Regarding schools that work

Schools that work are rooted in the natural principles explained by Mortimer Adler and the Paideia Group in their three books. The application of these principles is what we need to turn our failing schools into schools that work.

First, in schools that work the curriculum follows three natural principles: integrity, coordination and harmony.

All three of these principles are violated in the modern school. This was explained in a previous letter.

Second, in the school that works, teaching is appropriately matched with the kind of learning that is purposed. Knowledge is taught by lectures, skills by coaching, and understanding by Socratic dialogue.

Graduates of teacher education programs know little to nothing about the art of coaching or the Socratic dialogue. Elementary teachers are coaches 90 percent of the time because their primary job is to teach skills.

Secondary teachers primarily teach knowledge and understanding. The tools of their trade are lecture or Socratic dialogue.

Since teacher education programs do not teach students to be masters of coaching or Socratic dialogue, matching the kind of teaching with the kind of learning is not possible. It is like trying to chop down a tree with a hammer.

Clearly, the curriculum is out of order and teaching is out of order.

Third, in schools that work the dignity of labor and the dignity of person are respected. This concept was explained in a previous letter.

Fourth, schools that work are constructed to properly accommodate the teaching and learning process.

The kind of learning determines the kind of teaching. This determines the number of students in a class, the size of the room, the kind of furniture and the arrangement of the furniture.

Schools that fail do not follow these natural principles of teaching and learning. Failed schools fail on all four main points: The curriculum lacks integrity, coordination and harmony; teaching is not appropriately matched with learning; the dignity of the teacher and the profession are not respected; and school buildings are not constructed for teaching or learning.

The state board of education, the state superintendent and teacher education programs must be held accountable for our failed schools.

Lewis Rutherford



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