Monday, October 09, 2006


I picked up Norms and Nobility, by David Hicks, this morning. I was looking for some specific information. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for but I did read the last quarter of the book or so and was struck again by his view of education. I underlined several quotes and thought I would post them here. They are more for me but I hope that they encourage and challenge someone else as well.

Starting at ch. 10:

(p. 127) "Cardinal Newman's description of liberal education remains, to this day, unimpeachable: that which teaches the student 'to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility.'"

This is becoming more and more important in our world. How many "careers" will the average person have now, according to the prognosticators? Definitely more than one. Training our children to be able to do one job will not prepare them for life. Teaching them to think and to be humble will prepare them for any position. It also teaches them wisdom and discernment in knowing what to choose as the possibilities seem endless sometimes.

(p. 127) "Before he is 18, no one has time to do more than a few things well; therefore better to teach a few subjects thoroughly than to force a child to be a mediocrity in many subjects, destroying his standards, obscuring the nature of mastery, and concealing the measure of his ignorance."

(p. 129) "Only the careless and unskilled teacher answers questions before they are asked. The teacher's chief task is to provoke the question, not to answer it; to cultivate in his students an active curiosity, not to inundate them in factual information."

Ouch. Although I would like to know more about how to accomplish this.

(p. 129) "What students can most hope to learn from a good teacher is how to approach a new subject with the aim of mastering it."

(p. 129) "Much learning is misspent because it is not placed within a thoughtfully structured pattern."

This is something I would love to discuss with other teachers.

(p. 143) "The study of algebra naturally depends upon the student's mastery of arithmetic, and it is grounded on one fundamental assumption: that an understanding of mathematical principles and of the reasoning behind each step in the solution of problems is infinitely more important than the ability to assign correct answers to problems."

(p. 143) "The study of mathematics, the ancients believed, reinforces the mind's power of concentration, memory, and logical process."

(p. 144) "[The discipline of mathematics] is a habit of mind subjugating the young person's natural inclination toward intellectual sloth and self-centeredness; it teaches him to delight in making the scholarly discoveries that usually attend an organized search. It stands as a mighty bulwark against the heretical and preposterous notion that there can be sound learning with concentration, memory, and logical process. The modern attempt to introduce mathematics in a school environment that plays down these three powers of mind not only seems to validate the criticism of mathematics as a useless mental discipline, but it subverts the scholarly habits essential to a student's enjoyment and success in the study of numbers. Where these habits are ignored, an early flowering can only be bought at the price of shallow roots."

I found this section on mathematics fascinating. It was also reassuring that we are on the right track - that requiring a higher standard is worth it and getting through the grumpy "why do I have to do this?" is something to be desired. I plan to share these quotes with my 14 year old son - maybe understanding "why" will help with accomplishing the task, even when it's hard.

Those are most of my quotes. I will be mulling them over this week - I hope it's given some of you something to think about.


Anonymous said...

Juanita, you have just added (yet another) book to my "need to have" list.

I have wanted to read this for a while. I appreciate the math comments. I have two math-oriented kids, so those comments were interesting.

Dee.. said...

Excellent quotes! Thanks for sharing them here.