Book Notes for My Future Selves: The Paideia Program, Edited by Mortimer Adler

For background, on the series read this.  All posts in the series can be found here.

If The Paideia Proposal is a manifesto, then The Paideia Program is the how to book.  The chapters on teaching for knowledge, skill, and understand area really good overviews that would be useful to both novice and experienced teachers, and the later chapters on each discipline are useful for school designers.

For me the “Teacher”

  • Lots of practical advice for teachers leading Socratic Seminars: “the best opening question is one that everyone around the table can be asked to answer in succession” (27), “The leader must make an even greater effort to understand what is going on in the mind of another human being who, younger and less experienced, is struggling to understand something that is difficult for anyone of any age to understand” (28).
  • On way teaching skills through coaching is so important: “We do not learn to improve our serve in tennis very well by observing another’s being criticized. Individual attention by the coach is crucial” (41).

For me the “Advocate”

  • Writing in 1982, Adler reminds readers that the US has only been anywhere close to a truly democratic country since the passage of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.  I think it’s useful to remember that we are not that much further along: “With the advent of democratic institutions so very recent, it is not surprising that we have not yet established a democratic school system in this country” (4).

For me the “Professional Developer”

  • A great quote on the importance of teaching for understandings: “We come finally to increased understanding. Of all three kinds of learning, this is the most durable. More than that, it is also unconditionally durable. Unlike verbal memories, something understood does not need to be exercised in order to be retained. This, then, is the kind of learning that lasts for a lifetime and is of the greatest importance in the use of our minds and the conduct of our lives. Yet in our educational score-keeping we hardly measure it at all. Why not? Because this kind of learning is the most difficult to measure. It cannot be accurately assessed by standardized tests or by essay questions to be answered in blue books. The only way it can be sensitively appraised is by an extensive oral examination” (182).

Adler, Mortimer. Paideia Proposal. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982. Kindle Edition.

Responses or questions to any of the notes/quotes are very welcome and appreciated.  

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