight all England. To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the scratch, wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly customer. He would go in and damage any subject whatever with his right, follow up with his left, stop, exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he always fought All England) to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly. He was certain to knock the wind out of common sense, and render that unlucky adversary deaf to the call of time. And he had it in charge from high authority to bring about the great public-office Millennium, when Commissioners should reign upon earth.
‘Very well,’ said this gentleman, briskly smiling, and folding his arms. ‘That’s a horse. Now, let me ask you girls and boys, Would you paper a room with representations of horses?’
After a pause, one half of the children cried in chorus, ‘Yes, sir!’ Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman’s face that Yes was wrong, cried out in chorus, ‘No, sir!’—as the custom is, in these examinations.
‘Of course, No. Why wouldn’t you?’
A pause. One corpulent slow boy, with a wheezy manner of breathing, ventured the answer, Because he wouldn’t paper a room at all, but would paint it.
‘You must paper it,’ said the gentleman, rather warmly.
‘You must paper it,’ said Thomas Gradgrind, ‘whether you like it or not. Don’t tell us you wouldn’t paper it. What do you mean, boy?’
‘I’ll explain to you, then,’ said the gentleman, after another and a dismal pause, ‘why you wouldn’t paper a room with representations of horses. Do you ever see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in reality—in fact? Do you?’
‘Yes, sir!’ from one half. ‘No, sir!’ from the other.
‘Of course no,’ said the gentleman, with an indignant look at the wrong half. ‘Why, then, you are not to see anywhere, what you don’t see in fact; you are not to have anywhere, what you don’t have in fact. What is called Taste, is only another name for Fact.’ Thomas Gradgrind nodded his approbation.
‘This is a new principle, a discovery, a great discovery,’ said the gentleman. ‘Now, I’ll try you again. Suppose you were going to carpet a room. Would you use a carpet having a representation of flowers upon it?’
There being a general conviction by this time that ‘No, sir!’ was always the right answer to this gentleman, the chorus of No was very strong. Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes: among them Sissy Jupe.
‘Girl number twenty,’ said the gentleman, smiling in the calm strength of knowledge.
Sissy blushed, and stood up.
‘So you would carpet your room—or your husband’s room, if you were a grown woman, and had a husband—with representations of flowers, would you?’ said the gentleman. ‘Why would you?’
‘If you please, sir, I am very fond of flowers,’ returned the girl.
‘And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and have people walking over them with heavy boots?’
‘It wouldn’t hurt them, sir. They wouldn’t crush and wither, if you please, sir. They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and pleasant, and I would fancy—’
‘Ay, ay, ay! But you mustn’t fancy,’ cried the gentleman, quite elated by coming so happily to his point. ‘That’s it! You are never to fancy.’
‘You are not, Cecilia Jupe,’ Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, ‘to do anything of that kind.’
‘Fact, fact, fact!’ said the gentleman. And ‘Fact, fact, fact!’ repeated Thomas Gradgrind.
‘You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman, ‘by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don’t walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don’t find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use,’ said the gentleman, ‘for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste.’
The girl curtseyed, and sat down. She was very young, and she p. 8looked as if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the world afforded.
‘Now, if Mr. M’Choakumchild,’ said the gentleman, ‘will proceed to give his first lesson here, Mr. Gradgrind, I shall be happy, at your request, to observe his mode of procedure.’
Mr. Gradgrind was much obliged. ‘Mr. M’Choakumchild, we only wait for you.’
So, Mr. M’Choakumchild began in his best manner. He and some one hundred and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time, in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte legs. He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had answered volumes of head-breaking questions. Orthography, etymology, syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying and levelling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers. He had worked his stony way into Her Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council’s Schedule B, and had taken the bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science, French, German, Latin, and Greek. He knew all about all the Water Sheds of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the compass. Ah, rather overdone, M’Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!
He went to work in this preparatory lesson, not unlike Morgiana in the Forty Thieves: looking into all the vessels ranged before him, one after another, to see what they contained. Say, good M’Choakumchild. When from thy boiling store, thou shalt fill each jar brim full by-and-by, dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy lurking within—or sometimes only maim him and distort him!
