The Paideia Program Pdf

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About The Paideia Program Pdf

This was an interesting book to read. Not a page-turner, not a text that made me say, “yes, exactly!”. I expected to give it three stars, actually, because I liked it but didn’t love it.

Then I noticed how many dog-eared pages after my first read. Clearly, there is something there!

Targeting schools and teachers, but interesting for parents. 

Reading this book in many ways is like looking at a road not taken by our public educational system.  Faced with declining academic performance among the wide body of American youth, and the threat that an uneducated populace meant for faith in republican institutions in an age of rising economic instability, the cultured and sophisticated members of the Paideia group proposed a bold egalitarian appeal for the education of every child in the United States in a suite of skills and practice in a wide variety of fields that would allow for the wide possession of a common cultural and educational background.  In order to provide for this high level of universal education, these educational thinkers proposed for an elimination of those aspects of education that were designed to set up multiple tracks for students, including magnet programs, a focus on dumbing down education for jocks, a bogus focus on quickly obsolete job skilling, and the straightjacket of standardized tests that provide an easy test of rote knowledge but a poor test of long term and fruitful understanding.  Despite the clarity and passion and logic of the proposal, it has proven to be nearly entirely rejected by the educational system, which if anything is more segmented, more divided, and less attuned to the long-term educational needs of the citizens of a free republic than it was when the authors wrote this book.  Despite their best efforts, this book was too far against the current of our times for it to have made an impression so far on public education in our country, even though it remains an intriguing proposal on its own considerable merits.

The contents of this book are a somewhat detailed series of sixteen essays and a lengthy appendix that together take up almost 250 pages of material relating to the improvement of America’s public education [1].  The sixteen essays by a variety of people like Mortimer Adler, Charles Van Doren and his relatives John and Geraldine, Theodore Sizer, Jacques Barzun, and James O’Toole, among others, deal with a variety of subjects that can be divided into three parts.  The first part examines the three kinds of teaching and learning, with essays on the conduct of interactive seminars, coaching of intellectual skill development like calculating, typing, speaking, and writing, and didactic instruction of facts and information.  The second and longest part of the book examines the sort of subject matter that is to be taught over the twelve years of primary and secondary education in the fields of English language and literature, mathematics, science, history, social studies, foreign languages, the fine arts, the manual arts, the world of work, and physical education.  Throughout the authors show themselves resolutely opposed to a segmentation of students by their gifts and interests and focused on developing in all students a capacity for all of these areas of study and practice.  The third part of the book closes with a discussion of the Paideia school in how it should be structured, recognized, and how to avoid the contemporary mania for standardized testing.  At the end of the book there is a fifty-page appendix containing a great deal of repetition on the sorts of reading material that the authors expect students from 5 to 18 to be familiar with, an ambitious reading list that would be daunting for all but the most fond bibliophiles among us–although in full disclosure many of these works have been familiar to me since childhood through my own formal and self-education, and the works that the authors consider particularly important do not include any works of theology or biblical matters but include the vastly overrated political bloviation of corrupt antebellum political philosopher and South Carolina Senator Calhoun related to the concurrent majority.

There is a particular irony at the heart of this book and indeed at the heart of the Paideia proposal as a whole.  This book was written by people who wanted to increase the level of education for the American population as a whole to preserve the well-being of our republic by providing a universal basis of knowledge that was widely expansive and deep and that would give students the intellectual wherewithal to critically examine the affairs of contemporary life in whatever field they set upon as worthy areas of inquiry.  As they were seeking to craft this educational program for the public education system, it is rigorously secular, with no hint of moral or religious education that would threaten the godlessness of our corrupt educational and political elites.  However, this proposal works best as a model for home schooling and parochial education where a classical Christian educational system is being used, such as those bright high school students I have met as a result of my work in the past with various forensics societies, which has tended to create a bifurcated educational system where those whose families focus on godly education have a strong advantage over most of those students who depend on a public school education.  Rather than eliminating the division and segmentation of the education system, this book’s focus on politically responsible education has been most enthusiastically taken up by those which the authors of the book deliberately marginalize in their vain attempt to achieve universal acclaim and adoption by school districts which have largely proven themselves to be entirely unwilling to give all students an equal education and an equal chance which would fulfill the egalitarian promises of the liberal order the authors of this book wished to put into practice in our educational system.  Instead, the intellectual benefits of this book have largely gone to those who are opposed to the corrupt secular establishment where the authors of this book’s essays served as leading lights during the second half of the 20th century.  How are we to account for this rich irony?

