Sunday, December 30, 2007

Maslow and the Good Society

Educators love Abraham Maslow for his hierarchy of needs. Maslow wrote a book, Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences, that has this line in it:

"Education must be seen as at least partially an effort to produce the good human being, to foster the good life and the good society."

I've said earlier that morality is the root of education, according to Chu Hsi. Maslow in the 20th century echoed what Chu said in the 12th century.

We can learn much about education from the ancient Chinese.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Education and the Arts

Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, delivered this commencement speech at Stanford on June 17, 2007: "Trade easy pleasures for more complex and challenging ones."

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

"What is the defining difference between passive and active citizens? Curiously, it isn't income, geography, or even education. It depends on whether or not they read for pleasure and participate in the arts. These cultural activities seem to awaken a heightened sense of individual awareness and social responsibility."

"Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions."


"Art awakens, enlarges, refines, and restores our humanity."

I highly recommend you read his entire speech. It is relatively short and and very thoughtful. You cannot be interested in education without being interested in culture: both nurture our humanity.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Educational Philosophy

At a political meeting when I ran for school board last year I was asked to describe my educational philosophy in 2 minutes or less. I have a very detailed description of my educational philosophy at my website dedicated to education.

Two minutes? That's just a bullet. I had not thought to boil down my educational philosophy to a bullet or two. What I said extemporaneously at the meeting was, "morality is the root of education." That is a quote from Chu Hsi.

Lately I've thought of elaborating the plant analogy. Confucius said we should study for our own sake, which means to fulfill our potential. I've also thought about the qualities in society that are valued by Confucianism. Here is a fuller bulletized version of my educational philosophy:

Morality is the root of education.
Developing citizens to their full potential is the body of education.
And the fruits of education are culture, justice, peace, and prosperity.

Education is less about skills and knowledge than about people and society. Skills and knowledge are indispensible. They might be milestones on the journey of life, but a milestone is not a destination.

With this as an educational philosophy we can see our education is never finished.


Friday, November 23, 2007

When Will the Experts Learn?

The New York Times Magazine ran an article by Ann Hulbert, "What Every Child Needs." The article presents another way to spend money on education: universal pre-kindergarten education.

The idea is not new. Rob Reiner has pushed it for years. Here's a link to an article about how he was in Pennsylvania back in 2001 promoting it.

I keep hoping that the so-called experts will one day stumble across the solution to the education problem. Here is the solution, in a simple 3 point plan: family, family, and family.

1. The family needs to make it clear to the children that their education is important.

2. The family needs to actively help the children with school work and scholastic activities: helping them learn math facts and reading, for example.

3. The family needs to work with the teachers in a team effort to help their children succeed in school. Parents must be supportive of the teachers.

You could spend a million dollars in one year to educate a child, but if that child knows the parents do not believe in education, that money will accomplish nothing.

I keep hoping that some day the experts will wise up.

the article was in the Oct. 28, 2007 issue, page 11

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How Do We Measure Progress in Education?

The Wall Street Journal, 11/7/07, ran an Op-Ed piece entitled, "Educational Rewards." I was surprised and disturbed. The authors were declaring a for-profit school superior to non-profit schools by saying the students were 6 months ahead of the public schools in Math and 2 months ahead in Reading. Interpreting these numbers as a success is over reaching.

What if the public schools are 2 years behind of where they ought to be? Then the for-profit schools are 18 months behind. And how do you measure exactly where students should be on a month by month basis? Do they all work from the exact same curriculum? And who says the curriculum is any good anyway? The conclusions endorsed by these alleged experts are highly suspect.

The attitude of the authors makes them appear to have started with a conclusion, for-profit schools produce the best results, and then to have sifted data until they found some data, any data, to support their opinion.

The authors wrote, "...for-profit management will work anytime, and anywhere." The authors are biased. Who are they? Paul E. Peterson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, and Matthew M. Chingos, a research fellow at the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance. They sound like paid spokesmen for big business. I would say we cannot trust people from the Hoover Institute and from Harvard.