Mr. Gradgrind walked homeward from the school, in a state of considerable satisfaction. It was his school, and he intended it to be a model. He intended every child in it to be a model—just as the young Gradgrinds were all models.
There were five young Gradgrinds, and they were models every one. They had been lectured at, from their tenderest years; coursed, like little hares. Almost as soon as they could run alone, they had been made to run to the lecture-room. The first object with which they had an association, or of which they had a remembrance, was a large black board with a dry Ogre chalking ghastly white figures on it.
Not that they knew, by name or nature, anything about an Ogre Fact forbid! I only use the word to express a monster in a lecturing castle, with Heaven knows how many heads manipulated into one, taking childhood captive, and dragging it into gloomy statistical dens by the hair.
No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; it was up in the moon before it could speak distinctly. No little Gradgrind had ever learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what you are! No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on the subject, each little Gradgrind having at five years old dissected the Great Bear like a Professor Owen, and driven Charles’s Wain like a locomotive engine-driver. No little Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field with that famous cow with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who worried the cat who killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet more famous cow who swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those celebrities, and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous ruminating quadruped with several stomachs.
To his matter-of-fact home, which was called Stone Lodge, Mr. Gradgrind directed his steps. He had virtually retired from the wholesale hardware trade before he built Stone Lodge, and was now looking about for a suitable opportunity of making an arithmetical figure in Parliament. Stone Lodge was situated on a moor within a mile or two of a great town—called Coketown in the present faithful guide-book.
A very regular feature on the face of the country, Stone Lodge was. Not the least disguise toned down or shaded off that uncompromising fact in the landscape. A great square house, with a heavy portico darkening the principal windows, as its master’s heavy brows overshadowed his eyes. A calculated, cast up, balanced, and proved house. Six windows on this side of the door, six on that side; a total of twelve in this wing, a total of twelve in the other wing; four-and-twenty carried over to the back wings. A lawn and garden and an infant avenue, all ruled straight like a botanical account-book. Gas and ventilation, drainage and water-service, all of the primest quality. Iron clamps and girders, fire-proof from top to bottom; mechanical lifts for the housemaids, with all their brushes and brooms; everything that heart could desire.
Everything? Well, I suppose so. The little Gradgrinds had cabinets in various departments of science too. They had a little conchological cabinet, and a little metallurgical cabinet, and a little mineralogical cabinet; and the specimens were all arranged and labelled, and the bits of stone and ore looked as though they might have been broken from the parent substances by those tremendously hard instruments their own names; and, to paraphrase the idle legend of Peter Piper, who had never found his way into their nursery, If the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at more than this, what was it for good gracious goodness’ sake, that the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped it!
Their father walked on in a hopeful and satisfied frame of mind. He was an affectionate father, after his manner; but he would probably have described himself (if he had been put, like Sissy Jupe, upon a definition) as ‘an eminently practical’ father. He had a particular pride in the phrase eminently practical, which was considered to have a special application to him. Whatsoever the public meeting held in Coketown, and whatsoever the subject of such meeting, some Coketowner was sure to seize the occasion of alluding to his eminently practical friend Gradgrind. This always pleased the eminently practical friend. He knew it to be his due, but his due was acceptable.
He had reached the neutral ground upon the outskirts of the town, which was neither town nor country, and yet was either spoiled, when his ears were invaded by the sound of music. The clashing and banging band attached to the horse-riding establishment, which had there set up its rest in a wooden pavilion, was in full bray. A flag, floating from the summit of the temple, proclaimed to mankind that it was ‘Sleary’s Horse-riding’ which claimed their suffrages. Sleary himself, a stout modern statue with a money-box at its elbow, in an ecclesiastical niche of early Gothic architecture, took the money. Miss Josephine Sleary, as some very long and very narrow strips of printed bill announced, was then inaugurating the entertainments with her graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower-act. Among the other pleasing but always strictly moral wonders which must be seen to be believed, Signor Jupe was that afternoon to ‘elucidate the diverting accomplishments of his highly trained performing dog Merrylegs.’ He was also to exhibit ‘his astounding feat of throwing seventy-five hundred-weight in rapid succession backhanded over his head, thus forming a fountain of solid iron in mid-air, a feat never before attempted in this or any other country, and which having elicited such rapturous plaudits from enthusiastic throngs it cannot be withdrawn.’ The same Signor Jupe was to ‘enliven the varied performances at frequent intervals with his chaste Shaksperean quips and retorts.’ Lastly, he was to wind them up by appearing in his favourite character of Mr. William Button, of Tooley Street, in ‘the highly novel and laughable hippo-comedietta of The Tailor’s Journey to Brentford.’
Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities of course, but passed on as a practical man ought to pass on, either brushing the noisy insects from his thoughts, or consigning them to the House of Correction. But, the turning of the road took him by the back of the booth, and at the back of the booth a number of children were congregated in a number of stealthy attitudes, striving to peep in at the hidden glories of the place.
This brought him to a stop. ‘Now, to think of these vagabonds,’ said he, ‘attracting the young rabble from a model school.’
A space of stunted grass and dry rubbish being between him and the young rabble, he took his eyeglass out of his waistcoat to look for any child he knew by name, and might order off. Phenomenon almost incredible though distinctly seen, what did he then behold but his own metallurgical Louisa, peeping with all her might through a hole in a deal board, and his own mathematical Thomas abasing himself on the ground to catch but a hoof of the graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower-act!
Dumb with amazement, Mr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his family was thus disgraced, laid his hand upon each erring child, and said:
Both rose, red and disconcerted. But, Louisa looked at her father with more boldness than Thomas did. Indeed, Thomas did not look at him, but gave himself up to be taken home like a machine.
‘In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, leading each away by a hand; ‘what do you do here?’
‘Wanted to see what it was like,’ returned Louisa, shortly.
‘What it was like?’
There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly in the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its expression. Not with the brightness natural to cheerful youth, but with uncertain, eager, doubtful flashes, which had something painful in them, analogous to the changes on a blind face groping its way.
She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen; but at no distant day would seem to become a woman all at once. Her father thought so as he looked at her. She was pretty. Would have been self-willed (he thought in his eminently practical way) but for her bringing-up.
‘Thomas, though I have the fact before me, I find it difficult to believe that you, with your education and resources, should have brought your sister to a scene like this.’
p. 12‘I brought him, father,’ said Louisa, quickly. ‘I asked him to come.’
‘I am sorry to hear it. I am very sorry indeed to hear it. It makes Thomas no better, and it makes you worse, Louisa.’
She looked at her father again, but no tear fell down her cheek.
‘You! Thomas and you, to whom the circle of the sciences is open; Thomas and you, who may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas and you, who have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas and you, here!’ cried Mr. Gradgrind. ‘In this degraded position! I am amazed.’
‘I was tired, father. I have been tired a long time,’ said Louisa.
‘Tired? Of what?’ asked the astonished father.
‘I don’t know of what—of everything, I think.’
‘Say not another word,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You are childish. I will hear no more.’ He did not speak again until they had walked some half-a-mile in silence, when he gravely broke out with: ‘What would your best friends say, Louisa? Do you attach no value to their good opinion? What would Mr. Bounderby say?’ At the mention of this name, his daughter stole a look at him, remarkable for its intense and searching character. He saw nothing of it, for before he looked at her, she had again cast down her eyes!
‘What,’ he repeated presently, ‘would Mr. Bounderby say?’ All the way to Stone Lodge, as with grave indignation he led the two delinquents home, he repeated at intervals ‘What would Mr. Bounderby say?’—as if Mr. Bounderby had been Mrs. Grundy.
And to find out who Mr. Bounderby is, you’ll have to read the book!
As news spreads about the Common Core Standards (CCS), there is increasing anger and distress, both inside and outside the homeschool community, over what is happening to the education system of the United States. As a long-time student of education history and an advocate for genuine education that leads to wisdom and virtue, I know that the sky isn’t falling.
It fell well over a century ago when classical education began to be displaced by vocational training; when the liberal arts were pushed aside in favor of the servile arts; when the quest for wisdom and virtue was replaced by pragmatism.
