An education template for breaking down ideologies with
individuality: replacing dogmatism with variety, conservatism with
originality, and monotony with spontaneity.
Note: Original texts released under various Creative Commons - Share-Alike licenses. Remaining texts are in the public domain. All web pages released under Creative Commons 4.0 - SA license.
Site last updated: 14 jan 19
The Class Day
A school day lasts from roughly 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. -- a seven-hour
day that often has six forty-minute classes and a lunch hour. This
schedule leaves little time for any real classwork. The mathematician
Halmos wrote that "we learn mathematics by doing mathematics." We
learn everything else the same way. But after seven mind-numbing
hours in school, who can go home to what is often not a harmonious
home and learn six subjects by doing those subjects for a meaningful time?
It would be better to have six subjects studied: three on Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday, and three on Tuesday and Thursday. Each class
would be ninety minutes long. With a lunch hour, thirty minutes of
taijiquan in the early morning, thirty minutes of meditation in the
final hour, and time to pass between classes, the length of class day
remains the same.
But each class period is expanded. With ninety minutes for a
high school class, one could teach the next new idea for twenty minutes,
spend forty minutes actually doing that thing, and then evaluate the
results for the remainder of the class. This would incorporate more
work than the student could do with homework, while the student is
still fresh enough to do the work. And the evaluation would include
grading, which would relieve the teachers' evenings of that onerous
and generally misconceived activity.
So this is a no-homework template. Students read, write, research,
and do mathematics daily. They build up their capacity for such work
over the four years of the curriculum. And by evaluating that effort
in each class period, they learn the value of real evaluation and remove
the onus of grading from the teacher.
A brief note on taijiquan and zuowang meditation. Many people have
airy-fairy, "spiritual but not religious" ideas about both of these
activities. Taijiquan is, in fact, a physical activity. Its practice
is two long-forms a day forever. If it has a spiritual component, I am
unaware of it. It has many physical and mental short- and long-term
benefits, one of these being that it in no way lends itself to
violence. You can't go all Shaolin on anyone until you have so many
years of life-altering practice behind you that violence has long been
left behind. Similar things can be said of Sitting-Forgetting, or
zuowang, meditation. You learn how to be quiet and alert, without
falling into your mind or into your body. If there is more to zuowang
than quiet alertness, again, I am unaware of it. Both of these give
us a measure of dominion over our physical and mental life. I would
claim that everyone needs such dominion.
You must, first of all, make sure that you have a mind: and to be sure
of that is to see that the mind is the necessary outcome of a course
-- W. Wallace in his preface to Hegel's Logic
Students are not children. They are not homogeneous. They cannot
be "taught at." Gertrude Stein said that, infancy and senility apart, we are
always and forever young men and women. Young men and women are
individuals. They can be shown how to learn -- if the teacher knows how
to learn. Learning is the only thing that should or can be taught.
One has to learn how to take different subjects or arts into the mind.
How to take notes that are adequate. How to discern what is important.
How to come to an understanding of different arts and different kinds of
knowledge. How to research. How to develop original thought. How to be
comfortable in one's own skin. How to maintain one's own growing understanding
in the face of opposition.
Every student is capable of learning these things on his or her own terms.
While every individual consciousness is different, no individual consciousness
is deficient. In every subject, the entire process of acquiring new ideas,
exercising the expression of those ideas, and learning to evaluate one's own
work is well within the means of every mind.
The Subjects of Study
In every subject, texts are chosen that can support a long and slow
development of thought. They must be fully covered by the students' efforts
in the classroom. And beyond this, there must be time and energy left for
expanding everyone's understanding.
The only purpose here of mathematics is to develop the mind. The truth-ground
of mathematics is pure geometry where the subject matter is reduced to ideal forms.
No one can argue about a triangle. One can only learn the relations of a triangle
and its elements. In pure geometry, one develops the ability to justify conclusions
with adequate premises, to create adequate premises in order to reach a goal,
to discern what is important and relevant to the question at hand.