When I ran for school board I was disappointed that the people most interested in the election were people who hoped to get money from the school district (jobs or higher pay). American business is staggering from unbridled corruption that is costing the country untold billions in bankruptcies and losses from swindles. The last thing we all need is for crooks to get their hooks into the money intended for education.

We must be careful on how alleged experts measure progress in education. We must have the right goals for education. Making great progress in something meaningless is not real progress.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Bill Cosby's Book

Here's an article by Nancy Kruh in the Dallas Morning News: Kudos for Cosby. Cosby has a book out, "Come on People, on the Path from Victims to Victors". Ms. Kruh describes the book in her article.

There is a strong link between education and community support. I haven't read the book yet, but I have ordered it.

If you wonder why I have not posted in a while, that is because I've been going to a lot of base ball games and practices during my son's Fall base ball.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Educating our Children to be Better Leaders

Better leadership will be a by-product of the Winding Spring Process of Education. We have so many bad leaders now that America is in a Leadership Crisis. We do have some examples of good leaders: Army Lt. Col. Paul Yingling and Lynn Turner, and they exhibit Confucian leadership principles. Read more in this blog posting: "Paul Yingling, Lynn Turner, and Confucian Leadership"


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Texas Renaissance, Part 2

I mentioned earlier that we should expect a Texas Renaissance. There is power in education. We need to channel that power into our economy, our political discourse, and into our culture.

We must promote the arts, and we can expect the arts to add vibrancy and profit to Texas. The Dallas Morning News ran an article on April 16, 2007, Centralizing Creative Talent by Karen Brooks. This article described a community, Villa Muse, being constructed in Austin for artists: musicians, filmmakers, producers, and gamers.

Supporters of education talk too much about producing skilled workers. We can set our sights higher. Education will create many opportunities. Improved education will revitalize Texas.

Villa Muse, in Austin, is one example of how Texas can promote the arts and business simultaneously.

When we think about the arts or about business, we must remember that education is he key to our future.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Parental Leadership is Key to Success in Education

I have said in the Timeless Way blog and in the Hispanic Vision blog that fathers must be leaders in the family.

It is important that children know their parents believe in education. Fathers show leadership in the family by being actively involved in their children's education. The No Child Left Behind act of Congress dictates schools provide tutoring for children in academic trouble. Yet many of these children are in academic trouble because they know their parents do not believe in education. A bad attitude in the family towards education will ruin the efforts of tutoring just as that bad attitude put the children in the need for tutoring.

A father who does not lead his children towards success is leading them towards failure.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why are we still hundreds of years behind in education?

The Chinese, during the time of Chu Hsi in 1200, were debating "teaching to the test." We are only now having this debate in America. This means we are 800 years behind the Chinese in the theory and practice of education.

When Horace Mann was promoting public education about 1840, he was promoting the Prussian education system. We are only now close to achieving the key elements of what the Germans had 200 years ago. We still do not have a national curriculum and we are still working to get qualified teachers in the classrooms.

How can it be that America is 800 years behind the Chinese and 200 years behind the Germans? Horace Mann could see we needed to emulate the Germans almost 200 years ago, but America did not completely embrace his vision.

If you have ever taught in the classroom, you would have met parents who truly did not care about education. Many parents do not really believe in it. That is a failing in America.

American leaders -- political leaders, leaders in education, and community leaders -- have never managed to get America to truly embrace education. The real reason children fail the TAKS test in Texas is that their parents do not care, and our leaders have not persuaded them to care.

Changing tests will not fix the problem of failing schools, but this is what the Texas state legislature is doing. This is proof that our leaders are still failing to persuade parents.

Will they still be failing a hundred years from now? Will they ever get it right? I do not think they will ever get it right until we the people provide the leadership our politicians cannot provide.

I encourage you to get involved!


Sunday, June 10, 2007

America, Where is Our Plutarch, Our Seneca?