Despite the fact that the disarray in America’s institutional education system is nothing new, the Common Core Standards are a cause for concern. The CCS promise to nationalize mediocrity and increase control over every aspect of K-12 education, and ultimately over every citizen. I believe this is something homeschool families need to inform themselves about, so I’m going to point you to some helpful resources I’ve found on the subject.
If you find other helpful resources, please feel free to reference them in the comment section below. I may add information to the body of the post as I learn more, but I don’t plan to post endlessly on the subject–there are many watchmen on the wall who are already doing that. My focus will continue to be on casting a vision for what education is and can be. Next week’s post will discuss issues with literature and the Common Core, and after that, I’ll return to considering true education and a lifestyle of learning with the ultimate goal of developing wisdom and virtue.
To learn about the CCS, I recommend that you begin with the “Stop the Common Core” video series below. It will clearly answer basic questions and help you understand some of the fundamental issues such as:
- What are the Common Core Standards?
- Who planned and financed the Common Core Standards and testing?
- Fundamental problems with national education standards
- Who is affected by the Common Core Standards?
Introduction to the Common Core Standards
Financial implications of the Common Core Standards
More information about the Common Core Standards
Here are many links providing useful information on the CCS. Although some of the sources have a more sensationalist tone than I am personally comfortable with, I am providing the links for informational purposes. You may decide which, if any, you care to read.
California and 47 other states are considering adopting common-core state standards for K-12 in math and English language arts. Ze’ev Wurman, who helped develop California’s standards in the 1990s, explains his opposition to Common Core in an April 2010 interview with The Educated Guess’s John Fensterwald.
Michelle Malkin‘s four-part series on the Common Core, plus a post with reader feedback, including comments from many teachers.
- Rotten to the Core, Part 1: Obama’s War on Academic Standards
- Rotten to the Core, Part 2: Readin’, writin’ and deconstructionism
- Rotten to the Core, Part 3: Lessons from Texas and the Growing Grassroots Revolt
- Rotten to the Core, Part 4: The Feds’ Invasive Student Tracking Database
- Rotten to the Core: Reader Feedback from the Frontlines
Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, discusses “Closing the Door on Innovation – Why One National Curriculum is Bad for America,” with TOP-Ed.org’s John Fensterwald.
Cato Institute Articles: This is a page of links to articles the Cato Institute has published on the Common Core Standards.
Article: It’s Official: The Feds Control Common Core - No surprise here– ”Washington will soon be directly regulating what America’s schoolchildren learn and on what they are tested.”
The Educational Freedom Coalition on Facebook
This group has created lists of curriculum providers that are aligned, not aligned, and coincidentally aligned with the Common Core Standards. These lists can be useful, but please use discernment if you use them to help you choose curriculum.
If you have been happy with a curriculum or publisher that is now listed as “coincidentally aligned,” find out what that means before abandoning the curriculum. In some cases, it means that the publisher has not changed anything, but simply provided a list of ways in which the curriculum meets or exceeds the CCS. Publishers who are able to list alignment without changing anything are providing the same quality of materials as before, and are remaining a viable option for home schools and private schools in states that require aligned curriculum.
In other cases,”coincidentally aligned” indicates a large company that provides curriculum or grade-level packages with books from many sources may offer one or more pieces that align. If you like the company and method, you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water. Use what you like, and choose alternatives for the rest.
Keep Education Local offers a one-page summary of the issues, as well as a video and other information.
Stop Common Core: Reclaiming Local Control in Education has a well-organized collection of information.
Pioneer Public Policy Research Institute offers a number of thoughtful articles on the Common Core.
Daniel Pink on Control vs. Motivation: This 6 minute video offers a quick look at motivation–it’s something to think about in light of all the testing students are subject to. Consider also the perspective of educators who must function in this way.
State Groups Opposing the Common Core
There are many state-specific groups opposing the Common Core Standards. I am including a list of those I’ve run across, with the caveat that I have not read everything on these sites, and thus cannot specifically endorse them. I am providing the list for information only–I hope you’ll find them helpful.
