The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"All your kids are belong to us"

If you doubt my writings about the progressive attempts to instill collectivism in children through education, read this thoughtful piece by Freeman Editor of Content, Max Borders. He examines a direct call to the idea that "We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities."

(And if you wonder what the goofy title of this post refers to, go here.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bureaucracy Trumps Brilliance

A Wyoming teen, Conrad Farnsworth, built a working fusion reactor in his garage for science fair competitions. He was disqualified - for entering too many competitions.

Education today.

Hattip Mark Sulkowski.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dedicated teacher's commentary on current policies - and resignation

This teacher, from wealthy Highland Park, IL, hits the nail on the head with current educational practices. "Even hatching chicks in kindergarten is prohibited," so that money can be spent on standardized testing.

Individual students, their real learning and needs, don't matter. Hear her explain why.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

How does a professor connect with 100,000 students?

The Wall Street Journal's article "Web Courses Woo Professors" reports on the game-changing developments going on in higher education, especially as a result of MOOC's: Massive Open Online Courses. 

These are being offered by a multiplicity of schools, including MIT, Harvard, and the University of Illinois, as well as new organizations such as Coursera and Udacity.

The good part of these developments is the inexpensive delivery of massive amounts of knowledge to millions, and the opportunity for classroom teachers to assign lectures - hopefully with the best lecturers - to be watched at a student's leisure, while classroom time is left open for discussion and team problem-solving. 

It's not surprising that college education is going this way: between the ridiculous prices and the lack of individual attention at many, many schools, it's just logical to use these new resources.

But what about the MOOC's themselves, as courses? As one student said "It's hard enough for one professor to connect with 200 students in their own classroom. I'd be worried that one professor trying to connect with 100,000 students would be impossible."

Human beings are complex creatures that need a lot of help growing up. Students want and need more than a knowledge transfer; they want mentoring, guidance, and the kind of detailed interaction possible with in-person learning. These are important elements to becoming free and independent, and successful persons. I only hope these facts don't get lost in the education re-shuffling.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Real Learning

Creativity and learning expert Ken Robinson outlines the conditions necessary for real learning and human flourishing in this talk.

He seems to recognize these features in the Montessori Method, especially insofar as he has spoken at the Alternative Education Resource Organization and sometimes mentions Montessori and has visited at least one Montessori school. He says: "Imagination is the source of every human achievement."

"But what all the high-performing systems in the world do is currently what is not evident, sadly, across the systems in America -- I mean, as a whole. One is this: They individualize teaching and learning. They recognize that it's students who are learning and the system has to engage them, their curiosity, their individuality, and their creativity. That's how you get them to learn."

That's authentic Montessori to a "T"!

Maria Montessori: "Human consciousness comes into the world as a flaming ball of imagination.  Everything invented by man, physical and or mental, is the fruit of someone’s imagination....Our aim is not merely to make a child understand and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination and enthuse him to the core. We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

More textbook bias

Economist James Gwartney explains in "The Public Choice Revolution in the Textbooks" how, once again, crucial ideas are kept out of university textbooks - and public discourse.

In 1986, economist James Buchanan won a Nobel prize in economics for his "groundbreaking work in the development of public choice analysis." Yet he never held a position at an elite school,

Buchanan and co-author Gordon Tullock first explained public choice theory in their 1962 book, The Calculus of Consent. Public choice theory identifies how our democratic political process is affected by political structures and collective decision-making rules. It analyzes how the operation of market processes affect political processes and vice versa.

After many years in the development of this sector of economics, Gwartney found no textbooks on it, so he wrote his own, Economics: Private and Public Choice.  He explained to students: "Economic tools can illustrate why 'good politics' sometimes conflicts with 'good economics' (that is, economic efficiency)." Public choice theory demonstrates that, no matter how good one's intentions, central economic planning does not work. Gwartney's work remains one of the only textbooks on Public Choice Theory.

Yet, despite the Nobel prize and its many applications, Public Choice theory has been neglected by elite schools like the Ivies, The University of California, or Berkeley. Buchanan never held a position at one, and out of 296 public choice scholars at the 2012 international meeting of the Public Choice Society, only 5 presenters were from these elite schools, with only 1 from the economics department!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bubbles Bursting All Over

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that 45% of students at private colleges are now getting significant financial aid, as enrollments have dropped 10-20%. And here's a useful graphic about how schools compare in terms of return on investment.