Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Why Read Great Books?

David Randall

David Randall discusses the problems with reading Great Books as part of an "education to democracy."

Modern versus Western Thought: Adolescence over Adulthood

William H. Young

William Young examines the development of the "youth culture" which first emerged among 1950's high school students.

Teaching Particulars: A Review

David Randall

David Randall reviews Helaine Smith's argument for close reading in Teaching Particulars, and considers its implications for higher education.

Dear Future Professor: The Red Pill

Jason Fertig

Jason Fertig gives advice to people considering a career in academia.

Stanley Fish, Divestment, and "The Student Assault on the Academy"

NAS

Stanley Fish writes on the campus divestment movement and the role of the university.

Dear Future Adjunct

David Randall

NAS director of communications David Randall advises current and future adjunct professors. 

Academic Social Science and Inequality

William H. Young

William Young examines the preoccupation of American social science with the redress of inequality and its impact on education. 

Academic Social Science and the Group

William H. Young

William Young examines the social sciences' shift of focus from the individual to the group.

Columbia Teachers College Study is Broad and Subjective

Marilee Turscak

The Columbia Teachers College's new study, College Educational Quality, aims to assess academic quality in higher education. The research methods, however, merit much questioning.

Common Core State Standards: Above and Beyond

William H. Young

William Young concludes his series on CCSS by emphasizing why K-12 education is in need of a complete overhaul.

Common Core State Standards: Teacher Training and Pedagogy

William H. Young

William Young describes the measures necessary to prepare new teachers for CCSS.

Common Core State Standards: Schools of Education

William H. Young

William Young examines the serious inadequacy of education schools in preparing teachers for the K-12 classroom.

Common Core State Standards: Instructional Materials

William H. Young

William Young discusses the type of instructional materials necessary to improve K-12 educational outcomes.

Common Core State Standards: Cogs for the Economic Machine

William H. Young

William Young examines the ongoing debate over CCSS, and addresses the arguments of some prominent critics.

Common Core State Standards: College and Career Readiness

William H. Young

William Young discusses the serious decline in literacy and quantitative skills among students currently entering college.

Common Core State Standards: Mathematics Proficiency

William H. Young

William Young discusses CCSS proposals for revitalizing K‒12 mathematics education.

Common Core State Standards: The Gettysburg Address

William H. Young

William Young examines the proposed CCSS approach to reading and textual analysis.

Common Core State Standards: Nonfiction Versus Fiction

William H. Young

Wiliam Young examines the controversy over CCSS proposals for K‒12 reading content.

Common Core State Standards: A National Curriculum?

William H. Young

William Young examines the debate over the impact of CCSS for states.

Common Core State Standards: The Knowledge Curriculum

William H. Young

William Young discusses proposals to base K-12 education on knowledge, rather than "skills."

Common Core State Standards: Our Literacy Problem

William H. Young

William Young analyzes the sharp decline in reading proficiency among both high school and college students.

The Common Core: Better Than the Old Standards

Peter Machera

Peter Machera compares the Common Core State Standards to the "education standards of old."

Smartness Is Nothing but False and Oppressive

George Leef

Why smart people are oppressive, rather than smart.

Lingua Latina Manet in Aeternum

Glenn Ricketts

A suppposedly "dead" language actually seems pretty lively.

Reading History: Hedgehogs and Foxes

Bill Roden

History study should encourage students to engage with the lives and cultures they are studying rather than simply giving them preconceived ideas about series of events. 

Time Out On Extra Test Time

Glenn Ricketts

A Dartmouth undergrad thinks his extra test time gave him an unfair advantage over high school classmates.

They're Not Unteachable

Glenn Ricketts

It's more difficult, but certainly not impossible, to teach today's college students.

The Unteachables: A Generation That Cannot Learn

Janice Fiamengo

An English professor wonders how to teach students who can't learn.

"Teaching as a Subversive Activity": The Theory of Political Indoctrination

Zombie

Teachers have a "moral imperative" to shape students' beliefs and make them "agents for change," declared a lanugage professor at a recent Berkeley lecture.

Liberal Education Needs More Disruptive Technology

Jason Fertig

Why can’t we decouple liberal learning from college degrees?

Education vs. Training at Community Colleges

Jason Fertig

Jeff Anderson, dean of humanities, fine arts, and social sciences at Illinois Valley Community College, argues for the many benefits of great books courses, even for community college students.

Oxford and Columbia: Depth and Breadth

Thomas Dineen

Thomas Dineen compares his education at Oxford with that at Columbia and finds that the universities represent two systems with separate sets of values and attitudes. 

Professors Also Need to be Students

Jason Fertig

When you spend the bulk of your time driving, it's easy to forget how the car looks from the passenger seat.