- Alabama: http://www.auee.org/
- Arizona: http://arizonansagainstcommoncore.com/
- California: http://cuacc.org/
- Florida: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Florida/516780045031362
- Georgia: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInGeorgia
- Idaho: http://idahoansforlocaleducation.com/
- Illinois: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Illinois/388021897963618 and http://nocommoncore.blogspot.com/
- Indiana: http://hoosiersagainstcommoncore.com/
- Iowa: https://www.facebook.com/IowansforLocalControl
- Louisiana: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Louisiana/349424158491119
- Michigan: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Michigan/303312003109291
- Missouri: http://moagainstcommoncore.webs.com/
- New Hampshire: http://twitter.com/EDactivistNH
- New York: http://twitter.com/StopCommonCinNY
- Ohio: https://www.facebook.com/OhioCommonCore
- Oklahoma: http://restoreokpubliceducation.com/node/751
- Pennsylvania: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pennsylvanians-Against-Common-Core/566916409995216
- South Carolina: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInSouthCarolina
- Tennessee: http://tnacc.weebly.com/
- Utah: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/ and http://www.utahsrepublic.org/tag/common-core-standards/
- Wisconsin: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Wisconsin/185213384959404
I love wordy holidays. We spend time teaching our children that words matter, and how to read, write, and speak correctly (or at least I hope we do), and I think those home lessons are reinforced by national holidays that focus on these subjects. This week, we have two such holidays: National Grammar Day today, and Words Matter Week all week long. It’s a great opportunity to let your children know that you aren’t the only one who finds joy in beautifully written and spoken text!
The best way to teach them how to appreciate and use words correctly is give them books and let them read. Read and read and read and read . . .
But I digress. We are celebrating words and their usage, so I have a few resources, quotes, and links for you.
For Words Matter Week, you may visit WordsMatterWeek.com to find quotes about words, blog prompts, activity suggestions, a downloadable version of the cuttlefish poster, and more.
When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Vocabula Review is a consistent advocate for the written word. If you’ve never read an issue, you’re in for a treat!
There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.
The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers is a very helpful resource for students, teachers, and anyone else who writes. It offers instruction on essay writing, as well as a useful guide to grammar, usage, and style. You can read more about it, see a complete table of contents, and purchase a copy at Everyday Education.
Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
For National Grammar Day, a song:
One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. –George Orwell
A bit of history: National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World.
This year’s edition of National Grammar Day is hosted by Mignon Fogarty, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl (TM).
If you want to diagram sentences, Grammar Made Easy is the simplest way to learn how. It even comes with a couple of bonus items, including an audio workshop. Enjoy!
13-year-old Logan LaPlante talks about a real-life education model that makes learning relevant. This works.
The best part of hackschooling or homeschooling is that it can be tailored to fit your student, as well as your life and budget. That’s what Logan’s talk illustrates. Sure, you could listen to this talk and list all the learning activities he enjoys, then try to apply them to your own students, but that’s not the point at all. His education wouldn’t fit you or me–it’s tailored to Logan’s interests and needs, and that’s why it works.
You can make your homeschool more effective simply by opening doors and allowing your students to take advantage of opportunities in church and community. Encourage them to take a more active role in planning what to learn, and leave enough time open each day for them to learn, be, and do what they are gifted for.
Your life circumstances will affect what you do and how you do it, but if your student wants to do something you feel you can’t afford, let him start a microbusiness and pay for it, or figure out how to barter for it. Everything is a learning experience, and a student who owns an idea and follows through will gain much more than the student who is spoon fed a standard one-size-fits-a-few curriculum.
I’m sure I was an odd child, but despite being in institutional schooling, I read like crazy. I managed to study and learn things that interested me, even when adults didn’t see the relevance. I spent much of middle school studying everything connected with interior design and architecture–color theory, history of furniture design, drafting, whatever else I could find. In high school, I found a course on COBOL programming in a book at the library, and worked my way through it, despite the fact that I’d never seen a computer, and my grandmother thought I was crazy. It didn’t matter what anyone thought, I found it interesting, and I’m certain that I learned more from reading than I did from K-12 classes.
