The classes marked “Movie” occur during AP Exams. We will not have lessons on those days, instead we will watch the films “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.”
Due to the extraordinarily large numbers of students taking the AP US Exam (5/14) and AP Economics Exam (5/15), I have not scheduled class for these days. If you are not taking these exams, please do come to class on those days and I will treat it as a Study Hall.
Note 2: In-Class Writings
Both classes will have in-class writings on 5/21 (Class #4). Class 11A will have Lesson #3 on 5/22 and Class 11B will have Lesson #3 on 5/20, which will include the Vocabulary Chapter 25 Quiz.
Both classes will have a second in-class writing on 6/4
Note 3: Vocabulary Quizzes
We have to finish the Vocabulary Quizzes in the book, so we will do most of them on consecutive days. I’m sorry about this. If you have a better idea please let me know and we’ll put it to a vote.
English 11: Literature and Composition III (Honors)
Term 5: Before Senior Year
Class Website: http://cdshonorsenglish11.wordpress.com
This is not what we will be doing! (I do appreciate clever answers like Calvin’s!) Interest Packet Outcome: Through engaging in a variety of analytical activities you will develop an overall understanding of what this year’s course has covered, which you will demonstrate through writing a series of reflections. As a final project, you will complete two pieces of writing, one explaining what you learned this term, the other explaining what you learned this year. Term Introduction: Long ago (well, back in March anyway) we finished satisfying the requirements for both 11th and 12th grade high school English. Therefore, we’re going to spend our final term together considering what you’ve learned in what I hope is the least stressful way possible.
There will be no reading assignments. Instead, we will first watch a pair of movies directed by Richard Linklater about chance meetings between people After reflecting upon them, we’ll turn to looking at various different philosophies of education, which I hope will help you think about what’s meaningful to you in a college. We’ll then spend a week doing creative writing before a culminating Socratic Seminar.
Your work this term will be very simple. I will ask you to write a reflection on each of (1) the films (2) our readings about philosophies of education (3) our creative writing exercises and (4) the Socratic Seminar. Along with writing and answering three Socratic Seminar questions, these will be your only homework this term.
Your final project, which will be due in class on June 11th will be to answer the following two questions: (1) What did you learn this term? and (2) What did you learn this year? You may answer them in any grammatically accurate literary form you like but please do keep your answer to each one under 750 words.
This term we will also finish our integrated vocabulary program using Advanced Word Power. You will also complete two thematic in-class essays (on 5/21 and 6/4) based on whatever work of literature you wish. Only the higher of the two grades will count.
Film: “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”
Philosophies of Education
Culminating Socratic Seminar
How do other people see us?
How do we construct our personal identity?
What is the purpose of education?
What matters to us in life?
How do we want to remember?
How do we want to be remembered?
All skills are identified according to their number within the Cheongna Dalton School English Language Arts Standards. Please note that certain skills are not listed as goals for specific lessons as they are not the primary aim of the lesson. While not mentioned specifically, respect for others, following directions, punctuality, preparedness and behaving with integrity are also essential skills. Please note that we have already covered all standards in the preceding four terms.
Key Ideas and Details
RL.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
RL.11-12.2. Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.11-12.3. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
Craft and Structure
RL.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.
RL.11-12.5. Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.
RL.11-12.6. Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas Reading Informational Text
Key Ideas and Details
RI.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
RI.11-12.2. Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
RI.11-12.3. Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.
Craft and Structure
RI.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text.
RI.11-12.5. Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.
RI.11-12.6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
RI.11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
RI.11-12.8. Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal historical texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning.
Text Types and Purposes
W.11-12.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.
Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
W.11-12.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
Use appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among complex ideas and concepts.
Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented (e.g., articulating implications or the significance of the topic).
W.11-12.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.
Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, description, reflection, and multiple plot lines, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
Use a variety of techniques to sequence events so that they build on one another to create a coherent whole and build toward a particular tone and outcome (e.g., a sense of mystery, suspense, growth, or resolution).
Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.
Production and Distribution of Writing
W.11-12.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W.11-12.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
W.11-12.9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing
W.11-12.10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes
Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration
SL.11-12.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Conventions of Standard American English
L.11-12.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
Day by Day
Please note that vocabulary goals and standards are not specifically included in these classes. However, the daily vocabulary program using Advanced Word Power is intended to help students develop their vocabularies through a program based on learning vocabulary via context. This satisfies standard L. 11-12.6. Please note that for all classes you must bring the following three (3) items:
Notebook for taking notes and doing in-class writing (we will use this!)
Pen or pencil
Failure to bring any of these items will result in your receiving no more than three (3) points out of five (5) for citizenship. (Please earn full credit ) Grading Breakdown
Citizenship: 20% (credit if you speak once in class and pay attention)
Homework: 20% (based on completing the four reflections and Socratic Seminar questions – they should each be three paragraphs)
In-Class Writing: 20% (same as the past)
Quizzes: 20% (same as the past)
Final Reflections: 20% (maximum of 750 words each, carefully written and organized)
Term Introduction: The Limits of Our Perceptions
Due: Nothing. Please bring your notebook though
Goal: By analyzing and comparing a classic work of philosophy and a famous rock song understanding what limits how people see the world
Homework: GOOD LUCK WITH AP Exams! ***During the AP Examination Period we will watch “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” and we will have free discussions of both after watching them. However, as I do not have specific instructional goals, I am not listing these as lessons. Please do be sure to bring your notebook for these classes. You will have a three paragraph reflection due on both movies in Class #2. ***
What Is The Value of Education?
Due: Reflection on “Before Sunset” and “Before Sunrise”
Goal: Developing an opinion on what you seek to gain from education.
Standards: RI 11-12.1, RI 11-12.2, RI 11-12.6
Writing: What do you hope to gain from your years at CDS?
Read and discuss excerpt from “Democracy and Education” (p. 19)
Writing: What do you hope to gain from college?