Seneca the Younger was a very wealthy citizen of ancient Rome known as much for his writings in philosophy and drama as his political career. He moved in the highest circles in Rome and manifested the highest achievements of a well educated man in his writings.

Since the days of our founding fathers, where is there an American Seneca? We have plenty of wealthy people. The richest people go the the most famous schools, but where is the evidence of their successful education? Where is there a rich man since our American Revolution who has manifested a great mind by writing anything of value?

Plutarch was a wealthy man in ancient Greece and one of the greatest minds in Western Civilization. Where is our Plutarch? With all the science and wealth at our disposal, why have we never had a rich American with a superior mind? The wealthy have access to our most famous schools, but they amount to nothing.

Is there something wrong with our rich that they are only good at making money? Is there something wrong with Harvard, Yale, and the rest of the Ivy League that the education they provide seems to make no positive impression on the wealthy?

Or is there something wrong with American culture that cannot see any merit beyond wealth?

I say it is time to demand better performance from the wealthy people that run America. They take over our politics with their money and give us shamelessly incompenent leaders, but we do not have to continue going down this road of failure.

We can turn off our TVs during the elections and ignore the political advertisements.

We can demand competence in our leaders.

And most importantly, we can better educate our children so we might yet have a Seneca or a Plutarch in America.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Texas Renaissance

Texas has made a conscientious effort to improve education, but the tone has been largely negative. There has been too much harping on the negative. We need to set a more positive tone. We need to start imagining the benefits Texas will derive from a better educated population.

I believe Texas can expect a renaissance in business, the arts, and politics.

We need to expect good results from good education, then we must make those good results come true!


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Writing Style

We have all seen "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White, which promoted simple and direct prose. The famous educator, Jacques Barzun, penned a book on writing titled, "Simple and Direct."

A Chinese scholar made the same point long ago. Han Yu, 768 - 824 A.D., recommened this same type of writing style. He called it "guwen", where he recommended simple prose, unencumbered by elaborate style or affectation. "Guwen" translates as "classical prose", referring to the style of the ancient philosophers, like Confucius.

The Chinese have much to contribute to education.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Morality and Education

The great Chinese scholar, Chu Hsi (Zhu Xi), said repeatedly moral principle is the root or foundation of learning.

Schools that avoid discussion of morality cannot produce well educated people when the graduates have no common understanding of morality.

Let's put Chu Hsi in perspective. He was born in 1130 A.D., the 12th Century, which was the High Middle Ages in Europe. Civil War broke out in England in 1135. The Second Crusade was launched in 1145. Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 and Chu Hsi died in 1200.

Chu Hsi wrote extensively on learning. When he says moral principle is the root of learning, we should listen.

Also notice that he did not write about education. His perspective was on the responsibility of the student: learning. After all, education is the combination of teaching and learning.

American pedagogy focuses on teaching, while the culture most succesful in schooling focuses on learning.

There is a lot we can learn from the Chinese.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Best of East and West

Re-Education by Ann Hulbert was in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, April 1, 2007. The article describes how China is working to introduce an American style liberal arts approach to college education with more emphasis on critical thinking and originality and less emphasis on memorization. China wants to increase its competitiveness and seeks "a creative mix of the best of East and West."

This is in line with what I have been saying: we need to borrow the best China has to offer in education to better compete against China. Each side, East and West, has gone too far into its favorite approach and neglected the less favored approach. The West has gone over-board with critical thinking and has neglected teaching basic knowledge and skills.

In the Winding Spring Process of Education, acquiring knowledge and skills is the extension of knowledge in the learning phase of the process.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Teaching Reading and Putting a Man on the Moon

A recent article in the New York Times (March 11, 2007, p. 3 in the Business Section) by Denise Caruso talks about how we can put a man on the moon but we cannot teach children how to read. Her article, "Knowledge is Power Only if You Know How to Use It," says "reading creates conflict," but if we "study enough examples of effective human know-how" then we will be able to "come up with a process that spurs solutions to problems as predictably as technological know-how does today."