That’s an important point, by the way–even if you don’t see how something could be “useful,” help your student find a way to learn what interests him. Knowledge is never useless, and you have no way of knowing where his calling will take him in adulthood. I’ve never had to program in COBOL, but understanding a bit of how computers think has made it easier to work with technology as an adult.
When you homeschool, you have the opportunity to open doors and let your children soar. I hope you’ll be encouraged to try it.
In 2011, Virginia’s governor declared February “Virginia Home Education Month.” In celebration of the anniversary of that declaration, I was invited to put up a homeschool display at the Cochrane-Rockville branch of the Pamunkey Regional Library. You can see photos below.
I had a lot of fun gathering items to put in the display cases, but oh my . . . it was so hard to choose what went in! I wanted to offer viewers a peek at the many resources available and the many accomplishments of local homeschoolers, but as you can imagine, a comprehensive look would have occupied a convention hall or two!
I’m grateful to the homeschool moms who shared photos of field trips, sports teams, and amazing performances in the arts, as well as the publishers and homeschool groups who offered magazines, a comprehensive homeschool manual, great visuals and giveaways. There are many excellent books stacked so that titles are visible on the spines. I tried to put the ones with the most provocative or appealing titles facing front, but honestly, I had many more wonderful resources than I had space for.
First display case: Homescool books; framed declaration of Virginia Home Education Month; photos of central Virginia homeschool sport teams and cheerleaders; Virginia Homeschoolers Voice magazines; Virginia Homeschool Manual from HEAV; the unarguable “Education begins at home” license plate; a homeschooling infographic, and more.
Second display case: More home education books; A Journey Through Learning lapbook on birds; photos of homeschoolers in Christian Youth Theatre productions; trip photos from Lukeion Project; more homeschool magazines. There were a few other magazine issues we were able to display elsewhere, as well as some for viewers to take home.
Trying to cram a homeschool conference into two cases is quite a challenge, but I hope that viewers will find it intriguing, and will enjoy seeing a sampling of all we do. The display will be up through March, so I may go in and swap out a few things, just to keep it fresh and share more goodies. My card is in there in case anyone wants to inquire about a specific resource, and there is a list of contributors posted on the side of the case, so for the groups and companies who contributed something, viewers should be able to find you. Thanks again for sharing!
I have been collecting quotes about learning and education for many years. Here is a collection of favorite quotes on lifelong learning, learning and freedom, unschooling, institutional schooling, homeschooling and general truth about learning by speakers from C.S. Lewis and Albert Einstein to Aristotle and Mark Twain. Enjoy!
Education and Freedom
There is no neutral education. Education is either for domestication or for freedom. – Joao Coutinho
It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives. — John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. – Henry Peter Broughan
Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing. –Albert Einstein
Only the educated are free.–Epictetus
A well-informed mind is the best security against the contagion of folly and of vice. The vacant mind is ever on the watch for relief, and ready to plunge into error, to escape from the languor of idleness. –Ann Radcliffe
To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. –Theodore Roosevelt
The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? ― Charlotte M. Mason, in School Education: Developing A Curriculum
The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.― B.B. King
Government will not fail to employ education, to strengthen its hands, and perpetuate its institutions.” – William Godwin
We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free. Epictetus
Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. –George Washington Carver
Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development. –Kofi Annan
The entire object of true education, is to make people not merely do the right thing, but to enjoy right things; not merely industrious, but to love industry; not merely learned, but to love knowledge. –John Ruskin
As we all learned from the sorry experience of state-sanctioned bureaucracies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, decentralization is crucial to both freedom and excellence. –Jerry Brown
The more subsidized it is, the less free it is. What is known as `free education’ is the least free of all, for it is a state-owned institution; it is socialized education –just like socialized medicine or the socialized post office –and cannot possibly be separated from political control.” – Frank Chodorov, “Why Free Schools Are Not Free,”
Self-Education / Learning by Doing / Lifestyle of Learning
Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature. ― Charlotte Mason
Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. - John Cotton Dana
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. — Plato
The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom. – Henry Ward Beecher
Few have been taught to any purpose who have not been their own teachers. – Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” ― C.S. Lewis
The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. –Albert Einstein
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ―Aristotle, from The Nicomachean Ethics
Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.― E.M. Forster
Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. –Will Durant
Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study. Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life. ~Henry L. Doherty
A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. However, most of what we learn before, during, and after attending schools is learned without its being taught to us. A child learns such fundamental things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress, and so on without being taught these things. Adults learn most of what they use at work or at leisure while at work or leisure. Most of what is taught in classroom settings is forgotten, and much or what is remembered is irrelevant. –From The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching by Russell Ackoff
I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.~ Pablo Picasso
All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.— Sir Walter Scott
What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child. –George Bernard Shaw
I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.
