Thursday, September 29, 2016

This Week's Revolution in Education

This essay will be most meaningful, I imagine, to those who toil in the groves of Academe. Laymen may be unaware of the tremendous strides made with remarkable regularity in secondary education. One of the latest is the idea of "blended classes," which means classes that meet only twice a week or so. Students are expected to do much of the course work on their own. I do not see why this tremendous notion--that students learn as much by meeting with their teachers only occasionally--cannot be pushed to its logical conclusion; hence this article.

NeverNeverLand Academy announces an addition to its many centers with the inauguration of the NO CLASSES AT ALL CENTER of PERFECTION (NCAACoP, pronounced “Baloney”).

This latest innovative, imaginative, ground-breaking, awe-inspiring, state-of-the-art, cutting-edge golly-gee gobsmacking it’s-so-brilliant-I-can’t-stand-it brainstorm of our Headmaster, Mr. Dick Pebble, a man already trumpeted throughout the nation—the continent—the world—indeed the entire cosmos—as the most brilliant pedagogical innovator since the people who said that filmstrips would change the face of education forever, involves the notion that in throwing out the bathwater you may as well toss the baby as well.

We know beyond argument that the traditional method used by high schools, “teaching classes,” is hopelessly obsolete. Expecting young people, in our frenetic age, to accustom themselves to punctuality, regularity, and listening, is obviously an anachronism, as of course is thinking that a “teacher” can actually get someone to “learn” something. Indeed, most of this traditional “learning” is mere accumulation of valueless “facts”. When all facts are easily available on Wikipedia and other websites, what possible point could there be in forcing young people to “master” such trivialities as punctuation, the grammar of foreign languages (or of English, for that matter), chemical formulas, abstruse mathematical concepts, or silly historical trifles such as whether the Civil War preceded or followed World War I?

Instead of forcing these young folks to go to “classes” where “teachers” dominate the room and use their decades of experience to instruct them, should we not allow “students” to organize their own schedules and pursue their passions? Who is to say that an intense interest in the welfare of whales or developing an app should not take predominance over Spanish verb forms?

Therefore, NeverNeverLand Academy has abolished all classes. Our Baloney Center will allow our young clients to do all their work “online” at whatever times they wish. Also, they will all serve as interns in local businesses (where they will be a useful source of unpaid labor in the least desirable activities). And they will all complete a Major Project, under the genial supervision of somebody, which will enable them to demonstrate poor grammar, inarticulateness, and the lack of basic knowledge they would have learned in traditional classes. They will also, of course, still practice their sports several hours each day.

There are a few trifling points yet to be worked out. The mighty brain of our Headmaster just scintillates with a myriad of brilliant innovations; you can’t expect every detail to be filled in until the Baloney Center actually starts to operate. Do not worry. Shortcomings will be covered up so cleverly that no one will know, or at least no one will admit, that they exist. Those “teachers” involved in the Center will tacitly understand that they are to lower standards, inflate grades, and generally ‘curate’ (i.e. reduce) content so everything seems to be working just fine.


Parents whose children are here primarily to take part in our grotesquely huge athletic development programs may rest assured that none of this innovative stuff will affect any sports teams. Athletes will continue to punctually attend daily exhausting practices under the watchful eye of autocratic coaches whose slightest word is law, and woe betide any kid who shows up a second late. (Indeed, since students will no longer have any mandatory commitments to attend classes, our enormous coaching staff will doubtless be able to schedule even more practices than before.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Education for the New Century

This little item will probably mean more to teachers at highly 'progressive' schools than to laymen.

A reminder: 1517 was the year that Martin Luther nailed up those 95 Theses. 
Siena Superior Merit School
                                                  Siena, Italy

                                   Prospectus for the Year 1517

Parents and students who wish to embrace the future and who realize that the traditional dull, stultifying rote learning of the Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy) do not prepare young people for the exciting world of the future should consider enrollment in Italy’s most innovative and creative educational institution, the Siena Superior Merit School.

At Siena, we strive to equip our scholars with SIXTEENTH CENTURY SKILLS, the skills they will need to succeed in the exciting modern era of the new century, a century that is so different from all preceding centuries that entirely novel educational methods are required.

