Thinking Citizen Blog — My Seven Best Ideas and the “Hook”
Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — My Seven Best Ideas and the “Hook” (a Fractal Orion)
Orion is my hook. Seven stars. Alnilam at the center. The most prominent constellation in the night sky by far. The seven stars represent my seven best ideas on the topic dearest to my heart — education. (I have been teaching in one form or another since 1977.) The idea is to tell a story that is both as simple and complete as possible within the confines of the outer limit of human memory which is roughly seven items. The ideas are organized and prioritized. The three most original and powerful are the stars of Orion’s belt — Alnilam (the center), Mintaka, and Alnitak. The next four which come in two pairs are the peripheral stars — two above (Betelgeuse and Bellatrix) and. two below (Saiph and Rigel). My Orion is fractal. Each star has seven points. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
ORION’S BELT — ALNILAM, MINTAKA, ALNITAK
1. ALNILAM is the list of the 39 songs, prayers, and poems that are the keys to the hearts of seven billion people. These (in their original language) should be the core humanities curriculum of every K-12 school on the planet earth. They impart to the student a super power of being able to tear down all cultural barriers within 15 seconds. The math is simple: 3 hours per song, 3 songs a year = 9 hours per year, times 13 years = 39 songs. And I’m an old guy. A kindergartner might be able to do this in half the time. An accelerated program could teach all 39 songs in a single semester. Can you think of a better idea for a General Education course? I can’t. The list of songs can be found in the attached document which is the handout from a Zoom presentation I made tot he Adams House Senior Common Room last November. Feel free to print out copies and distribute as widely as possible. The presentation was recorded and the video can be found below. In it I sing samples in about ten languages. A noteworthy page from the handout is the one on the top three of the thirty nine songs as measured by reach — the “Al Fatihah” of Islam (1.8 billion people), Li Bai’s “Chuan Tian Ming Yue Guang” (1.4 billion), and the Gayatri Mantra of Hinduism (1.2 billion). These three gems gets an english speaker 80% of the world’s non-english speakers. The 80/20 rule holds! (yes, very rough math). Complete the fractal mini-Orion yourself. The peripheral four could be, for example, Beethoven’s setting of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” Japan’s “Sakura,” France’s “La Marseillaise,” and Nigeria’s “Sweet Mother.” Or perhaps East Africa’s “Jambo” or South Africa’s “Nkosi.” Go for it. Share. Music unites. Politics divides. Not all music is created equal. These songs, prayers, and poems have a unique power waiting to be harnessed.
2. MINTAKA is the Principles, Facts, and Solutions Quiz. The real test of thinking citizenship is the ability to make a strong case for all three sides in the next election (left, right, center) marshaling three very different things (principles, facts, and solution) for each of the seven issues that are so important they should influence your decision (foreign policy, economic policy, climate change, social justice, health care, education, and political process reform). Think a three by three matrix. The columns are Principles, Facts, and Solutions. The rows are Left, Right, and Center. Your challenge: fill in each of the nine little squares for each of the seven matrices with: a.) one coherent sentence, b.) statistics as appropriate. Go. No one who has taken this test has come close to passing. Why? Thinking citizenship is like playing tennis or playing the piano. It takes about ten year practicing at least an hour a day to be in any good. But if the average five year old starts tennis, piano, or thinking and does so with focus and determination, by 14 they are pretty darned good and by 18 they can outperform any 45 year old who has not had that training during their formative years. See the Thinking Citizen website link blow for details. The appendix to the website includes filled in matrices. But please, please, please take the test yourself before you peak at my best answers.
3. ALNITAK is the Seven Joys Curriculum. Education is about taking kids from “I can’t” and “I don’t like” to “Wow! I can! and “Wow! This is so cool!” in the seven joys of life — sports, music, art, math, science, history (aka thinking citizenship), and literature. A teacher well versed in the best techniques can achieve in days what a poorly trained teacher can not do in ten years. The best example of this is the guru of drawing teachers, Betty Edwards, author of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” Her book became the best selling art instruction book of all time. I was the beneficiary of her methods after her retirement because she taught them to her son who was my instructor — Brian Bomeisler. In three days I went from kindergarten level stick figures to a self-portrait in perspective that my kids recognized instantly and that a professional artist told me he could not match! What is true of art is also true of all other fields. See the Liberal Arts Academy link below for details. Also check out the link to the book-length pdfs on each of the seven joys (as well as on the seven issues of thinking citizenship). Fourteen pdfs in all. About 7000 pages. For free! What a bargain! The miracles of modern technology!
BETELGEUSE AND BELLATRIX — THE UPPER PAIR OF STARS
1. BETELGEUSE — is the seven tools of critical thinking — the thematic journal, the thematic matrix, the thematic calendar, the thematic conversation, the thematic checklist, the thematic before and after test, the thematic capstone. The logic behind the list is simple. Here is one example. Thematic journal: a.) thematic continuity is the key to depth of thought. b.) you can’t learn from the past if you can’t remember it; c.) if you don’t record it at the time (in detail), you won’t remember it the way it actually happened. For the rest of the story, go to the Liberal Arts Academy website link below. If you don’t master all seven tools, your learning (and teaching) will be far, far less efficient.
2. BELLATRIX — is the seven disciplines of thinking citizenship: ethics, economics, history, politics, law, statistics, and rhetoric. If you don’t master the basics of each, you will be a patsy at the poker table of politics. This ain’t rocket science. But it is tricky. Starting young is best. See the Thinking Citizen and Liberal Arts Academy websites for details — as well as the seven book-length pdfs on each of the seven issues.
SAIPH AND RIGEL — THE LOWER PAIR OF STARS
1. SAIPH — stands for the seven micro virtues: gratitude (aka piety, humility, positivity), kindness (aka love, the golden rule, reciprocity), courage (aka self-confidence), thoughtfulness (prudence), self-control (temperance), diligence (hard work), excellence (kaizen, constant self-improvement). The order is not random. The principle of gratitude is the cornerstone of all great religions. As Confucius noted long ago the greatest barrier to a good society is confusion as to the meaning of the most important words. An ancient Hindu saying makes the same point: “Truth is one. Sages call it by many names.”
2. RIGEL: the seven macro values (virtues, goals): peace, freedom, justice, prosperity, truth, duties, and rights. We all want our rights respected but are somewhat less eager to embrace our duties. We like to focus on one goal — justice, freedom, peace — and ignore the demands of the other. Education is about teaching a deep understanding of the trade-offs, the painful costs of choosing any path. Saiph and Rigel together are the moral foundation upon which Orion stands.
FOOTNOTES — a medal to anyone who makes it to the second one
1. The handout from the SCR talk from last November is attached below. The video is the third link below. A list of all SCR presentations from the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021 is the fourth link below.
2. A question: Wikipedia says Orion appears in the night sky from November to March, a friend said he saw Orion yesterday morning. Is Wikipedia wrong or is my friend hallucinating? When is Orion first visible in the night sky?
A LINK TO THE LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME: (14 book length pdfs)
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.