636 Search Results for: education

Villanova and the Compulsory Pieties of Higher Education

I. All We Like Sheep In the 1980s, when the Reagan administration chose the name “Peacekeeper” for an intercontinental ballistic missile sporting 300-kiloton nuclear warheads, critics of the program were over a barrel. “Peacekeepers kill!” “Down with Peacekeepers!” “Support for Peacekeepers is support for war!” You see the problem. Higher education gets similar rhetorical insulation with phrases like “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” which is why on American college campuses pledges of fidelity to some version of this trinity have been slipped into annual reviews, teaching evaluations, and applications for employment with hardly a whisper of opposition. Dissent always sounds diabolical. This was demonstrated last spring when two Villanova professors objected in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed to their institution’s new teaching evaluation form which asks students to comment on the professor’s “cultural awareness” and sensitivity to “individual differences” and “social identities.” The calumny wrote itself. A “Response” signed by one hundred Villanova professors implied that Doctors Sheehan and Wilson, unlike the faculty signatories, do not take seriously “charges of insensitivity, injustice, and bigotry.” Villanova’s President …

The Future of Our Ancient Past

This is part one of a four part series on the Classics. Part two will be published tomorrow. Australian National University’s decision to reject a large donation from the Ramsay Centre has brought the topic of Western civilization to the forefront once again. For me, the most pressing question is about the future of classics, the discipline that has long claimed to deal with the foundations of Western civilizations. I’ve previously helped teach a course called “Origins of Political Thought,” and I’m preparing to teach another with the title “Foundations of Western Political Thought” next year. But should anyone still be teaching courses on “Western Civ”? My answer, in a word, is yes. There’s nothing wrong with teaching Western Civilization or the Western classics alongside other cultural traditions. At the same time, the way Classics used to be taught is gone for good. In many ways, that’s a good thing: the traditional classical education was astonishingly narrow, and often gave the impression that the tradition it dealt with was the only game in town. Luckily, …

Progressive Education Works—But Only for Those Who Need The System Least

In the latest OECD student-evaluation rankings, Australia performed dismally. Average benchmark PISA test results for the country’s 15-year-old students have declined more since 2003 than those for any other developed country except Finland. In mathematics proficiency, Australian students are now below the OECD average. And they are a full year behind in scientific and reading literacy compared with those who sat the test two decades ago. Of course, PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) is not the only measure of progress. And outperforming other countries is not the goal of our education system. According to a 2008 declaration from the country’s Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, the real goal is that “all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens,” so as to produce a “democratic, equitable and just society…that is prosperous, cohesive and culturally diverse, and that values Australia’s Indigenous cultures as a key part of the nation’s history, present and future.” But notice that these are social goals, not educational standards. Unsurprisingly, Australia …

‘Post-Truth’ and the Decline of Swedish Education

In the last 15–20 years, Sweden has suffered a downturn in several important aspects of the elementary and secondary education system. To begin to illustrate the state of Sweden’s schools, we can make a comparison with the heavily criticized American education system. It is a common and understandable belief, in the U.S. and elsewhere, that Swedish schools compare favorably with American schools in terms of educational outcomes. But the weakest American students in 8th grade performed significantly better than the weakest Swedish 8th graders in the TIMSS Mathematics assessment in 2011, one of the international comparative tests that have existed since the 1990s. In the latest cycle of the TIMSS Mathematics assessment, conducted in 2015, the weakest U.S. and Swedish students performed identically, but American students outperformed Swedish students in all other percentiles. In contrast, Swedish students outperformed their U.S. peers across the entire distribution in 1995. A similar negative development can be observed in Swedish students’ performance in the PISA. Swedish 9th graders performed above the international average in the first cycle of PISA in 2000, but …

The Tragedy of Australian Education

In April, the Australian government finally published its airy and platitudinous report and review of the country’s schools. Popularly known as ‘Gonski 2.0’ after David Gonski, the businessman who chaired the review panel and who had chaired a previous review of school funding, it provided little evidence to support its proposals, despite evidence being a key requirement in the terms of reference. The report states that Australia must ditch its ‘industrial model’ of school education, the sort of cliché you would expect to hear in the most derivative education conference speech. Instead, each young person must “emerge from schooling as a creative, connected, and engaged learner with a growth mindset” (see here for a double meta-analyses of growth mindset interventions which shows that they have virtually no effect). The details of how to achieve this are vague, but the panel is clear on one key point: rigid, age-based curriculum content must be blown apart in favor of progressing students individually through a set of skills such as literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, and self-management. Despite its managerial …