The slight weighting of this template's curricula towards mathematics was
chosen to restore the development of the mind and the ability to understand the
meaning that can exist in abstract thought. It should also allow the student
to test out of two to four semesters of university mathematics.
History is generally a catechism of cultural dogma. You can pick your dogma
but the history is mainly a vehicle for some chosen agenda. It does you no good
to know what happened unless you know not only the context of what happened
but the context of the person telling you what happened. The study of history
includes the styles of its telling, the sources and biases of its creation, and the
underlying assumptions and ideologies of its tellers.
The result of real historical study is not a big bag of factoids. History should
teach you how to evaluate both the past and the present. How to recognize
the overarching arcs within peoples and nations. How to question and verify
your sources. How to discern biases in someone's writing. How to appreciate
honesty and sound judgment even when you disagree with some aspects of the
writer's thought. History teaches us to honestly and intelligently judge our
own context in the world.
Even to me, in many ways, "philosophy" seems a dead word. But "thought"
is vital. Where philosophy is often a system, thought is the expression of
individuality. One begins with: how do we learn to think about and discuss thought?
Then, how have other real individuals thought? How practical and how fruitful has
their thought been? How does one develop an original line of thought?
The goals in studying actual philosophy, the critical thinking of individuals, are
to establish a basis for examining thought, to develop a judgment of
the results of individual thought, and then to exercise one's own individual thought.
The texts are chosen to provide that basis and to give examples of extremely individual thought that in each case has shown itself to be enduring. And each reveals
a method that can be used as a starting point for one's own expression.
Reading, writing, spelling, and grammar are learned by exposure as much as by doing.
What is usually thought of as "English study" is here brought together under the study
of the long narrative. And long narrative is best understood by realizing its form.
The anime and Chinese televised novel allow this form to be examined at length.
Every element of the long narrative is present in these visual works and is better
realized than in most novels written since World War II.
Once the basic form and its elements are in the students' minds, these concepts
can be expanded and more and more deeply evaluated. Enough understanding
should be present after the second year to allow the student to develop his or her
own long narrative in the second two years.
Humanity, as conceived here, is the study of an individual, that individual's context,
and his or her life's work. It is the further study of history, the study of biography,
and a study of the different works created by these individuals. It is an opportunity
for research and for imitation. Because the texts are spread across an entire year,
it is also an opportunity for memorization, for speaking comfortably in front of other
people, and for some measure of creative work.
Coming to understand someone's life to this extent teaches how to judge
accomplishment. It shows how flawed and peculiar people who are truly creative
and individual can be. It gives a more realistic sense to how one's own life fits
into the picture of a life that has enduring accomplishments.
Remarks on What Is Not Here5>
Given the current state of high school education, universities cannot
assume any real level of scientific knowledge in the United States (compare
German gymnasium results). This means that all university science courses
begin at ground zero. Under this template, students will be more than
prepared for entry-level physics and engineering and well-trained for acquiring
any other discipline such as biology or chemistry.
Explicit English Courses
Consider that first-tier law firms conduct writing classes
because high school, college, and law school fail to produce
graduates who can write clearly and grammatically. Students in this
template will read, write, and research every day and produce, in addition, a full-length
Acquisition of all languages requires two phases: acquisition of the core and
expansion of vocabulary, grammar, and idiom. The core consists of roughly
1200 words and their basic grammar. This core is two thirds of the language
by volume or two thirds of the average printed page in that language. Using
a three-box set of Pimsleur or similar, a core can be acquired in less than three
months if the student has the learning skills. This template provides those
skills and leaves choice of language, if any, to the students' self-development.
Examples of Study
This is a sketch of the first year's curricula.
Texts: Everymind's Pre-Euclid - Everymind's Euclid I - II
The first semester is used to load the fundamental ideas of Book I of
Euclid's Elements into the mind of the student and also to familiarize the student
with the geometric notation. This is largely an effort of imagination and
reasoning without any effort at rigor or proofs. One learns how to judge the
correctness of one's work based upon clarity of thought and adherence to definitions.