―Martha Graham, American dancer and choreographer
The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue. –Antisthenes
Change is the end result of all true learning.― Leo Buscaglia
To develop a complete mind: study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. –Leonardo da Vinci
The best of my education has come from the public library… my tuition fee is a bus fare and once in a while, five cents a day for an overdue book. You don’t need to know very much to start with, if you know the way to the public library. –Lesley Conger
Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity. –Aristotle
Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself. ― Paulo Coelho
Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.”
―Charlotte Mason, from The Original Home Schooling Series
If children haven’t been read to, they don’t love books. They need to love books, for books are the basis of literature, composition, history, world events, vocabulary, and everything else. –Edith Schaeffer
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction. –Albert Einstein
In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn. ―Phil Collins
If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet. Linda Darling-Hammond
Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively. –R.D. Clyde
“A little learning is a dangerous thing.
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring;
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.”
― Alexander Pope, from an “An Essay on Criticism”
In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it. –Sir William Haley
Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ―Benjamin Franklin
Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners. – John Holt
If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way. –Mark Twain
It is what we know already that often prevents us from learning. ~Claude Bernard
It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it. ~Jacob Bronowski
Almost anything can become a learning experience if there is enough caring involved.–Mary MacCracken
Do not train children in learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. –Plato
Every man…should periodically be compelled to listen to opinions which are infuriating to him. To hear nothing but what is pleasing to one is to make a pillow of the mind. –St. John Ervine
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. –Henry Ford
The group consisting of mother, father and child is the main educational agency of mankind. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better. ― Sidney Sheldon
The most necessary task of civilization is to teach people how to think. It should be the primary purpose of our public schools. The mind of a child is naturally active, it develops through exercise. Give a child plenty of exercise, for body and brain. The trouble with our way of educating is that it does not give elasticity to the mind. It casts the brain into a mold. It insists that the child must accept. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning, and it lays more stress on memory than observation. ― Thomas A. Edison
The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.” – G.K. Chesterton
The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading. ― Charlotte Mason
“For centuries it was never discovered that education was a function of the State, and the State never attempted to educate. But when modern absolutism arose, it laid claim to everything on behalf of the sovereign power….When the revolutionary theory of government began to prevail, and Church and State found that they were educating for opposite ends and in a contradictory spirit, it became necessary to remove children entirely from the influence of religion.” – Lord Acton
Academies that are founded at public expense are instituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them.— Baruch Spinoza
If the only motive was to help people who could not afford education, advocates of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies. – Milton Friedman
The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions. ~ Noam Chomsky
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.— Thomas Jefferson
School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is. –From Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich (link is to a general summary of the book)
What is the purpose of industrial education? To fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence? Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States and that is its aim everywhere else. – H. L. Mencken
We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought. –Bertrand Russell
Historically, much of the motivation for public schooling has been to stifle variety and institute social control. – Jack Hugh
State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly alike one another, …in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body. – John Stuart Mill
We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause. – Horace Mann
Though the academic authorities are actually proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to describe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern State has educated its citizens in a series of ephemeral fads. –G.K. Chesterton
“…Modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:
1. Obedient soldiers to the army;
2. Obedient workers to the mines;
3. Well subordinated civil servants to government;
4. Well subordinated clerks to industry
5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.”
