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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 3 September 2017

"The Origins and Growth of Modern Education" by Elizabeth Lawrence

This is an extraordinarily comprehensive account of the development of educational thought in western Europe, particularly Britain.

The author displays her bias clearly, applauding those who, hundreds of years ago, had views which might be interpreted as being support of Lawrence's educational ideals: for example: "Pestalozzi expresses clearly what is now accepted, if not acted upon, as an educational truth: that education can force nothing into children, but only draw out what is already there. ... This was not theory. It was put into practice and it succeeded, as anyone who has tried it knows that it does succeed." (p 199) Notwithstanding Socrates and his scripted tricks with Meno's slaveboy, I am not convinced that education can never be anything more than drawing out what is already inside and the uncompromising and unevidenced way in which she advances her doctrine seems unacademic at best. This is a rather whiggish view of the history of education in which progress is always progress. It rather assumes that "modern education" is now as good as it is going to get.

And certainly some of the practices of the old days (eg trying to beat knowledge into children) seem wrong although perhaps the biggest improvement is that nowadays, instead of having philosophers pontificate about what they believe about education we actually have people observing children and their learning.

It was interesting that some of the metaphors for learning are used time and again:
If you pour a liquid into a narrow necked bottle it will overflow (Quintillian, Comenius
(Erasmus says you shouldn't feed a child more meat than he can take which is similar)
Teaching is like igniting flames (Plutarch, Alciun,
Teaching is like gardening, tending plants (Plutarch, Origen, St Anselm, Vives, Sir Thomas Elyot, Francis Bacon, John Dury, Pestalozzi, Froebel
Learning is like digesting food
Curiosity is key: (St Augustine of Hippo, Montaigne, Locke, Fenelon, Rollin, Isaac Watts, Rousseau
Timing is important (Vives, Isaac Watts, Froebel, Piaget
You need to know the kids (Sir Thomas Elyot
Kids need to have things to do (Comenius, Locke, Rousseau, Robert Owen, Dewey

Selected quotes:
"Going to school has become accepted as a kind of sentence imposed on all, which must be served before one can be let free into the world." (p 9)
"In primitive societies ... children learn all they need to know in the life of the tribe, by imitating and taking part in its work and rituals. ... It was only with the invention of writing that a new kind of education arose ... which gave rise to schools, since the work of teaching was now too skilled to be carried out at home." (p 12)
"The future of the State, and indeed its survival, depend on the quality of its education." (p 19)
"In the story of the slave in the Meno he [Plato] showed that, before one can learn anything, it is necessary to know oneself and to realize the extent of one's ignorance." (p 27)
Clement wrote: (The Pedagogue 4:5): "To become as a little child - does not mean that adults should be unlearned or childish, but that, loosed from the world, they should touch the earth on tiptoe. That is the secret of the life-long springtime of youth." (p 49)
Peter Abelard (Sic et Non, Prologue) said "through doubt we are led to inquiry, and by inquiry we discern the truth." (p 55)
Comenius thought  that "Too much sitting still ... is not a good sign" (p 100)
"If they will put a Man's coat on a Child, the Child may yet be cumbered with his long and loose Habiliments, and yet be starved with Cold." Isaac Watts; (p 143)
"Children generally acquire speedily and certainly whatever they are not pressed to learn" Rousseau (p 164)
"Children are always in motion: quiet and meditation are their aversion" Rousseau (p 164)
"Education ... should enable the child to live in and make his own contribution to society." Rousseau (p 166)
"Education must be active experience"  David Williams (p 175)
"it is one thing to have learnt, and another to be able to teach" Arthur Hill (p 223)
"those brought up under the severest discipline should so frequently turn out the wildest of the wild." Spencer (p 282) 
"The child who teaches another ... teaches himself" Seguin (p 297)
"The first function of education is to lead the child to independence" so don't do things for kids Montessori (p 328)
"Most political newspapers are bristling with hate ... too many are socialistic because they hate the rich instead of loving the poor." AS Neill (p 347)

"We should never do for children what they are able to do for themselves." Edgeworth (p 206)
RLEdgeworth and novelist daughter Maria (who wrote Castle Rackrent, reviewed here) wrote Practical Education (1798) based on transcripts of children's conversation. They advocated learning by doing: "Children ... work hard at play" (p 205) though they advocated the use of the right toys.

M De Fellenberg's School of Industry at Hofwyl in Switzerland taught kids, including an ex beggar boy, after they had laboured all day in the fields; they wanted to learn and refused to go to bed
Massively comprehensive and written well enough to read without falling asleep. September 2017; 370 pages

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