Saturday, October 31, 2009

* The 4T's: Ignoring Yale Presidents and Savaging American Childhood

Two great Yale presidents, A. Whitney Griswold and A. Bartlett Giamatti, made prescient presidential pronouncements about the course of "education" in America
(see below).

Both of them were ignored.

Now Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will institutionalize the very
flaws which Griswold and Giamatti foresaw, by turning American Schools into a "Race to the Top", the ultimate "Athletization of Life" (Giamatti) and a grotesque instance of believing there is a recipe to "teach teachers how to teach" (Griswold).

The result? American schools will abandon the
3R's and replace them with the 4T's: Teaching To The Test.

This is nothing less than a not-so-surreptitious drive toward a national curriculum.

Let's turn childhood into a rigid recipe for success. Let's drain it of every chaotically creative moment of joy which Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer epitomized.

Soon we can outfit all students in uniforms with boots whose heels will click in unison on command.

Parents should shudder with shame if they allow American childhood to be so savaged by the Servants of Standardization.

(Secretary of Education Arne Duncan)

From "Winning isn't Everything",

a speech delivered as President of Yale University, BBBC
(Before Becoming Baseball Commissioner):

“Many of the abuses, including the abuse of drugs or alcohol or steroids among some college athletes or some professional athletes,stem from the complete athletization of life, the displacement of all social rules by the rules of the game’s culture. Totally absorbed, some feel invulnerable, invincible, completely exempt from conventional expectations … the inevitable result, particularly among some former professional athletes well into their thirties (although I have seen it among college athletes and, in a few cases, with gifted high s chool athletes, whose ‘careers’ stopped at about 19), is that there is no place in the general culture for them when they no longer fit in the cult. They have prepared no skill or trade, have eschewed all other interests, have made no plan or expressed any desire for a plan, because no one told them or they refused to believe that there comes an end to running, an end to the cheers, an end to the life lived on the cuff, to the endless pleasuring of themselves. … Such people are as if newborn when it is over, accustomed to packing a suitcase but not to carrying it, unaccustomed to few if any of the hundreds of daily activities that require one to negotiate for oneself.”
- A. Bartlett Giamatti

Letter: Liberal arts not meant to be useful

Published Friday, April 3, 2009
Letter to the Editor
Yale Daily News

What an unpleasantly utilitarian odor the April 1 technology column (“Tech. requirement would enhance Yale education”) has — suggesting for the second time in a month in the News that the liberal arts are “utilitarian,” i.e. “useful.”

The liberal arts are designed to help people think — not to train them for “useful careers.”

John Ciardi, the late great Dante scholar, defines an intellectual as “someone capable of being excited by ideas.” Yeats said, “Education is about catching fire.”

Put the two together and you have the kindling for a liberal arts education.

Remember, it was a 1940's Yale president, A. Whitney Griswold, who in a single, dramatic stroke of thinking abolished Yale’s graduate department of education, saying, “It is not necessary to teach teachers how to teach.”

Had the country followed suit 50 years ago, America would not have developed the treadmill of information delivery systems called public education which suffocates thinking today. Instead, our classrooms would have been conducted by exponents of the liberal arts.

Down with utilitarianism.

Set fires.

Paul Keane

White River Junction, VT
The writer is a 1980 graduate of the Yale Divinity School.
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