Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — Taking Stock II: Substance — Seven Joys, Seven Issues, Seven Virtues
Last time, I focused on process — specifically, the thematic journal, the thematic matrix, and the thematic calendar. These are tools applicable to any field. Today, the task is to distill the three substantive ideas I have ever had most worth passing on. The common theme is the magic number seven. Completeness is vital. But brevity equally so. Humans, as a rule, can’t remember more than seven of anything. And there are seven days of the week. And we live week to week. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE SEVEN JOYS — the first leg of the stool
1. 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, science, literature, math, and history.”
2. The only way to get to joy is through mastery. The key to mastery is through rigorous discipline and daily practice.
3. The teacher should be a coach at the side of every student, observing, asking, testing, telling not a pontificating “sage on the stage.” You learn by doing. The capstone in every field should be a public demonstration of mastery.
NB: Without the experience of each of these seven joys, rational life choices as to career and play can not be made. Why? Without experiencing each, you can’t possibly know which brings you the most joy and which you are best at. John Dewey: “To find out what one is fitted to do and seize the opportunity to do it is the key to happiness.”
THE SEVEN VIRTUES — second leg (or could be the first)
1. Education is about learning what it means to be the best person you can be and how to get there. Arguably, this, rather than joy, deserves primacy.
2. To me, these seven virtues give a reasonably complete, holistic view: gratitude, kindness, courage, prudence, temperance, diligence, and excellence.
3. Of these, I strongly believe (with Cicero) that gratitude is not only the first of the virtues but the parent of all the others.”
NB: It is essential to give children practical tools to serve as reminders of what virtues matter most. One idea here is to assign what to you are the most important three virtues one of the three basic elements of your daily visual field (eg. blue sky = gratitude, green plants = kindness, white clouds = courage). Another is to harness the process of optimizing your physical posture to reinforcing your moral posture (eg. standing tall = courage, deep nasal breath = prudence or temperance, smile = gratitude and/ or kindness).
THE SEVEN ISSUES — the third leg of the stool
1. Thinking citizenship is the third goal of education.
2. The test of thinking citizenship is the ability to make a strong case for all three sides in the next election mastering principles, facts, and solutions for each of the seven issues so important they should influence your decision in the next election. These are foreign policy, economic policy, climate change, health care, education, social justice, and political process reform.
3. This is not easy. It is certainly no easier than mastering tennis or the piano — which last I checked takes at least 10 years for most humans.
NB: In every K-12 social studies class, every day, every student, should be making a case for and against something marshaling principles, facts, and solutions for one of these issues. No, this is not easy. It’s like a proper practice of piano or tennis. Sorry. Oh, and by the way, thinking citizenship requires mastering the basics of seven disciplines: politics, economics, ethics, rhetoric, history, statistics, and law.
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.