WEEK 3          Class Summary    Reflections  

Class Summary

Once again here's a quick wrap up of (my version of...) the discussion yesterday, as well as a few more specific questions to think about in preparation for next week. And thanks for a very interesting discussion this week. I look forward to next week. Tom

Notes from 4/11

A number of Hirsch's ideas and arguments made sense because they seemed practical -- (it will be easier to teach if students have common background knowledge) and fit with some of our own experiences (it can be hard to communicate with someone if one doesn't share some common knowledge)-- Some of Gardner's ideas seemed less practical. But we questioned Hirsch's theory of learning because he did not really explain how much knowledge one needed to facilitate learning nor which knowledge one really needed, nor did he explain how other important skills, habits etc. are learned. So we're still looking for a theory of learning that will enable us to understand both how students learn relevant information and how they develop deeper understandings.

In terms of H & G's theories of culture, we pointed out that Hirsch seems to be concerned with providing access for all to culture with a small "c" (the common knowledge needed to be a participant in society) and Gardner with ensuring that students are able to appreciate and advance culture with a capital "C" (represented in the highest achievements of the disciplines) Both run into the problem that providing access to these "dominant" cultures also has an effect on how other cultures are portrayed and the extent to which other cultures are reinforced and shared. Furthermore, how the dominant culture is defined and shaped, and the role of education in the shaping of the dominant culture, is not really addressed.

For next time:

Please take a look at some of the TFU materials and some of the materials on the Core Knowledge web-site. For your reflection: please share your general reactions to these applications of Gardner and Hirsch's approaches: What do you find most compelling/problematic at this point? Have any of your previous questions been addressed? What other questions do you have?

For class, please come prepared to share an overview of the materials you looked at and to tell us your assessment. To what extent does the approach reflected in these materials help address some of the questions we have raised so far (e.g. does the approach address or make it possible to address both core knowledge/basic skills and understanding? Is it appropriate for all students, some students? Can it be carried out and assessed effectively? What kind of values -- about the purpose and roles of education, the abilities of students, the work of teachers -- does the approach reflect? Etc.) You do not need to address all of these questions (just those that seem most appropriate) or make a formal presentation, but it may be useful to provide an overhead, diagram, example lesson, or some other short illustration to help the rest of us get a good sense of the materials you reviewed. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to let me know!



The reading reflections suggest that many people felt that some of Hirsch's ideas made sense, but that seemed to surprise them or make them somewhat uncomfortable. So I suggested we think about what made sense to us and what we thought was problematic. In general, people bought Hirsch's basic view that it would be helpful to have students coming to school with a common body of knowledge, but had no trouble generating concerns about who would determine that knowledge, how much one needed, whether that was all that was needed etc. I tried to push them to think more deeply about the theories of learning and culture underlying Hirsch's approach, but it's not clear how much background in psychology is needed to get a sense of what the alternative theories are and or why such a psychological theory may be necessary..

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c. 2000, Thomas Hatch, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  All the material contained on this site has been produced by Thomas Hatch or other authors as noted. These materials can be downloaded, printed, and used with proper acknowledgement, including the name and affiliation of the author and the web-site address.