–John Taylor Gatto
An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life. –Author Unknown
It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated. –Alec Bourne
“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.” –Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s Teacher
What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all. –John Holt
I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room. ― Barbara Kingsolver
The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn. ― Marcus Tullius Cicero
Education is only a ladder to gather fruit from the tree of knowledge, not the fruit itself. –Albert Einstein (attributed)
It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: It more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy. – Albert Shanker
There are two kinds of charlatan: the man who is called a charlatan, and the man who really is one. The first is the quack who cures you; the second is the highly qualified person who doesn’t. G.K. Chesterton
His studies were pursued but never effectually overtaken. ~H.G. Wells
If it would be wrong for the government to adopt an official religion, then, for the same reasons, it would be wrong for the government to adopt official education policies. The moral case for freedom of religion stands or falls with that for freedom of education. A society that champions freedom of religion but at the same time countenances state regulation of education has a great deal of explaining to do. – James R. Otteson
The school is a political prize of the highest importance. It cannot be deprived of its political character as long as it remains a public and compulsory institution.–Ludwig von Mises
[The public school system is] usually a twelve year sentence of mind control. Crushing creativity, smashing individualism, encouraging collectivism and compromise, destroying the exercise of intellectual inquiry, twisting it instead into meek subservience to authority. ― Walter Karp
The anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know. – John Holt
One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure. ~ John W. Gardner
Creativity, Habits, and General Education Quotes
- Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln never saw a movie, heard a radio, or looked at television. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. They were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work. –Carl Sandburg
- Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil. –C.S. Lewis
The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot a wrong question.– Anthony Jay
The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil. –Thomas Edison
I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas. ― Agatha Christie, An Autobiography
Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible. ―Richard P. Feynman, American physicist
We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous children, whose guardians we are, and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention. Read not the Times. Read the Eternities. –Henry David Thoreau
Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning. –William A. Ward
A great curse has fallen upon modern life with the discovery of the vastness of the word Education. –G.K. Chesterton
Many hours of solitary occupation and enjoyment, will lead to the development of the highest intellectual and moral traits of character; in fact, his mental resources may be considered entirely unknown and unexplored, who cannot spend his best and happiest hours alone. –Jacob Abbott, c. 1850
Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school. –Wendy Priesnitz
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. –Charlotte Mason
Good teachers are those who know how little they know. Bad teachers are those who think they know more than they don’t know. –R. Verdi
Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily. ~Thomas Szasz
There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes. –G.K. Chesterton
Certainly, some will oppose competition-just as AT&T once fought the breakup of its monopoly. Others will reflexively resist the redistribution of power to poor families. Still others will wave their worn-out ideologies to defend a system of educational apar-theid while demonizing anyone who promotes a parent’s right to choose. – Andrew Young
Ah, child and youth, if you knew the bliss which resides in the taste of knowledge, and the evil and ugliness that lies in ignorance, how well you are advised to not complain of the pain and labor of learning. ― Christine de Pizan
In a video that reminds me of some of John Taylor Gatto‘s work, Stephen Round, a dedicated second-grade teacher reads his letter of resignation from the Rhode Island school system.
Here are a few points Mr. Round makes in the video:
- Rather than creating lifelong learners, our new goal is to create good test takers.
- Rather than a rewarding and enjoyable educational experience, a confining and demeaning education.
- 20 minutes of recess; the kids who need it most often lose it due to poor behavior.
- Any type of fun activity is gone; field trips–those adventures out into the real world– gone, gone, gone.
- If it isn’t in the accepted curriculum and done at the appropriate time, it can’t be used.
- I was even prohibited from tutoring my neediest students on my own time, after school, even after parents and principals approved.
- I would rather leave my secure $70K + benefits job to tutor for free than be part of a system that is diametrically opposed to everything I believe education should be.
Adam Kirk Edgerton, another teacher who quit and told why, wrote, ” . . . for now, I quit teaching. I quit not because of my students, who were wonderful, bright, capable, eager-to-learn, and deserving of a better educational system. …And I didn’t quit because of an administrator, or a boss, or a colleague. I quit because the system is demeaning. It’s a structure that consumes everyone in it, from the top to the bottom. I didn’t quit because of a single school –I quit because of the pattern of inanity that is replicated throughout the whole country . . .”
As always, I recommend reading Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down for a brief overview of the institutional education system. You’ll find his larger work, An Underground History of American Education, posted on the JohnTaylorGatto.com website.