The fundamentals of “educated”

When New Jersey high school basketball coach Bob Hurley was featured on a nightly news broadcast last year, they showed him roaming the court during a shooting drill. Over and over, he said, “Eyes on the basket. Head up. Look at the target.”

I never heard basketball coaches tell shooters to look at the basket, but I often heard baseball coaches tell batters to “keep your eye on the ball.” Of course, looking at the basket is just as basic to becoming a good shooter as “keeping your eye on the ball” is to becoming a good hitter. Coach Hurley was teaching his players to develop the habit that is common to all good shooters. Without that habit, no matter what else players do, they will not become good shooters.

Similarly, The Six Virtues of the Educated Person explains that a person is not educated, no matter what knowledge and skills they have, if they don’t have understanding, imagination, strength, courage, humility and generosity — the fundamentals of “educated.”

What is a teacher’s job?

Dear Teacher:

You believe your job is to apply what research has found to be “effective.” I believe your job is to appreciate your subject matter and students. We believe in different job descriptions for the same reason — your experiences taught you to believe in yours, my experiences taught me to believe in mine.

Professors of education taught both of us that teachers should be professionals who apply what research has found to be “effective.” The difference in our experiences comes before that. You were taught to embrace what is taught in school, I was taught to challenge it.

Even though you can’t describe a time when applying what was “effective” had the desired effect, you will continue to believe that is your job because that is what you were taught. When we believe things we can’t support with experience or reason, we “just believe” them, anyway.

In this case, though, the results are disastrous for the improvement of education. Because 99% of teachers “just believe” what is not true — that teaching is an applied social science — schools have not improved over the last 50 years. If you believe they have improved, describe how they are improved and describe the social science findings that were applied to achieve that improvement.

BTW — when you had classes with education professors, did they describe the research findings they were applying? Did you ever wonder why they didn’t?  Now you know why. I love irony.

Ask a Curmudgeon #1

Grandpa, you are an old teacher.  Why do old teachers reject new ideas?


Most new ideas in education are old ideas with new names.  Old teachers want progress, not the ideas that did not work 20 years ago. Young teachers like these ideas because they did not experience their failure 20 years ago. In other words, they cannot be 55 when they are 35.

Kick-off for “Ask a Curmudgeon”

As a parent of teenagers, I eventually realized it was futile to want them to act like 25-year-olds. I now remind middle and high school teachers that their students can’t be 25, when they are 15. Furthermore, I remind myself that my graduate students can’t be 55, when they are 35.

Fifty-year-old teachers have a perspective that 35-year-olds don’t. In these blogs I answer a grandson’s questions about older teachers. (Although I am not a grandfather, I play one on the internet.)

“Ask a Curmudgeon” to get a perspective you can’t get from young teachers. Two examples follow.

Philosophy “matters” more than curriculum

The title of the Education Week blog, “Curriculum Matters,” is a play on the two meanings of “matters.” It addresses all kinds of curriculum issues (matters); and because curriculum influences everything in the school, it “matters” above all else.

That is why blogger Catherine Gewertz described how principals are being brought up-to-date on the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum.

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Generous fifth graders

From Jessica Revilla, Glen Alpine Elementary School, Burke County, NC

In my classroom this semester I have been able to see my students be extremely generous. This school year my students have faced many difficult times in their lives. Since August, in my classroom alone, we have been faced with 5 divorces, 2 deaths (one father and one sister), and 4 family members with cancer currently. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of generosity that students have shared with one another due to the strain they are all faced with each day.

My students have brought in money to support one another and made so many sympathy cards that I lost count. They have shared their personal struggles with one another and not felt intimidated by the issues they are faced with. Each school day I speak to my students about how we should always be generous with one another and how that does not always mean giving gifts, it can simply mean giving kind words to one another as often as we can. I hope that my students can gain something positive from the struggles that they have been faced with and learn how we can ultimately give so much of ourselves to one another when our thought and kind words are needed the most.

The truth is that I feel that I have been impacted the most by their willingness to give so much to one another. All adults could learn from this and all adults should be doing the same. I want to continue to be the best role model of generosity and many other character, my students have seen, but I am humbled and astounded by the way they have been so willing to step up and take on some of the burden that their classmates are enduring. I know that these situations will last a lifetime for my student and me; I hope they will continue to impact one another in such a positive manner. I am thankful to be a part of such wonderful young people. Their generosity has taught me so many things.


Book Purpose & Summary

The primary purpose of The Six Virtues of the Educated Person (TSVOTEP) is to start a philosophical discussion about what it means to be educated. The book describes the definition promoted among today’s policymakers (achieving high standardized test scores); and then it argues for a definition that is rooted in philosophy instead of politics.

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It’s simple — just teach the 6 virtues!

Scholarly Crap:

Here is another recommendation for what we should teach in public schools, complete with complicated qualifications:

From the article:

So, instead of defining high school success solely in terms of mastering a common, college-preparatory curriculum, we should develop a broader and more individualized measure of high school success where students achieve a sense of competency by demonstrating mastery in an area that most interests them—whether it is math, physics, cooking, mechanics, or sports—while achieving acceptable proficiency in core academic areas.

Educators should teach young people “math, physics, cooking, mechanics, or sports” and core academics.  Is this a new idea?  How many of these do we pump out each year?  How is that working?

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We need anti-bullying curricula?

Bully Prevention Crap:

The Education Week email said:

Advocacy groups have designated October as National Bullying Prevention Month, and education organizations from across the country are getting involved by disseminating information and promoting anti-bullying curricula.

I wrote about this before, but it is National Bullying Prevention Month, so I will write about it again.

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Instead of 6 virtues, we teach what?

The previous blog described the belief that our definition of “educated” should always be open to democratic debate.  Where has that belief led us?  Here are examples from the Education Week article, “State Lawmakers Make Curricular Demands of Schools.”

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