Read and discuss: “Another View: The Science and Strategy of College Recruiting” (p. 24)
Homework: Study for Vocabulary Chapter 25 Quiz
Lessons From Brazil: Corinthian Democracy and Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Goal: Understanding how different means can be used to express the same perspective or goal.
Standards: SL 11-12.1, RI 11-12.7
Vocabulary Chapter 25 Quiz
Writing: What can we learn from football (soccer)?
Watch “Football Rebels”: Socrates and Corinthian Democracy (http://vimeo.com/76755353)
Discuss film and lessons
Read and discuss excerpt from The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (p. 26)
Discuss connections between the film and reading
Homework: Prepare for In Class Essay
In-Class Essay #1
Goal: Goal: Demonstrating your knowledge of the literature you have read this year by writing an analytical essay about it in a time-limited setting.
Standards: W 11-12.1, W 11-12.10
Homework: Study for Vocabulary Chapter 26 Quiz
Lessons From Finland
Goal: Understanding what one can learn through progressive education.
Standards: RI. 11-12.1
Vocabulary Chapter 26 Quiz
Writing: What role does equality play in education?
Read “We Created a School System Based on Equality” (p. 31)
Read “The brainy questions on Finland’s only high-stakes standardized test” (p. 34)
Discuss questions as time permits
Homework: Reflection on Philosophies of Education; Study for Vocabulary Chapter 27 Quiz
Creative Writing Day #1
Due: Reflection on Philosophies of Education
Goal: Understanding what one can learn through creative writing.
Vocabulary Chapter 27 Quiz
Creative writing exercises
Homework: Study for Vocabulary Chapter 28 Quiz
Creative Writing Day #2
Due: Reflection on Philosophies of Education
Goal: Understanding what one can learn through creative writing.
Vocabulary Chapter 28 Quiz
Creative writing exercises
Homework: Study for Vocabulary Chapter 29 Quiz
Creative Writing Day #3
Due: Reflection on Philosophies of Education
Goal: Understanding what one can learn through creative writing.
Vocabulary Chapter 29 Quiz
Creative writing exercises
Homework: Study for Vocabulary Chapter 30 Quiz
In-Class Essay #2
Goal: Goal: Demonstrating your knowledge of the literature you have read this year by writing an analytical essay about it in a time-limited setting.
Standards: W 11-12.1, W 11-12.10
Homework: Three Socratic Seminar questions (two copies) with a sample answer to each one of at least one five-sentence paragraph.
Socratic Seminar on The Year (Day 1)
Due: Socratic Seminar questions and answers
Goal: Demonstrating your knowledge of what we have studied this year by engaging in a Socratic Seminar.
Standards: SL 11-12.1
Vocabulary Chapter 30 Quiz
Socratic Seminar on anything from this year
Homework: Begin working on your Socratic Seminar reflection; Study for Vocabulary Chapter 30 Quiz
Socratic Seminar on The Year (Day 2)
Goal: Demonstrating your knowledge of what we have studied this year by engaging in a Socratic Seminar.
Standards: SL 11-12.1
Vocabulary Chapter 30 Quiz
Socratic Seminar on anything from this year
Homework: (1) Socratic Seminar Reflection; (2) Final Project: (a) What you have learned this term (b) What you have learned this year
Due: Socratic Seminar Reflection; Final Project
Goal (of final project): Prove an understanding of what you have learned this year by producing a reflective piece of writing.
Standards: W 11-12.1, W 11-12.3, W 11-12.5, W 11-12.9, W 11-12.10
Read “The Opposite of Loneliness” (p. 38)
Group sharing about reflections (two minutes per person if requested)
We do two in-class essays to assess your knowledge of the book you’ve read this year. I will be grading it to the same standards used on the AP Literature Exam. The format is exactly the same as last term. The essays are open-book (but not open-note) and only your best score counts. They both may cover any work of literary merit that you wish. On the AP you can earn scores from 1-9. In our class you can earn scores from 10-20, according to the following. I am using the exact same rubric as the AP Exam does. This is how the two sets of scores match up. (I’m sorry about the small type, it’s so this will all fit on one page!)
“The score reflects the quality of the essay as a whole — its content, style, and mechanics. Students are rewarded for what they do well. The score for an exceptionally well-written essay may be raised by 1 point above the otherwise appropriate score. In no case may a poorly written essay be scored higher than a 3.” 9–8 These essays offer a well-focused and persuasive analysis and use apt and specific textual support.Although they may not be error-free, these essays make a strong case for their interpretation and discuss the literary work with significant insight and understanding. Essays scored a 9 reveal more sophisticated analysis and more effective control of language than do essays scored an 8. (Note: I will also score some essays as 8.5 which will convert to a 19/20, this however is not a possibility on the AP Exam)
7–6 These essays offer a reasonable analysis. Although these responses have insight and understanding, their analysis is less thorough, less perceptive, or less specific in supporting detail than that of the 9–8 essays. Essays scored a 7 present better developed analysis and more consistent command of the elements of effective composition than do essays scored a 6.
5 These essays respond to the assigned task with a plausible reading, but they tend to be superficial or thinly developed in analysis. They often rely on plot summary that contains some analysis, implicit or explicit. Although these essays demonstrate adequate control of language, they may be marred by surface errors. These essays are not as well conceived, organized, or developed as 7–6 essays.
4–3 These lower-half essays fail to offer an adequate analysis. The analysis may be partial, unsupported, or irrelevant. These essays may be characterized by an unfocused or repetitive presentation of ideas, an absence of textual support, or an accumulation of errors; they may lack control over the elements of college-level composition. Essays scored a 3 may contain significant misreading and/or demonstrate inept writing. (Note: I will also score some essays as 3.5 which will convert to a 13/20, this however is not a possibility on the AP Exam)
2–1 Although these essays make some attempt to respond to the prompt, they compound the weaknesses of those in the 4–3 range. Often, they are unacceptably brief or incoherent in presenting their ideas. They may be poorly written on several counts and contain distracting errors in grammar and mechanics. Remarks may be presented with little clarity, organization, or supporting evidence. Essays scored a 1 contain little coherent discussion of the text.