Euclid Book I is the foundation of almost all of Euclid or, as he was known
to his friends, Triangle Boy. The first book develops the ability to solve problems
and to correctly support the result based upon prior truths. Euclid Book II opens
the door both to algebra and to the algebraic form of number.
Texts: Elements of Arithmetic - Problems in Lower Mathematics
Between mathematics texts written by piecemeal contractors and the accepted
use of calculators, students arrive in high school with almost no skills and certainly
no understanding. The first year in this course sets out to remedy this deficiency.
By combining De Morgan's book -- which includes a deeper arithmetic that is usually
taught, elements of basic algebra, and in-roads into combinatorics and number theory --
with Finkel's old-school text, students learn to grasp and grapple with number in
the raw, which is the only way understanding is achieved. Exactness and precision
are also introduced. And nowhere is a calculator to be seen.
Texts: The First Twelve Centuries - The Normans
The first year introduces the voices of historians, their biases, strengths,
and weaknesses. The first text is a means of showing how to intelligently
study history, how to take notes, how to follow themes and developments.
The second, shorter text supplies a contrast in approach and leaves ample time
for comparison and deeper analyses of what was brought out in the study
of the first text.
Texts: Logic - How We Think
The first year establishes both an approach to and a vocabulary for
the study of thought. Kant's Logic is, for the most part, exactly this and is
used to create a beginning dictionary of terms kept by each student. The
shortness of the book gives time for developing these ideas. The second
text is Dewey's book for educators, giving his view of how the minds of
their students work. This should give plenty of opportunity for original
criticism and response.
Texts: Full-Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Seven Swords Descend Mt. Heaven
The anime and television long narratives allow for thorough study in the
classroom of all the elements that go into a long narrative: plot development,
character arc and interaction, subplots, themes, and subthemes, efforts to
directly impact the emotion of the audience, use of humor and of violence,
misdirection, character and caricature.
Texts: Blake's Poems - Gardner's Blake
The two texts are studied together and combined with student research
to create as complete a picture as possible of Blake and his times. The writing
of poetry -- original, imitative, parody, and otherwise -- is explored. Speaking in front
of others is developed. Blake's other arts and thought are explored.
Long-term Approach to Study
A sketch of what could be accomplished across four years.
The primal roots of mathematics are arithmetic and pure geometry.
In the rush to the Calculus which began in the 1950s, these have been
consistently and progressively neglected. Beyond the mathematical, engineering,
and scientific uses of math, this discipline teaches the practical use of
abstract thought, allowing anything quantitative to be modelled in a progressively
more accurate way. And by analogy, this skill can be expanded into other arts.
Across four years, the student would acquire a foundation beyond that which
is usual for those entering graduate school. And this foundation would be based
on an understanding practically established by experience. Given the progression
of courses, the student's understanding of the Calculus would certainly exceed
what is acquired in American undergraduate Calculus. Everything that basic Differential
and Integral Calculus rests upon would be firmly established in the student's
thought. And this is simply the standard of many of the world's academic high schools.
Through the history curricula alone, the student would gain an understanding
of how history is portrayed to us as well as some understanding of early
European and Renaissance history. This would be done through constant in-class
reading and online research. But the remainder of the history courses would necessitate
the acquisition of much more recent European and American history through the same continuous research, which would be required to flesh out an understanding
of the worlds of Dumas, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Thoreau, Goethe, and others. Further,
this would require an understanding of geography, politics, and other elements that
influence an individual's world.
While system-building philosophy is arguably useless, critical philosophy is
the fountain of humanity's increasing ability to think clearly. For instance, while
it is possible to criticize Kant in retrospect, we take for granted the improvements of thought his work imposed upon everyone's consciousness.
The student would have a basis for examining and judging original critical thought.
