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EducationTeachingClassic Education in the 21st Century Revisited

Classic Education in the 21st Century Revisited

I’d like your feedback to the following revised comments about classic learning in the 21st Century. It’s a summary for general readers of education foundations. Certified teachers have at least had exposure through professional preparation exercises to references containing this content.

These notes are for another project. I’ll post more information about it later.

Please consider these points as you read: Do you recognize uncited literature that corresponds with sections as you read through it? Do these notes make sense? What’s missing? What would you change?

And, thanks in advance for reviewing my notes.

Classic education contributes to learning in the 21st Century, just as it has in history. As the name claims, it holds top rank for describing and analyzing learning.

Classic education provides the social function of continuity across generations and demographic interests of society. This continuity permits people to have a common set of information and processes from which to discuss, work together, and invent, irrespective of personal interests and other information as well as background.

Some argue that enough wrong things exist with classic education that society should abandon it. They propose different ways of learning. These alternatives appear to give priority to a unified system of education where religious and political ideas of fairness, community, cooperation, employment, etc. serve as templates to build and assess learning. Such counsel appears intriguing, but incomplete.

Classes of Learning

Different classes of learning have various priorities or foci, for example, to 21st Century skills, scientific pedagogy, humanism, creationism, and traditionalism.

Some classes represent meeting human needs as a political outcome of community building. Others seek to understand and follow best guesses of how cognition, empowerment, human development, and self-actualization might occur. Some stress religious origins and purposes. A declining minority adhere to solving problems by using scientific behavioral ideas of how people learn and other such ideas tested for reliability and utility throughout history.

Shared Assumptions

Irrespective of focus, these practices share two common assumptions. One, that people learn. And, two, that social efforts can increase learning.

Without these assumptions, the social institution of education, with its formal organizations and practices, would not exist. Other social control and so called personal growth mechanisms might take priority over learning to solve problems and to adapt to circumstances.

Classic Education

By definition, classic education serves as the highest rank among efforts to increase learning. It sets a standard against which to compare other classes of learning. These comparisons continue into the 21st Century as they have in past centuries among the most informed people among us.

Classic education uses simplified learning processes that fit various subjects of study.

From this view, educators and behavioral psychologists have found ways to adjust schooling and other intentional learning venues to allow people ranging in abilities from the most talented to those with some disabilities to learn the same content. Learners who use these processes likely learn the most, the fastest, with the least personal risk of failure and cost.

People commonly label these fast learners “gifted.” Yet, scientific behavioral learning based instruction can result in people not labeled gifted earning the same results.

The content of classic education consists of those items that inform people about how things came to be as they are. It’s an evolving curriculum with a legacy in the liberal arts and sciences. More recent expansion has added environmental sciences and multicultural studies into some curricula.

Classic Education and Learning Sciences

Scholars and scientists with classic education backgrounds created over the past 100 years empirical evidence to describe how and when learning occurs. Learning sciences (LS) grew from these descriptions.

LS refers to those interdisciplinary efforts that give priority to describing and analyzing learning as a personal and social phenomenon. The term emerged to capture the disciplined descriptions that have resulted from systematic empirical studies in the behavioral, cognitive, neurological and social sciences over the past 100 years.

Learning scientists have extended their efforts to creating learning analogs, intelligent (use of artifical or computer-based intelligence) tutoring and instruction systems, and robotics.

Store shelves abound with electronic toys that give hints of how these systems can likely increase learning rates beyond traditional and yields of most contemporary school classroom.

Classic Education and Education Fads

Classic education continues across centuries in the face of education fads. For many reasons, educators develop and experiment with variations in instruction, learning venues, and curricula.

Proponents of the new way usually conduct these experiments in public schools. They seldom pass their plans first through human rights reviews required for recognized research organizations.

Few public schooling fads have evolved from a science based learning theory. Few have resulted from empirical experimental data demonstrating an increase in student learning that closely approximates results from classic education. Yet, almost, if not all schooling fads appear to school policy makers at first to offer some potential to increase student learning.

The longer lasting fads run a life cycle of three to seven years. The elapsed time of each cycle varies according to public funding patterns that underwrite the effort, public policies of the moment, interest of key school decision makers, and the attraction of another new schooling venture to increase learning.

Classic Education and Public Policy

Public policy makers acknowledge classical education as the standard for assessing public education. Those who argue for other criteria for authorizing public funds to education lobby for rationale other than based in learning sciences. They may point, for example, to teacher opinion and experience, employer demands for certain employee skills, global economic shifts, and political equity.

Public policy makers sometimes accept alternative rationale for funding. Yet, classical education remains the standard against which they compare results of these alternatives, or alternatives fade away when funding ends.

No one intentionally tracks and reports learning lost (compared with classic education) by students, because they take part in publically supported schooling fads and experiments.

Classic Education and Mobile Learning

Top tier private and a few public schools that offer classic education programs on campuses have started offering online courses for non-matriculated learners, including public K12 students. These courses allow learning on-demand with Tablet and other mobile as well as desktop PCs, hand size electronic communication devices, and iPhones. Such offerings make the efficiency of classic education more accessible to the mass market of mobile learners.

No one tracks and reports the impact of these offerings on state academic learning standards and conventional school academic achievement.

Summary of Classic Education for the 21st Century

Classic education offers a standard against which to assess the impact education programs have on learning in the 21st Century. No other generally recognized historic standard exists for this comparison.

Efforts to offer alternative standards usually fade away. Efforts to expand definitions of classic education appear to endure longer than schooling fads. Against this context, mobile learning appears to offer another expansion in response to learning-on-demand by people in and out of schools.

What say you? Would you offer these notes to your colleagues or family as a description of classic academics and learning today?

Classic Education in the 21st Century

Robert Heiny
Robert Heinyhttp://www.robertheiny.com
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.

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  1. Hi,I must say that you have done thorough research work before writing this post. In my opinion, these notes reflects the meaning of Classic education

  2. Thank you for your observation. Yes, I have tried to summarize views from diverse positions. It serves as background for developing a learning efficiency analysis paradigm (aLEAP) used with NESI (New Era School Initiative) posts.