We should decline gifts from the Trojans. Many of the problems we have in education today were created by so-called experts who have taken simple tasks like teaching reading and botched the job. Then they want to be paid in perpetuity to continue botching the problem until doomsday.

The public schools need to protect themselves from charlatans, especially the ones with Ph.D.s or Ed.D.s

Thursday, March 08, 2007

John Dewey's Ideas Reflect Confucianism

If you study John Dewey's ideas on education and then study Confucianism, you will see that Confucius was expressing some of the same ideas 2,500 years ago that John Dewey expressed in the 20th century.

Check this link for more details

Friday, January 19, 2007

Education for Wisdom

The January 18, 2007, issue of the Wall Street Journal had an editorial by Charles Murray entitled, "Aztecs vs. Greeks." There he said the most important aim of education is wisdom. Then he says,

"The encouragement of wisdom requires being steeped in the study of ethics, starting with Aristotle and Confucius. It is not enough that gifted children learn to be nice. They must know what it means to be good."

"The encouragement of wisdom requires an advanced knowledge of history. Never has the aphorism about the fate of those who ignore history been more true."

"In short, I am calling for a revival of the classical definition of a liberal education..."

These are exactly my sentiments and this explains why the Winding Spring Process of Education has such a strong emphasis on history during the high school years.


Monday, January 15, 2007

The Five Steps of Studying

The Doctrine of the Mean identifies five steps in studying
1. Study extensively
2. Inquire accurately
3. Reflect carefully
4. See clearly
5. Practice earnestly

I showed my son how to apply these 5 steps to his 3rd grade science project.
You can go here to read more about the 5 steps.

Confucianism is the key to education for the 21st Century.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Attitude is Everything, Chu Hsi Tells Texas How to Succeed with TAKS

The state of Texas uses a test called TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, to check the progress of its students. Some schools and some segments within schools have been failing consistently for years. Some people now want to abandon the TAKS test rather than fix the underlying problem.

One such person is Texas State Senator Florence Shapiro. On page 5 of her last newsletter of 2006, under the section on student assesments, she talks about beginning to abandon the TAKS test. She wants to use end of course exams, but does not tell you that end of course exams were used before the TAAS tests, which preceded the TAKS. In other words, she wants to return to the failed system that led to the TAAS and TAKS tests in the first place.

There are many students in Texas that fail the TAKS because they do not want to pass it. They do not care. No matter what test you give them, no matter what curriculum you use, no matter how many teachers or administrators you fire, you cannot force students to learn who do not want to learn. This is the most stubborn problem in education.

Changing the test again is just a way to avoid the problem and perpetuate failure. What can we do? One approach is too see what one of the most important educators in history had to say. Chu Hsi lived in China from 1130 to 1200 AD. Here is what he said about a student's attitude:

"Students must firmly establish their wills, the desire to learn....The students' great failing is their wills are incapable of pressing on....Where the mind is headed is what is meant by will....the mind must have the will to learn if the student is ever to advance."

We must address the attitudes of failing students if we are to make continuing progress in education. Sometimes a student's bad attitude is a reflection of bad attitudes from the parents, so parental support is also important to improving student performance. This is the hardest problem within education, but we will never succeed unless we tackle it.

Abandoning the TAKS test is a huge mistake, even if it is done incrementally by dropping it first in the high schools. No test, no curriculum, no staff changes can compensate for an attitude that despises education.


The quote I gave from Chu Hsi comes from page 104 of "Learning to be a Sage" by Chu Hsi, translated by Daniel K. Gardner

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Timeless Way Foundation

The Timeless Way Foundation works to improve communities through the Winding Spring Process of Education, which is a contemporary application of The Great Learning (the Ta-hsüeh or Da xue). The Great Learning is an ancient masterpiece. The Winding Spring Process of Education is an integrated approach to education. This process integrates the community, the families, the schools, and provides a roadmap for creating healthy, prosperous communities.

There are four documents at this website describing the Winding Spring Process of Education.