A great commentary on the need for classics driven curriculum and a return to classical education. The book is more of a handbook or resource than a philosophical work (it is the third book in a series, the other two deal with more of the “why” and this is the “how”). I gained quite a bit of useful ideas and plan to keep this on my shelf for regular reference. The book lists in the back of the book are of great value to anyone who has a hand in the education of young minds.

The final book of the Paideia Trilogy, The Paideia Program is a wide survey of the collected thoughts and goals of the program. Unlike the first book, which laid out the philosophical, economic, and educational groundwork and impetus behind the program, and the second, which answered fundamental questions to clarify its end and process, this book is effectively concerned with what should be taught, how, when, and to what degree. While the first part contains yet another overview of the program and its aims, the second (majority) part of the book is a series of essays written by various members of the Paideia Group arranged around the fundamental subjects to be studied. It begins in English Language Arts and ends somewhere around Physical Education. Adler, as editor, contextualizes all of this within a larger structure, and each essay shines light upon the fundamental nature and mechanisms of its chosen subject. (The essay on history by Jacques Barzun is particularly good.) The book ends with a discussion of structural changes to the school (both in schedule and facility), and gives guidance on how to recognize a school which truly adheres to the Paideia ethos.

I enjoyed the theory behind this program. It offers a very clear philosophy for teaching the various disciplines from young ages all the way through high school. The emphasis is on Socratic teaching where the teacher asks more questions than they answer. Already being of a classical education mindset, this felt like a natural continuation from The Well-Trained Mind into the practical areas of what a class session would look like. I found myself taking notes and will certainly refer to this book again.

About The Paideia Program Author

Mortimer Jerome Adler was an American educator, philosopher, and popular author. As a philosopher he worked with Aristotelian and Thomistic thought. He lived for the longest stretches in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and San Mateo. He worked for Columbia University, the University of Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, and Adler’s own Institute for Philosophical Research.

Adler was born in New York City on December 28, 1902, to Jewish immigrants. He dropped out of school at age 14 to become a copy boy for the New York Sun, with the ultimate aspiration to become a journalist. Adler soon returned to school to take writing classes at night where he discovered the works of men he would come to call heroes: Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, John Stuart Mill and others. He went on to study at Columbia University and contributed to the student literary magazine, The Morningside, (a poem “Choice” in 1922 when Charles A. Wagner was editor-in-chief and Whittaker Chambers an associate editor). Though he failed to pass the required swimming test for a bachelor’s degree (a matter that was rectified when Columbia gave him an honorary degree in 1983), he stayed at the university and eventually received an instructorship and finally a doctorate in psychology. While at Columbia University, Adler wrote his first book: Dialectic, published in 1927.

In 1930 Robert Hutchins, the newly appointed president of the University of Chicago, whom Adler had befriended some years earlier, arranged for Chicago’s law school to hire him as a professor of the philosophy of law; the philosophers at Chicago (who included James H. Tufts, E.A. Burtt, and George H. Mead) had “entertained grave doubts as to Mr. Adler’s competence in the field [of philosophy]” and resisted Adler’s appointment to the University’s Department of Philosophy. Adler was the first “non-lawyer” to join the law school faculty. Adler also taught philosophy to business executives at the Aspen Institute.

Adler and Hutchins went on to found the Great Books of the Western World program and the Great Books Foundation. Adler founded and served as director of the Institute for Philosophical Research in 1952. He also served on the Board of Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica since its inception in 1949, and succeeded Hutchins as its chairman from 1974. As the director of editorial planning for the fifteenth edition of Britannica from 1965, he was instrumental in the major reorganization of knowledge embodied in that edition. He introduced the Paideia Proposal which resulted in his founding the Paideia Program, a grade-school curriculum centered around guided reading and discussion of difficult works (as judged for each grade). With Max Weismann, he founded The Center for the Study of The Great Ideas.

Adler long strove to bring philosophy to the masses, and some of his works (such as How to Read a Book) became popular bestsellers. He was also an advocate of economic democracy and wrote an influential preface to Louis Kelso’s The Capitalist Manifesto. Adler was often aided in his thinking and writing by Arthur Rubin, an old friend from his Columbia undergraduate days. In his own words:

Unlike many of my contemporaries, I never write books for my fellow professors to read. I have no interest in the academic audience at all. I’m interested in Joe Doakes. A general audience can read any book I write—and they do.