Who Teaches College Professors How to Teach?

Jason Fertig

I have a dirty little secret.  No one has ever taught me how to teach - and that's the single biggest reason I still love teaching today.

Wall-Chart Wisdom

Peter Wood

Peter Wood praises vintage illustrated botany and zoology wall charts as reflecting an antidote for postmodern epistemological malaise.

Socially Constructed Mathematics -- That Will Make All the Difference!

George Leef

The University of North Carolina is hosting a professor from the University of Illinois who maintains that what “minority” students need if they’re going to understand math is for it to be presented as a “social construct.” This makes me think of the famous hoax by Alan Sokol — a published paper contending that gravity was a “social construct.” I don’t think this is a hoax, though.

Is Teaching a Team Sport?

Jason Fertig

Students learn better when their courses fit together and build on one another. Jason Fertig counsels professors in each major to see themselves as teams united by overarching education goals.

Series Answers "How Should Ethics Be Taught in College Today?"

Ashley Thorne

Over at NAS.org is a new series of essays by three professors on how to teach ethics in college today.

How Writing a Sonnet Helps Students Learn English

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Troy Camplin explains the benefits of giving students a seemingly outmoded and irrelevant writing assignment -- composing a sonnet. 

The Folly of Team Projects

Jason Fertig

Stick to individual assignments, counsels Jason Fertig. Group work often produces shoddy results and unfair grades, and rarely does it create "synergy."

"Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation"...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

A CSU-Chico faculty book club will read a book by an Iowa State professor who advances a pedagogy "that encompasses wholeness, multiculturalism, and contemplative practice, [...] and helps students to become social change agents.

Test Drive a Hybrid College Course

Jason Fertig

A combination of online and in-class instruction can help restore academic rigor in college courses.

Reading Pages, Reading Screens

Ashley Thorne

NAS published articles on both sides of the debate over the future of reading. One held up the merits of traditional books and asserted that we have much to lose as human beings if we abandon the printed word, and the other defended the Kindle as a helpful option for the modern reader. "Inflammatory Books on Kindle? Reigniting the Written Word,” by David Clemens, argues that, "When the book becomes disembodied, so does the reader." Jason Fertig counters in "A Kindled Spirit"  that "there is no need to fear the Kindle and its electronic cousins, for they are on our side [the side in favor of reading books]." We hope to have more pro/con pairs like this in the future.

$600 for "Teaching to Diversity" at CSU Chico

Ashley Thorne

Professors are invited to join a committee that will find ways to impose "diversity in the classroom."

Embracing Failure

David Clemens

As the creator of SimCity, The Sims, SimEarth, The Sims online, and Spore, Will Wright is a computer gaming “god.”  In his GameTech 2010 keynote address, Wright offers provocative observations about games and education.  He argues that learning begins with collecting data, then studying the data for patterns, using discerned patterns to develop schemas (abstractions) which allow us to create mental models, and finally base our behavior on those models that we hope will be predictive. So gamers learn to master a game which unfolds in “nested feedback loops” of increasing duration.  Gamers succeed by learning what works only through suffering serial failure, the same way an apprentice learns from failing at what the journeyman does well.  But classroom education, Wright says, causes students to avoid failure by teaching them as many rules as possible.  Theory, too, he says, insulates you from failure.  Worse, theory often results in schemas that are not derived from the experiential world (which explains why businessmen run countries better than professors). From online play data, Wright discovered that The Sims players actually enjoy exploring failure states because by hitting walls and discovering limits, they can build a model of the game’s “possibility space.” Life, Wright warns us, allows limited opportunities to build reality-based behavioral models, but we can take advantage of two “educational technologies” to increase our store of experience:  toys (play) and stories (the experience of others).  He calls his games “toys” because they don’t involve winning and losing; Spore, for example, teaches basic biological principles through play. One can't help wondering if Basic Skills education might be redesigned so as to produce learning through play, failure, and nested feedback cycles.

Take Back the Classroom from PowerPoint

Jason Fertig

Restrict PowerPoint use in teaching to pictures and videos, writes Jason Fertig. Too much PowerPoint usurps professors' authority and accustoms students to lazy thinking.

Aikido-Style Grading

Jason Fertig

Some students just want to pass; others want to learn. One professor's study of martial arts inspired a method for dealing with this motivational disparity.