Term 5 Reflections As a culmination of our work this year, I am asking you to write two reflections as your final project. They should be between 500 and 750 words each (please treat this as a rough guideline). The first should cover what you learned this term and the second should cover what you learned this year. They will each be worth 10% of your term grade and be graded according to the rubric on the next page.
I have no specific format in mind for these reflections. You may write them as essays, letters, short stories, poems, songs, dialogues, or any other genre you wish. All that I ask is that you make your points clear and that you do so in grammatically correct and coherent English. I hope (and indeed expect) that they will reflect a variety of viewpoints and styles.
Please hand in a single written copy of each of them to me at the start of class on June 11th. I encourage you to also keep another copy for yourself so that you can share any points you find meaningful to you.
Six-Traits Writing Rubric (This applies to both reflections)
Ideas & Content (x6)
· Exceptionally clear, focused, engaging with relevant, strong supporting detail
· Clear, focused, interesting ideas with appropriate detail
· Evident main idea with some support which may be general or limited
· Main idea may be cloudy because supporting detail is too general or even off-topic
· Purpose and main idea may be unclear and cluttered by irrelevant detail
· Lacks central idea; development is minimal or non-existent
· Effectively organized in logical and creative manner
· Creative and engaging intro and conclusion
· Strong order and structure
· Inviting intro and satisfying closure
· Organization is appropriate, but conventional
· Attempt at introduction and conclusion
· Attempts at organization; may be a “list” of events
· Beginning and ending not developed
· Lack of structure; disorganized and hard to follow
· Missing or weak intro and conclusion
· Lack of coherence; confusing
· No identifiable introduction or conclusion
sense of audience
· Expressive, engaging, sincere
· Strong sense of audience
· Shows emotion: humor, honesty, suspense or life
· Appropriate to audience and purpose
· Writer behind the words comes through
· Evident commitment to topic
· Inconsistent or dull personality
· Voice may be inappropriate or non-existent
· Writing may seem mechanical
· Writing tends to be flat or stiff
· Little or no hint of writer behind words
· Writing is lifeless
· No hint of the writer
Word Choice (x2)
· Precise, carefully chosen
· Strong, fresh, vivid images
· Descriptive, broad range of words
· Word choice energizes writing
· Language is functional and appropriate
· Descriptions may be overdone at times
· Words may be correct but mundane
· No attempt at deliberate choice
· Monotonous, often repetitious, sometimes inappropriate
· Exceptionally strong control of standard conventions of writing
· Strong control of conventions; errors are few and minor
· Control of most writing conventions; occasional errors with high risks
· Limited control of conventions; frequent errors do not interfere with understanding
· Frequent significant errors may impede readability
· Numerous errors distract the reader and make the text difficult to read
This checklist will help you minimize the number of errors in your work in order to maximize the amount of credit you earn. I recommend going over your work for grammar and mechanics (here listed under conventions) last, after you’ve made all substantive revisions. Please use this checklist to help you.
Checking Writing for Grammar, Spelling, and Other Mechanical Mistakes Check off each step AFTER it has been completed.
_____ 1. Read your work backwards, one sentence at a time. Check for spelling errors. Use a dictionary to find the correct spelling of words you are unsure about.
_____ 2. Check to make you capitalized proper nouns, the first word of each sentence, the pronoun “I,” and nothing else.
_____ 3. Check to make sure you indented each paragraph.
_____ 4. Check to make sure each sentence has end punctuation.
_____ 5. Check your use of commas. Did you use them for compound sentences, a list of items, an introductory word or phrase, direct address, setting off interruptions, separating adjectives, or in dates? Do you need to add commas? Make sure you do not have commas separating complete sentences.
_____ 6. Check to make sure you used apostrophes only for contractions and to show ownership.
_____ 7. Check to make sure you used complex punctuation (dashes, hyphens, semi-colons, parentheses, etc.) correctly.
_____ 8. Check to make sure you used commonly mixed pairs of words correctly? Check these: they’re/their/there, your/you’re, it’s/its, a/an, to/too/two, are/our/hour.
_____ 9. Read your work backwards one sentence at a time, again. Check for sentence fragments and run-ons and correct them.
_____ 10. Check to make sure you stayed in present tense (such as is, am, do, take, know, etc.) or past tense (such as was, were, did, took, knew, etc.) consistently. All discussions of events in the novels you are analyzing should be in present tense. (Example: “At first, Elizabeth hates Darcy.”) Also make sure you have used active voice consistently.
_____ 11. Check to make sure you stayed in third person (he, him, she, her, they, them, their) consistently (or first person for personal writing).
_____ 12. Check to make sure that every sentence has a subject and a verb. Then make sure that all subjects and verbs agree (that is that all verbs are conjugated correctly).
_____ 13. Check to make sure that all independent clauses either form their own sentences or are connected with a conjunction (not a comma).
_____ 14. Check to make sure that each pronoun has a clear antecedent and that it agrees with that antecedent in person, gender, and number.
_____ 15. Check to make sure that each modifier is placed as close as possible to the
noun or pronoun that it modifies. If a modifier begins a sentence, that modifier
must be followed immediately by the word it is supposed to describe.
Schematic Chart for Term 5 This term I’m trying to help you combine what we’ve studied over the past four terms with a number of new texts in the hopes of providing you with a cohesive understanding of what we’ve studied this year. You can make sure you’re following along by making sure the bullet points in each square make sense to you. If they don’t, please just ask me (or a friend) and I’ll be happy to help.
What We’ve Studied In The Past (Hopefully This Is Review!)
How do we infer social norms and how do we relate to them?
How does one write and edit personal writing effectively?
How do differences in perspective shape our world?
How does explaining ourselves in writing help us to understand our relationship to others
Learning From Films (“Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset”)
What can we learn by watching two strangers interact?
What are our most important personal characteristics?
What makes other people interesting and attractive to us?
Learning From Works of Educational Philosophy
What purpose does education serve society?
