Friday, July 25, 2014

So, a curriculum? What does Mrs. Krabappel think? (School Education)

 "The curriculum which should give children their due falls into some six or eight groups--Religion, Philosophy (?) (question mark is hers), History, Languages, Mathematics, Science, Art, Physical Exercises, and Manual Crafts." ~~ Charlotte Mason, School Education (1903)
This seems like kind of a funny list, or at least one that has some strange gaps in it, especially after all Charlotte's talk about education based on books.  Where are Literature, Writing, Grammar, Geography, and so on?   They're in there--these are just broad headings.

Bible, is, obviously, Bible; but it's not clear what she meant just here by Philosophy (with the question mark), since there isn't any discussion of it.  History, in this era, included Plutarch.Under Language she mentions English grammar and literature, although if you look in the included sample programme, literature selections for the term are included under history.  She then discusses "Practical Instruction," with comments on Science (meaning mostly natural history, and that includes the books they were reading in that area); and finally Drawing and Picture Talks.

But if you really want to know what they were doing in the different subjects, at all the different levels, you have to read the Appendices.  The specific subjects for Form or Class III are Bible Lessons and Recitations (Poetry and Bible passages); English Grammar, French, German, and Latin; Italian (optional) English, French, and Ancient History (Plutarch's Lives); Singing (French, English and German); Writing, Dictation, Drill; Drawing in Brush and Charcoal; Natural History (included a book on animals), Botany (practical work and readings from two or three books on plants), Physiology (one book), Geography; Arithmetic; Geometry, and Reading (books from Geography, English history, French history, and "tales" (not explained here)). Literature, including Scott's poems in this term, is included under History, but the examination question seems to expect knowledge of Scott's novels, and it isn't clear how this was to be covered. Composition is not taught as a subject, because "no considerable writer was ever taught the art of 'composition.'"  "Writing" meant copywork.  "Dictation" was given from a book not scheduled elsewhere, Growth and Greatness of our World-wide Empire.  There are some "work" (craft) suggestions at the end of the programme.

And if you're at all familiar with Charlotte Mason's methods, you can fill in a lot of what is not specifically listed there--narration, nature notebooks and so on.

Actually, what we do ourselves isn't too far off from that, if you subtract the multiple languages and Drill.  But I'm trying not so much to compare this to our own family's middle school work as to think about how that would fit into one of those overblown government curriculum descriptions, or with certain other conceptions of education.  Assume that we have up-to-date, excellent books in all those areas, so we are hypothetically eliminating the problem of "Victorian books."  Who can you imagine objecting?
My thought is that the educational establishment we have in North America would take a long time to accept a term programme that simply says, for Physiology, "Read and narrate this book."

It doesn't seem like enough work for the teacher; it sounds like Mrs. Krabappel gets to put her feet up even more than she already does. It doesn't provide enough work for the curriculum writers and packagers.  It's not specific or extensive enough.  There aren't enough reproducibles. There isn't enough accountability.

But what if they did?  What if they tried it?  What if the confused kid in Bart's class actually learned something?
In the end it isn't about teaching, teachers, administrators, or textbook committees.  It's about learning. It's about the students.
Theodore shouted, 'Hey, Mrs. Collins, that's cool.  Everything links into something else, doesn't it?'  Marva beamed.  'Now you've got it.  Every scholar, every writer, every thinker learned from those who came before.  You are all becoming so erudite, we are going to have to dub you MGM--'Mentally Gifted Minors.'" ~~ Marva Collins' Way

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