Don't Stop the Presses - Yet

Glenn Ricketts

According to this survey from the National Association of College Stores, students prefer traditional print textbooks by a significant majority, and would not buy digitalized versions even if they were readily available and inexpensive. I'm not sure exactly what this signifies in the larger scheme of things, since students increasingly are deficient in reading proficiency irrespective of the particular medium involved. I can't help gloating just a bit though, since I've been so regularly assured that "technology" is the unstoppable wave of the future, and that I'd better get used to the fact that traditional textbooks are already obsolete. Full disclosure: I'm a skeptic about "technology." I haven't rejected the use of my computer, but I think enthusiasm tends to run way ahead of evidence where things such as online courses are concerned. I don't doubt that many in higher education, especially administrators fervently wish for that eventuality, and maybe it will come to pass. For me, however, that's a separate question from whether it will be able to deliver pedagogical dividends. Now if I see evidence that students begin to take to digitalized texts and their reading habits are likely to improve, I won't stand athwart the March of Progress. But for the moment, they're not interested in buying, much less reading the new gadgets.

All Wired Up: Six Questions Technology in the Classroom Raises

Jessica Custer

Does using technology in the classroom advance or hinder the academic pursuit of truth?

Guided by a Red Star: Ed Schools Bring Frankincense to the Cradle of Marxism

Ashley Thorne

A journal of Marxism and critical pedagogy erodes the distinction between classrooms and class struggle.

'Brainy' Cult Lessons in NYC

Candace de Russy

So brain-dead is much of contemporary education that, at first blush, one might be tempted at least to give the benefit of the doubt to a "Brain Education" program in which thousands of New York City public-school students and teachers are participating. Except that this program, which so far has caused the state's taxpayers $400,000, is now alleged to have ties to a cult. Numerous former employees of an organization called Dahn Yoga -- whose founder developed the teachings for Brain Education -- allege the program is controlled by a group that is part of a huge web of interrelated companies that, in the Post's words, "reels people in with lovey-dovey, group-building activities before steadily ratcheting up the pressure" and cons "participants into investing all their time and money in unproven health and healing activities." Moreover, these employees charge that Dahn Yoga's "activities are abusive and grow increasingly devotional over time to the group's founder and spiritual leader, 57-year-old Seung Huen 'Ilchi' Lee." (On the abuse front, note that Dahn Yoga has been sued by the family of Julia Siverls -- a healthy, 41-year-old CUNY professor who died during an endurance hike sponsored by the group. Her family alleged that Siverls had been drugged and made to hike in desert heat with 40 pounds of rocks in her backpack and with little water. Another former Dahn employee who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Lee settled her case against him.) But how to illustrate  Brain Education at work on the ground in New York? At a Bronx elementary school, for example, students were instructed to say, "I love your Power Brain face," to one another and to rap songs with lyrics like "I love my thalamus." You get the picture. More mad pedagogies and pedagogical scams. And more mad neglect of students who desperately need to learn to read and write, among other tried and true paths to real cerebral empowerment.

Blue Blastoff

Ashley Thorne

A school in lower Manhattan created by the Blue Man Group believes we can't teach kids facts anymore...but we can teach them to "build a harmonious and sustainable world."

School Lit: Should Students Pick Their Own?

Ashley Thorne

What do you think?

The Highest Form of Flattery...and Learning

Ashley Thorne

New scientific findings show that children learn faster when they imitate adults; this contrasts with "child-centered" progressive ed school philosophy.

"Texans Are Stupid" and Other Lessons from the Public Schools

Elena Callas

A teacher reflects on the politics she has seen in K-12 classrooms -and the playground.

Balloon Animals

Peter Wood

How Massachusetts teachers brush up on their skills.

Imported Bologna

Ashley Thorne

A bad American idea that went to Europe and came back worse.

Seat Time at the AAC&U

Peter Wood

78% of colleges and universities use learning outcomes, survey says.

Slouching Toward the Therapeutic University: Part 3

Tom Wood

A university is about self-discovery, but in a sense quite different from person-centered therapy. It involves stretching the self and the mind with the thoughts of the great minds of the past and present.

Slouching Toward the Therapeutic University: Part 2

Tom Wood

How the "students as customers" attitude and the self-esteem movement undermine good education.

Slouching Toward the Therapeutic University: Part 1

Tom Wood

In the first of this three-part series, Tom Wood contrasts self-alienation and student-centered pedagogy.

Grinding Out Researchers

Peter Wood

Is "Research for America" a good idea?

Charles Murray and Progressive Education-Part 3

Tom Wood

In the conclusion of this three-part series, Tom Wood discovers an unexpected affinity beteen Charles Murray and the "progressive" educators.

21st Century Ignorance

Peter Wood

A new dictionary of educational lingo misses the latest fad: "21st century skills."

Education and Intelligence--Part 2

Tom Wood

In the second of this four-part series, Tom Wood compares two key exams, NAEP and CLA. Both show that education improves intelligence.