What purpose does education serve us individually?
How can we structure education to serve these purposes?
Learning From Writing Creatively
What are our unique voices?
What inspires us?
What is the ongoing importance of creativity in our lives?
Reflecting Upon Our Learning
How does a Socratic Seminar deepen our understanding?
What did you learn this term?
What did you learn this year?
Why does this matter? (ANY of this!)
Book VII of The Republic
The Allegory of the Cave
[Socrates is speaking with Glaucon]
[Socrates:] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
[Glaucon:] I see.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
That is certain.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -- will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
True, he said.
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he 's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
From Democracy and Education by John Dewey (1916), Chapter 1
So obvious, indeed, is the necessity of teaching and learning for the continued existence of a society that we may seem to be dwelling unduly on a truism. But justification is found in the fact that such emphasis is a means of getting us away from an unduly scholastic and formal notion of education. Schools are, indeed, one important method of the transmission which forms the dispositions of the immature; but it is only one means, and, compared with other agencies, a relatively superficial means. Only as we have grasped the necessity of more fundamental and persistent modes of tuition can we make sure of placing the scholastic methods in their true context.
Society not only continues to exist by transmission, by communication, but it may fairly be said to exist in transmission, in communication. There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication. Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common. What they must have in common in order to form a community or society are aims, beliefs, aspirations, knowledge—a common understanding—like-mindedness as the sociologists say. Such things cannot be passed physically from one to another, like bricks; they cannot be shared as persons would share a pie by dividing it into physical pieces. The communication which insures participation in a common understanding is one which secures similar emotional and intellectual dispositions—like ways of responding to expectations and requirements.
Persons do not become a society by living in physical proximity, any more than a man ceases to be socially influenced by being so many feet or miles removed from others. A book or a letter may institute a more intimate association between human beings separated thousands of miles from each other than exists between dwellers under the same roof. Individuals do not even compose a social group because they all work for a common end. The parts of a machine work with a maximum of cooperativeness for a common result, but they do not form a community. If, however, they were all cognizant of the common end and all interested in it so that they regulated their specific activity in view of it, then they would form a community. But this would involve communication. Each would have to know what the other was about and would have to have some way of keeping the other informed as to his own purpose and progress. Consensus demands communication.
We are thus compelled to recognize that within even the most social group there are many relations which are not as yet social. A large number of human relationships in any social group are still upon the machine-like plane. Individuals use one another so as to get desired results, without reference to the emotional and intellectual disposition and consent of those used. Such uses express physical superiority, or superiority of position, skill, technical ability, and command of tools, mechanical or fiscal. So far as the relations of parent and child, teacher and pupil, employer and employee, governor and governed, remain upon this level, they form no true social group, no matter how closely their respective activities touch one another. Giving and taking of orders modifies action and results, but does not of itself effect a sharing of purposes, a communication of interests.
Not only is social life identical with communication, but all communication (and hence all genuine social life) is educative. To be a recipient of a communication is to have an enlarged and changed experience. One shares in what another has thought and felt and in so far, meagerly or amply, has his own attitude modified. Nor is the one who communicates left unaffected. Try the experiment of communicating, with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing; otherwise you resort to expletives and ejaculations. The experience has to be formulated in order to be communicated. To formulate requires getting outside of it, seeing it as another would see it, considering what points of contact it has with the life of another so that it may be got into such form that he can appreciate its meaning. Except in dealing with commonplaces and catch phrases one has to assimilate, imaginatively, something of another's experience in order to tell him intelligently of one's own experience. All communication is like art. It may fairly be said, therefore, that any social arrangement that remains vitally social, or vitally shared, is educative to those who participate in it. Only when it becomes cast in a mold and runs in a routine way does it lose its educative power.
In final account, then, not only does social life demand teaching and learning for its own permanence, but the very process of living together educates. It enlarges and enlightens experience; it stimulates and enriches imagination; it creates responsibility for accuracy and vividness of statement and thought. A man really living alone (alone mentally as well as physically) would have little or no occasion to reflect upon his past experience to extract its net meaning. The inequality of achievement between the mature and the immature not only necessitates teaching the young, but the necessity of this teaching gives an immense stimulus to reducing experience to that order and form which will render it most easily communicable and hence most usable.
There is, accordingly, a marked difference between the education which every one gets from living with others, as long as he really lives instead of just continuing to subsist, and the deliberate educating of the young. In the former case the education is incidental; it is natural and important, but it is not the express reason of the association. While it may be said, without exaggeration, that the measure of the worth of any social institution, economic, domestic, political, legal, religious, is its effect in enlarging and improving experience; yet this effect is not a part of its original motive, which is limited and more immediately practical. Religious associations began, for example, in the desire to secure the favor of overruling powers and to ward off evil influences; family life in the desire to gratify appetites and secure family perpetuity; systematic labor, for the most part, because of enslavement to others, etc. Only gradually was the by-product of the institution, its effect upon the quality and extent of conscious life, noted, and only more gradually still was this effect considered as a directive factor in the conduct of the institution. Even today, in our industrial life, apart from certain values of industriousness and thrift, the intellectual and emotional reaction of the forms of human association under which the world's work is carried on receives little attention as compared with physical output.
But in dealing with the young, the fact of association itself as an immediate human fact, gains in importance. While it is easy to ignore in our contact with them the effect of our acts upon their disposition, or to subordinate that educative effect to some external and tangible result, it is not so easy as in dealing with adults. The need of training is too evident; the pressure to accomplish a change in their attitude and habits is too urgent to leave these consequences wholly out of account. Since our chief business with them is to enable them to share in a common life we cannot help considering whether or no we are forming the powers which will secure this ability. If humanity has made some headway in realizing that the ultimate value of every institution is its distinctively human effect—its effect upon conscious experience—we may well believe that this lesson has been learned largely through dealings with the young.
