The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Teenage Problems

In "What's wrong with the teenage mind?" researcher Alison Gopnik points out the essential "problem" of adolescence: teenagers are developmentally and motivationally ready and able to work, to engage with the real world, but we no longer make that possible for the most part.

Instead we warehouse them in endless classes where they must sit still and listen to adults tell them what to do and think. And our civilization is so rich that many don't have a real need to work, undermining their self-motivation to do so.  Also, parents feel they must buy their children what they want, disincentivizing them to work as well.

Having recognized these deep needs of the adolescent almost a century ago, Montessori argued that adolescents should learn their academic subjects while being in charge of the crops, animals, buildings, and living needs of a farm. She knew that responsibility for the lives of plants and animals would motivate them to get out of bed in the morning. That helping things grow would make adolescents feel competent and valuable. That these experiences would prepare them for full, self-responsible adulthood, while teaching valuable practical skills such as carpentry, cooking, marketing of goods produced on the farm, self-organization and time-management.

And we can see all these benefits in the Montessori farm programs around the country, such as the Hershey Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, OH.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best Business Education

"The best way that business faculty (i.e,. academics who often have minimal business experience themselves) can utilize their intellectual capital is to have students read classic business writings (e.g., Smith, Keynes, and Friedman) and wrestle with difficult questions that cannot be answered with multiple-choice bubbles. For example, addressing the classic question, “Is the social responsibility of a business to earn a profit?” would give young adults practice in tackling future abstract challenges in the workplace. The real world has more than four answer choices, and there is no answer key. "

This is from John W. Pope Center's Jason Fertig lucid article about business education - and he harkens back to a 1959 book, Higher Education for Business by Robert Gordon and James Howell, a lengthy study sponsored by the Ford Foundation, in which they say:

"When ranking academic performance across disciplines, business students are near the bottom…Too many students seek a business degree for economic vis-à-vis educational gain…Classes in business schools are too vocational…Business students need a sound grounding in liberal arts, not training for their first job."

I couldn't agree more with both Fertig and Gordon and Howell. How ironic, that this was their concern in 1959 - and it's still a problem today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Evidence on Math Gap Between Genders

Read the new study available at the Notices of the American Mathematical Society on the mathematical ability gap between boys and girls. Researchers Kane and Mertz find it's much smaller than imagined, and examine various theories about it.

In Montessori we've found that girls can do just as well as boys at mathematics, using our hundreds of mathematics materials, but most girls seem to need to use the materials longer than the boys. We start all children out using materials as three year olds and introduce them to more and more advanced mathematics materials up through middle school.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No Child Left Behind Leaves the Talented Behind

City Journal writer Sol Stern explains how No Child Left Behind has caused talented students to do worse, and contributed to the decline of high-achieving math, science, and engineering American students.

scientific innovation has generated as much as half of all U.S. economic growth over the past half-century, on some accounts....[but] bachelor’s degrees in engineering granted to Americans peaked in 1985 and are now 23 percent below that level.” 

One of my favorite quotes, because these regulations make me furious: "Among the worst regulations is the prohibition against hiring instructors who, though they may have advanced science or math degrees, lack the useless graduate-level education courses needed to qualify for a state teaching license. "