by Peter Augustine Lawler
Excerpted – read more at http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2013/01/we-can-measure-educational-value-in.html
E.D. Hirsch (the cultural literacy guy) has, I think, written the most important article on educational “outcomes” in a long time. The great benefit of education, “the key to increasingly upward mobility,” is expanding the vocabulary of students. Why is that?
- Hirsch observes that “vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, and listening, and speaking but also general knowledge of science, history, and the arts.” People have large vocabularies because they know a lot. They know a lot, because they’ve read a lot—that is, many, many challenging books and articles and such….
- To make Americans smarter again and come closer to equal educational opportunity for all, we in our country have “to undo the vast intellectual revolution that took place in the 1930s.” The dumbest of our dumb ideas—one that we still think is innovative but is actually discredited and worn out—”is how-to-ism—the notion that education should concern itself not with mere factual knowledge, which is constantly changing, but rather with giving students the intellectual tools to assimilate new knowledge. These tools typically include the ability to look things up, to think critically, and to accommodate oneself flexibly to the world of the unknown future.” Although Hirsch’s article deals with primary and secondary education, it’s clear to me that dumb-and-dumber how-to-ism has permeated higher education. So we want to assess our programs in a content-free way—as being all about the abstract skills such as critical thinking and analytical reasoning….
- So it seems that what our schools—from pre-K to college—really need is a well-developed, common, content-rich curriculum, with a “strong focus on subject-matter knowledge” and a quite intentional awareness of “the critical importance of factual knowledge.”
- Peter Augustine Lawler is a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative and Dana Professor of Political Science at Berry College in Georgia. He is the editor of the quarterly journal Perspectives in Political Science and is the author of Postmodernism Rightly Understood: The Return to Realism in American Thought (1999) and Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (2002).
- Read more at http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2013/01/we-can-measure-educational-value-in.html