How Ed Schools Became a Menace to Higher Education

I. The Miseducation of College Administrators Years ago, at the college where I teach, some graffiti on a restroom wall caught my eye. Inked into the tile grout was a swastika the size of a baby aspirin, and just above it, in a different hand, someone had written in large letters: “This says a lot about our community.” An arrow pointed to the offending sign. I’d seen lots of responses to the odd swastika over the years—obscene remarks about the author’s anatomy, say, or humiliating additions to his family tree. But a claim that this itsy-bitsy spider of a swastika signaled a web of hatred permeating one of the most left-leaning colleges in the nation? That was a new one. More evidence for this web was adduced a few months later when some racially charged fliers were posted anonymously around campus. Because the fliers offended people who failed to notice that they were meant as anti-racist satire, administrators punished the undergraduate who had put them up, even after it was discovered that he was a minority …

The Student’s Dilemma: Conformity or Education

Every year on university campuses across the country, students like me navigate a variety of disciplines in pursuit of numbers that will open the door to our career of choice. Whether we yearn for a high grade point average (GPA), a high grad school test score, or a high paying job, numbers are what matter to those of us who see university as an important gateway to future happiness and prosperity. However, in certain disciplines, it can be difficult to reconcile this aspect of the student experience with the freedom to pursue our studies in a spirit of open and disinterested inquiry. In the liberal arts programs in particular, activism and ambition can conflict so that students must choose between writing what they think and getting the grades they want and need. Of course, this ought to be a false dilemma. That it exists at all raises troubling questions about academic liberty—a cornerstone of any educational institution—and what a university education is actually for. Although most schools continue to affirm free inquiry as central to …

The Knowledge Gap—A Review

Let me lead you through a portal created in the basement of some secretive and sinister government laboratory and into the Educational Upside Down. The Educational Upside Down is a parallel dimension where elementary school children are captivated by street signs and bored rigid by myths and tales of heroes. It is a dimension where early readers work out the relationships between the sounds of English and the letters that represent these sounds largely by being immersed in anodyne, specially written story books. Yet, weirdly, it is also a dimension where children have to be explicitly taught ‘comprehension strategies’ to understand what they read, such as activating their prior knowledge or deciding which sentence is the most important, and then must practice these strategies for the greater part of the school day. This is a dimension where knowledge of the world—that same prior knowledge that needs activating—is the last thing that it would occur to anyone to actually teach children in schools. The Educational Upside Down is frightening and surreal, not merely because it denies …

Liberal Orthodoxy and the New Heresy

I teach college in a small city in Arkansas, deep in the American Bible Belt. I am a historian of Africa and in my department that means that I also teach a world history survey. I always start with the expansion of modern humans out of Africa and their encounter with other types of humans: Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denesovians and what seems like an ever-growing list of newly discovered human-like creatures. It’s less the case now, but when I started twenty years ago this part of the course was initially met with polite but firm resistance, which gradually gave way to a sort of furtive curiosity. I eventually realized that even my cleverest students knew very little about human evolution except that it was false and that they were supposed to reject it. They came to the university having been taught that evolution was part of a larger attack on their faith and values, but they had never really been exposed to anything but a sort of parody version of it. A small number of …

Australia’s PISA Shock

Last week, the latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. These were based on tests taken in 2018 in reading, mathematics and science by a sample of students from each of the relatively wealthy OECD member countries as well as a range of other partner countries. Importantly, PISA researchers also surveyed participants on everything from their social media use to classroom climate. The results have rightly produced a great deal of comment in Australia because they are further evidence of the country’s long-term decline in education. Mathematics and science have both continued their relentless downward drift and although reading held steady since the last round of testing in 2015, it has slid a long way since the first round in 2000. In the context of Australia’s PISA results, it is tempting to look to the results from other countries for ideas on how the country can get out of this rut. Over the last decade or so, the region most cited by educationalists as an example to follow is the small Northern …