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INVISIBLE COLLEGE

Welcome to the Lyceum, the learning center of the Invisible College.  Here you will find a the Agora Forum for discussion, the Lectern, from which regular lectures will be delivered, and a query form in which you may submit questions.  You are most welcome to interact, respond to questions, and submit questions.
 
A Lyceum is a hall  in which public lectures and events are held.  The name derives from Aristotle's school of the same name.  The lyceums that flourished in the United States before and after the Civil War were important in the development of adult education in America. During this period hundreds of informal associations were established for the purpose of improving the social, intellectual, and moral fabric of society. The lyceum movement — with its lectures, dramatic performances, class instructions, and debates — contributed significantly to the education of the adult American in the nineteenth century and provided the cultural framework for many of the areas of influence. Noted lecturers, entertainers and readers would travel the "lyceum circuit," going from town to town or state to state to entertain, speak, or debate in a variety of locations.  Here, at the Lyceum of the Invisible College, you will find a similar venue.  Please visit often as the Lyceum will be updated frequently.

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THE AGORA FORUM

3.12.08 QUESTION- "Why are humans preoccupied with the end of the world?"

2.17.08 QUESTION-"Is history's ultimate value its improtance to academia or to the common citizen?"

11.4.07 QUESTION-"What role does the independent scholar--one not connected with an institution or university--play in academic discourse?"

8.4.07 QUESTION:  "What role, if any, should government play in education?"

MAKE AN AGORA FORUM ENTRY  VIEW THE AGORA FORUM

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THE LECTERN BLOG

LECTURE 1:

“The Imp of Pedagogy:  A Growing Threat to Education”

by Judd H. Burton, MA, ABD--6.18.2009

            Day to day life depends on a certain amount of assumption.  We get used to taking things for granted, or not thinking about things, the unpleasant things, things that get in our way, inconvenient things.  We all do it to varying degrees. But in our quest for normalcy and balance and the perfect life, there is that feeling—which we can feel, if we concentrate on it—in the pit of our stomachs.  Amid all the hamburgers, dress shirts, golf games, barbeques, ball games, and 9-to-5 jobs, through our updated Levittown existence, there is that sinking feeling, that something—many small things under a larger rubric—something, indeed is very wrong in our society.

            It is difficult to miss the glaring shortcomings in American education and respective contributions to society.  In large part, we are witnessing the decimation of the quality of education, a phenomenon in direct proportion to a burgeoning population of students who lack critical thinking skills and depth of learning.  Despite this failing approach to education, policy makers and administrators seem remiss to alter the paradigm, and one must ask why?  There are really no easy answers, but two poles become immediately evident.  At one end of the spectrum is incompetence on the part of policy makers and administrators, and as angering and frustrating as that may be, there exists at least a modest engine for change in the ether of such foolishness.  The other end is more sinister, and belies the reality of the situation:  agenda.  I mean the purposeful shaping of curriculum and testing geared to make students more dependent on external sources for information and direction, rather than instilling in them the abilities to reason for themselves.  Even when the former occurs, it can very often serve the purpose of the latter.

            Now, there are good students—kids who will learn under whatever system they find themselves—despite it, even.  However, in large, we are breeding and raising a generation of citizens who cannot think for themselves, haven’t the patience to learn something new, or the philosophical frame to appreciate and practice virtue and beauty.  You have seen them.  They’re the kids who can’t count your change back to you, or do simple math without a calculator, or who haven’t read a book in its entirety.  Worse, there seem to be a growing number of people who are more than happy to allow this to happen. 

            It is difficult to determine exactly what the problem is.  In reality, the problem is multi-faceted and as such, is complex.  However, the common factors in most of these problems are an increasing government influence combined with—perhaps more importantly—the Deweyan approach to education.  Funding from government entities is crucial to the operation of public schools, but there are strings attached to that funding.  As for John Dewey, who educators are more likely to canonize as to demonize, his educational philosophy has been more detrimental to public education that perhaps any other in the 20th century.

            Dewey’s linkage of education and civil society, and the subsequent embrace of this ideology by policy makers, forever linked government to public education in one continuous loop.  Certainly, the goal of creating responsible and capable members of a democratic society is a noble and practical aspiration.  However, in so closely associating the perfect citizen with a public education, Dewey forever connected the educational process with American political policy.

            Dewey also did another disservice to education by envisioning the classroom as an experimental laboratory.  His time in academia is a tale of working out his beliefs in his own experimental schools, most notably the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.  The philosophy behind his pedagogical ideas was a “hands-on” approach, which in and of itself is not bad, but he also discarded most of the classical methods in the process.  However, students should be educated, not treated as subjects in a grand experiment.  The unfortunate legacy of this laboratory orientation in education may be observed in the education departments of colleges and universities across the nation.  In an irony that baffles the reasoning mind, it is theory and not method which dominates most curricula of colleges of education. 

Ask a public school teacher how valuable all those theory courses are once he or she actually crosses the threshold of their first classroom:  near worthless.  Oh, fascinating concepts, and some may filter down into practice, but by and large, they are useless.  School administrators want two things in teachers:  depth of knowledge in their subject areas, and ability to manage all aspects of their classrooms.  The former is a great cause of concern, and would seem to stem from the education curricula.  Truly, the only reason for educational theory classes would be to inform students of recent developments in the field, and to train professors who would in turn train teachers.  There is absolutely, positively no reason why an undergraduate needs extensive training in theory.  Colleges of education must change their policies so that students under their advisement actually pursue a degree in education that is near devoid of theory and heavier in subject and classroom management education.  The ideal end result is a student who double majors in a given subject(s) (one being education), receives a degree in education accordingly, and attains certification in said fields.

As there are good students in bad systems, so are there good teachers in bad educational systems.  However, the Deweyan paradigm is truly the imp of pedagogy, or at least an imp.  It serves the larger purpose of decreasing the intellectual and practical potential of students.  Unless, we remove the dross of John Dewey’s legacy, public education will continue to suffer and produce substandard students.  John Dewey’s dream of good citizens and productive members of society is being undermined by his own philosophies insofar as they have been embraced and developed by academia and policy makers.

PREVIOUS LECTURES:

"The Secret of Life"

"The Unbound Book"

"Paraethnology: Materials Toward a Discipline of Preternatural Inquiry"

"The Nephilim and the Roots of Civilization"

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ASK PROFESSOR BURTON

Students, visitors, and the curious, if you have questions regarding course material or questions related to the subject matter of Burton Beyond, you are invited to submit them.  I will answer as promptly as possible.  I look forward to your questions, as questions often teach both the asker and the responder.  Godspeed.                           
                                                                                     Judd Burton
 

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