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A Big Tent--And More!

Posted By: Dick Schutz on January 24, 2003
Premising the architecture on "learning to use the tools that humanity has found indispensable" provides broad latitude for addressing such matters as Alan and practically everyone value. What Royce's definition does specify, however, is "tools" (i.e. functional enablements) rather than verbal rhetoric. The definition provides a big tent, but importantly it's an operational tent rather than empty mouthwash.

It seems to me that "enjoyment" and "appreciation" are most productively viewed instructionally as sought-for derivatives of instructional accomplishments rather than as accomplishments to be sought per se. Much of what goes as "literature" "music" (and so on) appreciation instruction is a turn-off rather than a turn-on for many kids. It's tough to appreciate literature if you haven't been taught to read. And though it doesn't take much to appreciate rap "music," extending the boundaries of appreciation, let alone performance, entails instruction.

The architecture makes provision for all sorts of "big tent" options as TeraBasics. For example, within the current state of the art it's feasible to teach kids such "social" skills as how to negotiate, how to make a logical argument, how to make a persuasive presentation, the art of advertising, presenting and detecting propaganda, and on and on. That's just one aspect of "getting along" but other aspects can feasibly be fleshed out. "Tera" is an overstatement, but there are indeed many instructional options to enable a kid to say, "I can do that!"

The general public doesn't demand much of the schools. "Persons on the street" (and professionals too) take "babysitting" for granted. After that it's: Teach them to read, write as coherently as they talk, and perform arithmetic operations. If you ask if they'd like "more" of about anything else in addition--not in lieu of this--they'll say, Sure, why not.

Ironically, the schools are not now reliably delivering on any of the "easy" demands. It's not for lack of "trying." For example, more than 90% of K teachers in the NCS Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Class of 1998-99 (That's a mouthful but it's a gold mine of information to help answer the President's question, "What is our children learning." It's just too bad that neither the President nor anyone else looked at the findings before crafting and now implementing the NCLB legislation) reported that they taught Reading of some form every day. Yet the only thing kids are reliably learning is the names of the letters of the alphabet. While letter names are useful in talking about reading, and letter order is prerequisite to alphabetizing, in teaching beginning reading, "It's the sounds, not the names, stupid."

After Kindergarten the results from time devoted to Reading get progressively worse, and leave less time for, let alone attention to, any other instructional efforts. I see no way of undoing this mess, NCLB not withstanding, within the age/grade x subjects matrix. But it's a "piece of cake" in the remodeled structure.

I concur with Nicky's point that group activities don't require the age/grade x subjects logic (and in fact the traditional structure often impedes such activities).

And I understand and have some empathy for the frustration reflected in TM's remarks.

Dick Schutz
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 Remodeling Schooling by Alan Davis on January 22, 2003
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