We are thus led to distinguish, within the broad educational process which we have been so far considering, a more formal kind of education—that of direct tuition or schooling. In undeveloped social groups, we find very little formal teaching and training. Savage groups mainly rely for instilling needed dispositions into the young upon the same sort of association which keeps adults loyal to their group. They have no special devices, material, or institutions for teaching save in connection with initiation ceremonies by which the youth are inducted into full social membership. For the most part, they depend upon children learning the customs of the adults, acquiring their emotional set and stock of ideas, by sharing in what the elders are doing. In part, this sharing is direct, taking part in the occupations of adults and thus serving an apprenticeship; in part, it is indirect, through the dramatic plays in which children reproduce the actions of grown-ups and thus learn to know what they are like. To savages it would seem preposterous to seek out a place where nothing but learning was going on in order that one might learn.
But as civilization advances, the gap between the capacities of the young and the concerns of adults widens. Learning by direct sharing in the pursuits of grown-ups becomes increasingly difficult except in the case of the less advanced occupations. Much of what adults do is so remote in space and in meaning that playful imitation is less and less adequate to reproduce its spirit. Ability to share effectively in adult activities thus depends upon a prior training given with this end in view. Intentional agencies—schools—and explicit material—studies—are devised. The task of teaching certain things is delegated to a special group of persons.
Without such formal education, it is not possible to transmit all the resources and achievements of a complex society. It also opens a way to a kind of experience which would not be accessible to the young, if they were left to pick up their training in informal association with others, since books and the symbols of knowledge are mastered.
But there are conspicuous dangers attendant upon the transition from indirect to formal education. Sharing in actual pursuit, whether directly or vicariously in play, is at least personal and vital. These qualities compensate, in some measure, for the narrowness of available opportunities. Formal instruction, on the contrary, easily becomes remote and dead—abstract and bookish, to use the ordinary words of depreciation. What accumulated knowledge exists in low grade societies is at least put into practice; it is transmuted into character; it exists with the depth of meaning that attaches to its coming within urgent daily interests.
But in an advanced culture much which has to be learned is stored in symbols. It is far from translation into familiar acts and objects. Such material is relatively technical and superficial. Taking the ordinary standard of reality as a measure, it is artificial. For this measure is connection with practical concerns. Such material exists in a world by itself, unassimilated to ordinary customs of thought and expression. There is the standing danger that the material of formal instruction will be merely the subject matter of the schools, isolated from the subject matter of life-experience. The permanent social interests are likely to be lost from view. Those which have not been carried over into the structure of social life, but which remain largely matters of technical information expressed in symbols, are made conspicuous in schools. Thus we reach the ordinary notion of education: the notion which ignores its social necessity and its identity with all human association that affects conscious life, and which identifies it with imparting information about remote matters and the conveying of learning through verbal signs: the acquisition of literacy.
Hence one of the weightiest problems with which the philosophy of education has to cope is the method of keeping a proper balance between the informal and the formal, the incidental and the intentional, modes of education. When the acquiring of information and of technical intellectual skill do not influence the formation of a social disposition, ordinary vital experience fails to gain in meaning, while schooling, in so far, creates only "sharps" in learning—that is, egoistic specialists. To avoid a split between what men consciously know because they are aware of having learned it by a specific job of learning, and what they unconsciously know because they have absorbed it in the formation of their characters by intercourse with others, becomes an increasingly delicate task with every development of special schooling.
The New York Times, November 9, 2011
Another View: The Science and Strategy of College Recruiting
By MARINA KEEGAN
NEW HAVEN — Last May, one of the largest hedge funds in the world paid me $100 to eat gourmet popcorn and explain why I wasn’t applying for one of its (lucrative!) jobs. As I sat in a hotel suite with six other Yale students – musicians, biologists, dramatists, other-ists – and answered questions about my future plans, I got this uneasy feeling that the man in the beautiful suit was going to take my Hopes and Dreams back to some lab to figure out the best way to crush them.
And indeed, they have it down to a science. Each fall, our country’s top-tier banks and consulting firms cram New Haven’s best hotels with the best and brightest to lure them with a series of superlatives: the greatest job, the most money, the easiest application, the fanciest popcorn.
They’re good at it. They’re unbelievably, remarkably, terrifyingly good at it. Every year around 25 percent of employed Yale graduates enter the consulting and finance industries. At Harvardand Stanford, the numbers are even higher.
When I arrived at Yale as an eager 18 year old, I had never even heard of consulting or I-banking. And to be honest, I still didn’t totally understand the function of a hedge fund. But what I do understand is that students here have passion. Passion for public service and education policy and painting and engineering and entrepreneurialism. Standing outside a freshman dorm, I couldn’t find a single student aspiring to be a banker – but at commencement this May, there’s a 50 percent chance I’ll be sitting next to one. This strikes me as incredibly sad.
So what happens? Sometime between freshman fall and senior spring, an insane number of students decide – one way or another – that entering the banking industry makes a whole lot of sense. A few weeks ago I interviewed over 20 Yalies to try to figure out why.
What I found was somewhat surprising: the clichéd pull of high salaries is only part of the problem. Few college seniors have any idea how to “get a job,” let alone what that job would be. Representatives from the consulting and finance industries come to schools early and often – providing us with application timelines and inviting us to information sessions in individualized e-mails. We’re made to feel special and desired and important.
Of course, none of us are actually special. The important thing is that we go to a top-tier school and they recruit at top-tier schools and their recruitment is pretty darn smart. They understand that it’s no longer “cool” to explicitly seek wealth. Our generation inherited a kind of corporate hate from the ’60s and ’70s that dissuades most students at schools like Harvard and Yale from working for corporations after graduation. But we will work for banks and hedge funds because they’re marketed to us (quite strategically) as something to merely do for a few years — as a perfect way to gain skills for a future career in somehow saving the world.
Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think most young, ambitious people want to have a positive impact on the world. Whether it’s through art or activism or advances in science, almost every student I spoke to had some kind of larger, altruistic goal in life. But what I heard again and again was that working at JPMorgan or Bain or Morgan Stanley was the best way to prepare oneself for a future doing public good.