Further, the student would have experience in developing and judging his or her own
original thought. Just as no individual consciousness is deficient, no individual
is excluded from originality.
The ever-increasing pursuit of binge-watching belies the belief that high school
students should study only simple, short narratives. Students would learn the elements
that succeed or fail in long narrative forms, beginning with the fifty- to
sixty-episode video narratives.
The remaining five novels would build up this understanding.
And the creation of one's own novel-length (100k words) long narrative
would practically inform
the student's understanding of the narrative art. This would add three hundred pages
of "English" composition and grammar to their experience. Should this appear to be
a high expectation for two years of work, consider that at just over three pages per
day, one can write a novel's first draft in three months. This gives an opportunity
to learn that one should not belabor one's work.
The study of these four extraordinary individuals allows for an expansion
into many facets of human personality, history, life experience, and anything
else that can be brought to bear on understanding creative lives. The real
goal of approaching humanity in this way is to give a broad sense of the
individual's place in the world and the impact of context on the individual's life.
This template requires one teacher for every twenty to thirty students.
Each teacher would see those students through the entire four years of the
curricula. This clearly goes against the current idea of teacher accreditation.
But in one state that I am aware of, the test for becoming a teacher not long
ago was the SAT, which apparently ensured that teachers had not forgotten
what they learned in high school. But this template is based upon what a mature,
independent, and intellectual person could do. Such a person would be free of
ideologies and the culture of fear, both in their outlook on the world and in their
personal life. This freedom naturally manifests itself physically, mentally, and socially.
And any such person could quickly discern whether someone who wished
to teach within such a template was capable or not. Such a person would need
no "education" preparation. What they would need would be maturity, judgment,
and a demonstrable inner drive to learn. Such a drive manifests itself in the world
in some fashion and would provide evidence of the person's capabilities.
And there are plenty of individuals who, in spite of all obstacles,
spend their lives learning. This knowledge of how an individual learns is most of
the requirement for a teacher under this template. If your life shows how to learn,
others can learn the art of learning from you.
A school under this template would necessarily have to start small, probably
with twenty to thirty students and one or two teachers. It would require a community
that desired to have such a school operating. One must realize that this is not
a template for priviledge. It would function in an inner city or the countryside
as well as in a gated community.
A community desiring such a school would
need to support the template with its school district: supplying administrative
support, making accommodations for adjusting the requirements of certification,
covering staff under the existing health insurance, and so forth. I am aware of
school districts so desperate for teachers that they supply housing, utilities, and
groceries. These could be supplied here through community provision and make
a modest salary competitive with higher ones that have no such benefits.
A place for such a template need not be inside current facilities and would possibly
best be smaller buildings such as the empty houses and businesses that
are everywhere present in these times. Teachers and students could maintain
these structures for the most part, requiring only modest assistance from the
local school district's staff.
Of course, such a school could exist outside the school system and still be
supported by a community that saw its value. I have known graduate students
who skipped high school, passed the GED, and went on to university. My own
daughter replaced half of her high school experience with on-line courses
from a university, passed the GED, went to a private liberal arts college,
and now manages one of the two or three
best restaurants in the state she resides in. The key to realizing this template
is simply community support in some sense.
A school under this template would necessarily be judged by its results.
And these results would justify support from beyond the local level to county
and state levels and eventual national acceptance. The praxis of this template
would give students a deeper and broader education than almost any currently
provided at any cost. It would allow teachers to work normal work hours and
leave school concerns behind at end of day. It would provide the students with
more personal attention than is possible under the current teaching methods
and environment. It would offer right work for mature and intelligent
individuals who, natural learners in themselves, already desire to share that
learning and to share it more as method than as a commodity product.
It is my intention to form such a school as I have described above
if by no other means than an attempt at crowd-funding. If you
would be interested in teaching at a place like
this or in helping in some way to create a place like this, my email
is at the top of the contact page.
-- R. Earle Harris