We have instituted CENTRI DI ECCELLENZA (CdEs) to allow students to pursue their passions in areas of great importance for this dynamic new century:
ü The ASTROLOGY CdE:  Advances in the highest celestial art make traditional astronomical studies all but obsolete. As sure knowledge of this science progresses, those who grasp it fully are assured of profitable employment. Why study the past when you can predict the future?

ü The ALCHEMICAL CdE:  What young man would not thrill to the exciting pursuit of the Philosopher’s Stone? Turn lead into gold! Experiments in our newly-completed, ultra-modern facility  (a gift from an alumnus most successful in the manufacture of gunpowder), will not be without some danger, but the survivors graduates of this CdE will be fully equipped to lead the way in further advances in Alchemy, the Science of the Future.

ü The THEOLOGY CdE:  Those students whose passion is for truth and certainty will surely thrill to the careful exegesis of sacred texts and close study of Canon Law. What can be more certain than that, as the Holy Catholic Church enters its 1,500th year of existence, its eternal truths assure its unchallengeable domination of our continent, and eventually the world? We plan to open a branch school in Wittenberg, Germany, under the direction of Father Johann Tetzel, Europe’s foremost expert on indulgences.
We have also instituted CLASSI MISCELATI (“Classes that are Blended”) to give students adequate time to pursue their passions. These classes meet just twice per week. By a magical process that has to be experienced to be understood, students will learn just as much as before, even though they meet 60% less than before, in those rather obsolescent areas—such as Italian, History, and Foreign Languages—that are really no longer as relevant in the dynamic Sixteenth Century as they were in the benighted twenty centuries that preceeded our new, exciting age. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Writing Across the Curriculum

At the start of each school year the Administration of most schools announces some great innovation or 'improvement' as the annual obsession. Naturally, this new program will make little work for the people who are mandating it, i.e. administrators, but much work for those expected to implement it, i.e., teachers. One such program is "Writing Across the Curriculum". If this brainstorm is your school's current hobgoblin, academic departments will need a large number of highfalutin expressions for use in various forms, tables, Moodle applications, etc. to assure their masters that they are accomplishing this integration.
Here, for your convenience, is the Writing Across the Curriculum Phrase Finder (WACPhraF). Simply choose one word from Column A or B and one from Column C—or, if an especially impressive effect is needed, one from each column—to get the desired level of pretentiousness. For an interesting random effect, just pick three numbers, e.g. 612, and write down the result. "Extended Comprehensive Discourses" sounds as good as anything, doesn't it?
Type 1/2/3/4/ or 5
You will make a much better impression on the higher reaches of the pedagogical bureaucracy if, instead of saying something as jejune as “students will write essays” or “in the second term, we will practice descriptive writing,” you sonorously declare that “all Physics examinations will make use of Expository Free-form Dissertations” or “Collins Comprehensive Compositions form the basis of instruction in Algebra II.”
Having made the required genuflection to this year’s fetish by larding your required documentation with enough gobbledygook to placate the bees in administrators’ bonnets, you may resume teaching your courses as before.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Chain of Command At Work

This is my rendition of an old military joke. The original may date from Roman times...

The Colonel to the Major: 

At 0900 tomorrow there will be an eclipse of the sun, something that does not happen every day. Parade the men in the company street in fatigues so they will be able to see this rare phenomenon. If it rains we will not be able to see anything, so march the men to the gym.

The Major to the Captain:
By order of the colonel, tomorrow at 0900 there will be an eclipse of the sun in the company street. If it rains, which does not happen every day, we will not be able to see it, so march the men in fatigues to the gym.

 The Captain to the Lieutenant:
By order of the colonel, tomorrow at 0900 the eclipse of the sun will take place in the company street. We will march to the gym if it rains in fatigues, something that does not happen every day.

 The Lieutenant to the Sergeant:
Tomorrow at 0900 in fatigues, the colonel will eclipse the sun in the company street, which does not happen every day. If it rains, march to the gym.

 The Sergeant to the Troops:
Tomorrow at 0900 the eclipse of the colonel in fatigues will take place by cause of the sun. If it rains in the gym, which doesn’t happen every day, march to the company street.

 Comments Among the Privates:
At 0900 tomorrow, if it rains in the gym, it looks as if the sun will march to the company street in fatigues and eclipse the colonel. It’s a shame this doesn’t happen every day.