Why do students believe this? Because the recruiters tell them it’s true. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous. Those skills can be gained elsewhere. I’m just not convinced that the most productive use of 25 percent of my graduating class’s time is to spend two or three years pushing figures around spreadsheets to make more money for those with the most money.
And I’m not alone. The expansion of Occupy Everywhere has come hand in hand with a rise in college students looking critically at their schools’ recruitment policies. A group of Stanford students are starting a national student organization called Stop the Brain Drain committed to empowering “more young people to solve America’s greatest challenges” by combating Wall Street recruitment, and a series of op-eds have been popping up in campus papers across the country trying to do the same.
One of those articles was mine. Expecting to receive hate mail, I was shocked when I was instead bombarded by upward of 100 e-mails from peers across the country who sympathized with the idea that these statistics don’t have to be inevitable.
Is working for a bank inherently evil? Probably not. But the fact that such a large percentage of students at top-tier schools enter an industry that isn’t contributing, creating or improving much of anything saddens me.
Twenty-five percent is not a joke. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of talent and energy and potential that could be used somewhere other than crunching numbers to generate wealth. Perhaps there won’t be fancy popcorn at some other job – but it’s about time we started popping it for ourselves.
Marina Keegan is a senior English major in the writing concentration at Yale University. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (1970 – Chapter 2)
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness.
The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students with the contents of his narration -- contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.
The outstanding characteristic of this narrative education, then, is the sonority of words, not their transforming power. "Four times four is sixteen; the capital of Para is Belem." The student records, memorizes, and repeats these phrases without perceiving what four times four really means, or realizing the true significance of "capital" in the affirmation "the capital of Para is Belem," that is, what Belem means for Para and what Para means for Brazil.
Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated account. Worse yet, it turns them into "containers," into "receptacles" to be "filled" by the teachers. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teachers she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.
Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the "banking' concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence -- but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.
The raison d'etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.
This solution is not (nor can it be) found in the banking concept. On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:
the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
the teacher talks and the students listen -- meekly;
the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.
It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them.
The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the student's creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed. The oppressors use their "humanitarianism" to preserve a profitable situation. Thus they react almost instinctively against any experiment in education which stimulates the critical faculties and is not content with a partial view of reality always seeks out the ties which link one point to another and one problem to another.
Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in "changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them," (1) for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated. To achieve this the oppressors use the banking concept of education in conjunction with a paternalistic social action apparatus, within which the oppressed receive the euphemistic title of "welfare recipients." They are treated as individual cases, as marginal persons who deviate from the general configuration of a "good, organized and just" society. The oppressed are regarded as the pathology of the healthy society which must therefore adjust these "incompetent and lazy" folk to its own patterns by changing their mentality. These marginals need to be "integrated," "incorporated" into the healthy society that they have "forsaken."
The truth is, however, that the oppressed are not "marginals," are not living "outside" society. They have always been "inside" the structure which made them "beings for others." The solution is not to 'integrate" them into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become "beings for themselves." Such transformation, of course, would undermine the oppressors' purposes; hence their utilization of the banking concept of education to avoid the threat of student conscientizacao.
The banking approach to adult education, for example, will never propose to students that they critically consider reality. It will deal instead with such vital questions as whether Roger gave green grass to the goat, and insist upon the importance of learning that, on the contrary, Roger gave green grass to the rabbit. The "humanism" of the banking approach masks the effort to turn women and men into automatons -- the very negation of their ontological vocation to be more fully human.
Those who use the banking approach, knowingly or unknowingly (for there are innumerable well-intentioned bank-clerk teachers who do not realize that they are serving only to dehumanize), fail to perceive that the deposits themselves contain contradictions about reality. But sooner or later, these contradictions may lead formerly passive students to turn against their domestication and the attempt to domesticate reality. They may discover through existential experience that their present way of life is irreconcilable with their vocation to become fully human. They may perceive through their relations with reality that reality is really a process, undergoing constant transformation. If men and women are searchers and their ontological vocation is humanization, sooner or later they may perceive the contradiction in which banking education seeks to maintain them, and then engage themselves in the struggle for their liberation.
But the humanist revolutionary educator cannot wait for this possibility to materialize. From the outset, her efforts must coincide with those of the students to engage in critical thinking and the quest for mutual humanization. His efforts must be imbued with a profound trust in people and their creative power. To achieve this, they must be partners of the students in their relations with them.
The banking concept does not admit to such partnership -- and necessarily so. To resolve the teacher-student contradiction, to exchange the role of depositor, prescriber, domesticator, for the role of student among students would be to undermine the power of oppression and serve the cause of liberation.
Implicit in the banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between human beings and the world: a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is spectator, not re-creator. In this view, the person is not a conscious being (corpo consciente); he or she is rather the possessor of a consciousness: an empty "mind" passively open to the reception of deposits of reality from the world outside. For example, my desk, my books, my coffee cup, all the objects before me, -- as bits of the world which surround me -- would be "inside" me, exactly as I am inside my study right now. This view makes no distinction between being accessible to consciousness and entering consciousness. The distinction, however, is essential: the objects which surround me are simply accessible to my consciousness, not located within it. I am aware of them, but they are not inside me.
It follows logically from the banking notion of consciousness that the educator's role is to regulate the way the world "enters into" the students. The teacher's task is to organize a process which already occurs spontaneously, to "fill" the students by making deposits of information which he of she considers to constitute true knowledge. (2) And since people "receive" the world as passive entities, education should make them more passive still, and adapt them to the world. The educated individual is the adapted person, because she or he is better 'fit" for the world. Translated into practice, this concept is well suited for the purposes of the oppressors, whose tranquility rests on how well people fit the world the oppressors have created and how little they question it.
The more completely the majority adapt to the purposes which the dominant majority prescribe for them (thereby depriving them of the right to their own purposes), the more easily the minority can continue to prescribe. The theory and practice of banking education serve this end quite efficiently. Verbalistic lessons, reading requirements, (3) the methods for evaluating "knowledge," the distance between the teacher and the taught, the criteria for promotion: everything in this ready-to-wear approach serves to obviate thinking.
The bank-clerk educator does not realize that there is no true security in his hypertrophied role, that one must seek to live with others in solidarity. One cannot impose oneself, nor even merely co-exist with one's students. Solidarity requires true communication, and the concept by which such an educator is guided fears and proscribes communication.
Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning. The teacher's thinking is authenticated only by the authenticity of the students' thinking. The teacher cannot think for her students, nor can she impose her thought on them. Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible.
The Atlantic: March 17, 2014
Finnish Education Chief: 'We Created a School System Based on Equality'
By CHRISTINE GROSS-LOH
Finnish education often seems paradoxical to outside observers because it appears to break a lot of the rules we take for granted. Finnish children don’t begin school until age 7. They have more recess, shorter school hours than many U.S. children do (nearly 300 fewer hours per year in elementary school), and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation. There are no gifted programs, almost no private schools, and no high-stakes national standardized tests.
Yet over the past decade Finland has consistently performed among the top nations on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year olds in 65 nations and territories around the world. Finland’s school children didn’t always excel. Finland built its excellent, efficient, and equitable educational system in a few decades from scratch, and the concept guiding almost every educational reform has been equity. The Finnish paradox is that by focusing on the bigger picture for all, Finland has succeeded at fostering the individual potential of most every child.
I recently accompanied Krista Kiuru, Finland’s minister of education and science, when she visited the Eliot K-8 Innovation School in Boston, and asked her what Finland is doing that we could learn from.
I visited four Finnish schools while researching my book Parenting Without Borders. While there, I frequently heard a saying: “We can’t afford to waste a brain.” It was clear that children were regarded as one of Finland’s most precious resources. You invest significantly in providing the basic resources so that all children may prosper. How do these notions undergird your educational system?
We used to have a system which was really unequal. My parents never had a real possibility to study and have a higher education. We decided in the 1960s that we would provide a free quality education to all. Even universities are free of charge. Equal means that we support everyone and we’re not going to waste anyone’s skills. We don’t know what our kids will turn out like—we can’t know if one first-grader will become a famous composer, or another a famous scientist. Regardless of a person’s gender, background, or social welfare status, everyone should have an equal chance to make the most of their skills. It’s important because we are raising the potential of the entire human capital in Finland. Even if we don’t have oil or minerals or any other natural resources, well, we think human capital is also a valuable resource.
How well do you think Finland’s educational system, one based more squarely on equity rather than high achievement, is working?
We created a school system based on equality to make sure we can develop everyone’s potential. Now we can see how well it’s been working. Last year the OECD tested adults from 24 countries measuring the skill levels of adults aged 16-65, on a survey called the PIAAC (Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies), which tests skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Finland scored at or near the top on all measures. But there were differences between age groups. The test showed that all younger Finns who had had a chance to go to compulsory basic school after the reforms had extremely high knowledge; those who were older, and who were educated before the reforms, had average know-how. So, our educational system is creating people who have extremely good skills and strong know-how—a know-how which is created by investing into education. We have small class sizes and everyone is put in the same class, but we support struggling students more than others, because those individuals need more help. This helps us to be able to make sure we can use/develop everyone’s skills and potential.
I remember being struck by how many vocational or hands-on classes (home economics, art, technology, and so forth) were available to students at every Finnish school I visited. At one secondary school I visited, kids were cooking breakfast; at another, I saw that all the kids had learned how to sew their own bathing suits. More than one teacher remarked, “It’s important for students to have different activities to do during the day.”And there seems to be no stigma about vocational education. Is this attitude true of all schools in Finland?
Yes, we definitely believe that for young people handcrafts, cooking, creative pursuits, and sports, are all important. We believe these help young people benefit more from the skills they’re learning in school.
Do you think that this takes time away from academics?
Academics isn’t all kids need. Kids need so much more. School should be where we teach the meaning of life; where kids learn they are needed; where they can learn community skills. We like to think that school is also important for developing a good self-image, a strong sensitivity to other people’s feelings … and understanding it matters to take care of others. We definitely want to incorporate all those things in education.
I also believe that breaking up the school day with different school subjects is very important. We offer a variety of subjects during the school day. We’re also testing out what it’s like to have breaks in the middle of the school day for elementary school students. At a few elementary schools recently we’ve been offering sports, handcrafts, or school clubs during the middle of the school day, rather than just in the morning or after school as we already do. This is to help kids to think of something else, and do something different and more creative during the day.
An American librarian I spoke with, who was a visiting scholar in Finland, was struck by things like the fact that there was no concept of Internet filtering or censorship there. She was struck by how much autonomy was given to children as well as to teachers. At the same time, she noticed how much support teachers in Finland get. She visited one first-grade classroom that was taught by a relatively new teacher, and seven adults were standing in the back of the room watching the teacher: the master teacher, a specialty subject teacher from her teaching university, her advisor from university, and a couple of other student teachers. Right after the class, they got together and talked about how the lesson went. This sort of observation/debriefing seemed to be quite common. Finland is also well known for investing heavily in continuous professional development. Can you tell me more about this combination of independence and support?
Teachers have a lot of autonomy. They are highly educated--they all have master’s degrees and becoming a teacher is highly competitive. We believe we have to have highly educated teachers, because then we can trust our teachers and know they are doing good work. They do have to follow the national curriculum, although we do have local curriculums as well. But we think that we’ve been able to create good results due to our national, universal curriculum.
We don’t test our teachers or ask them to prove their knowledge. But it’s true that we do invest in a lot of additional teacher training even after they become teachers.
We also trust in our pupils. Of course we give them exams and tests so that we know how they are progressing but we don’t test them at the national level. We believe in our schools because we consider all schools equal. We don’t school shop in Finland and we don’t have to think about which area to live in to go to a good school.
In Finland we are starting to have some issues … in some suburban schools with more immigrants or higher unemployment, but we support those schools by investing more in them, in the struggling schools.
But you know, money doesn’t make for a better education necessarily. We don’t believe that spending on a particular school will make any one of them better so much as focusing on the content of what we do and giving children individual support.
March 24, 2014
The brainy questions on Finland’s only high-stakes standardized test
Much has been written in recent years aboutFinland’s vaunted education system, which has consistently scored at or close to the top in international test scores and has the distinction of operating under policies very different from those that drive U.S. corporate-based education reform. In Finland, teachers are respected and students don’t take a mountain of standardized tests. In fact, they take one high-stakes standardized test, as explained here by Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and former director general at the Finland’s Ministry of Education. He is a schoolteacher and teacher educator who has advised governments around the world about education policy and change. He has served the World Bank in Washington D.C. and the European Commission in Turin, Italy. His best-selling book, “Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland,” is the winner of 2013 Grawemeyer Award. Sahlberg has written some earlier pieces for The Answer Sheet, including this provocative piece:“What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?” He can be reached at email@example.com and @pasi_sahlberg.
by Pasi Sahlberg
Many Americans who visit Finland to examine its education system are surprised by how rarely students are required to take standardized tests during their 12 years of schooling. They learn that students are primarily assessed by multiple teacher-made tests that vary from one school to another. At the national level sample-based student assessments similar to the National Assessment of Educational Progress that have no stakes for students, teachers, or schools are the main means to inform policy-makers and the public on how Finland’s school system is performing. Teachers and principals in Finland have a strong sense of professional responsibility to teach their children well but also to judge how well children have learned what they are supposed to learn according to curriculum designed by teachers.
This customized school system that attempts to meet local and individual needs is a poor host for external inspections and standardized tests. The only external standardized test in Finland is the national Matriculation Examination, a high-stakes exam that determines college readiness and which all students are required to pass in order to graduate high school exit and enter university. At the time of writing this over 30,000 Finnish high school students are taking this all-important examination that enjoys high esteem as a sign of being a mature, educated person in Finnish society.
Only a few education tourists to Finland have an opportunity to explore this 162-year-old establishment of Finnish education system in depth. Although the examination has changed profoundly during the years, its existence has never been seriously challenged. Most Finns, including students and teachers, are happy with one examination given at the end of high school rather than more frequent tests and the side-effects that often come with them during the course of schooling.
The Matriculation Examination is administrated by an external board appointed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Board has about 40 members consisting of university professors, high school teachers, and education policy-makers. Exams are prepared and marked by separate subject committees that have altogether some 330 associate members. The Secretariat of the Board that is responsible for technical matters related to employing, safeguarding and managing the examination has a staff of 22 people. Typical examination fee per student for five exams is about USD200. Entire administration of the Examination is financed from these student-paid fees.
What is the structure of this exam and what does it measure? First, students must take at least four individual tests in order to be awarded the Matriculation Examination certificate. An exam assessing students’ competencies of mother tongue (Finnish, Swedish or Saami) is compulsory for everybody. Second, each student chooses three further tests from the following pool: second domestic language (e.g. Swedish), foreign language (most often English), mathematics, and one test from the humanities and sciences category. Additionally, students may add optional exams in the following subjects: various foreign languages, history, civics, biology, geography, physics, chemistry, health education, psychology, philosophy, ethics, and religious studies.
Exams are offered twice a year, in September and March-April. Student musts complete all required tests of the examination within three consecutive exam periods of up to six hours each. All tests, except listening and reading comprehension in second domestic and foreign languages, are pencil-and-paper tests, typically requiring extensive writing in open-ended tasks.
Teachers whose students are taking the exam in school first read the test papers and give their initial marks. Then the Board’s subject committee members give their final marks independently from what teachers have marked to each exam that then leads to a grade. Subjects are graded using a seven-point scale adjusted to normal distribution. This means that number of top grades and failed grades in each exam is approximately 5 percent. One failed exam can be compensated by good performance in other exams. Exams and their grades are included in the Matriculation Examination Certificate that is awarded to a student who successfully passes the mandatory exams and has sufficiently completed required high school studies.
The Finnish Matriculation Examination is a measure of students’ general academic maturity, including their readiness to continue studies in higher education. A student’s successful performance on the Matriculation Examination becomes an asset to his or her university application. Whereas the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) is guided by the list of “potentially biased, sensitive, or controversial” topics, the Finnish examination does the opposite. Students are regularly asked to show their ability to cope with issues related to evolution, losing a job, dieting, political issues, violence, war, ethics in sports, junk food, sex, drugs, and popular music. Such issues span across subject areas and often require multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills.
Below are some examples from this spring’s Matriculation Examination:
Sample essay topics:
“Some politicians, athletes and other celebrities have publicly regretted and apologized for what they have said or done. Discuss the meaning of the apology and accepting it as a social and personal act.”
“Has your body become your hobby?”
“Media is competing for audiences – what are the consequences?”
“Choose three world religions and compare the role and use of a holy image within them.”
Sample health education questions:
“What is the basis of dietary recommendations in Finland and what is their aim?”
“Compare chlamydia and condyloma.”
Sample psychology question:
“Design a study to find out how personality affects individuals’ behavior on Facebook or other social media. Discuss the ethical considerations for that type of study.”
Sample history question:
“Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels predicted that a socialist revolution would first happen in countries like Great Britain. What made Marx and Engels claim that and why did a socialist revolution happen in Russia?”
Sample philosophy and ethics questions:
“In what sense are happiness, good life and well-being ethical concepts?”
“High school students often require that they are served a particular diet as their school lunch. Reasons may be medical, religious, ethical or moral. Describe students’ requirements and their reasons; and assess the righteousness of having any particular diet in school.”
The Yale Daily News: May 27, 2012 Keegan: The Opposite of Loneliness By Marina Keegan '12.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.
It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.
Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”
Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.
We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.
We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.
The piece above was written by Marina Keegan ’12 for a special edition of the News distributed at the class of 2012′s commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.