Uses of Law of Sines
Finding that first teaching job and signing that first contract is the dream of many young students. Another goal for many is to achieve tenure. In this post, we will look at the teacher’s contract and tenure.
A contract is an agreement with obligations between two or more peoples or parties. It clearly explains the duties and rights of both sides. From the teacher’s perspective, duties can include such things as the teaching assignment, length of the school day, and length of the school year. In terms of rights for the teacher, it may address such items as salary, max class size, and the process for grievances. A grievance is a way to complain about working conditions such as classes that are too large or neglect of building maintenance.
All teachers, including teachers with tenure, sign a contract. The contract is generally of one academic year in length. One reason for this length is because budgets are generally year-to-year and it may be necessary to not renew contracts of teachers. Another reason is that if a teacher who does not have tenure is not performing it is easier to let go of them after a year than if they are signed to a multi-year contract.
Once a contract is signed, it needs to be approved by the school board, the principal or HR Director represents the school board but the contract is generally not considered official until the school board approves it. This is often a formality as the school board usually empowers the local administration to select the faculty.
A breach of contract takes place when either party does not fulfill its obligations in the contract. For example, a school does not pay a teacher or a teacher stops working for the school. The penalties for this vary. For the teacher, it is possible to have your teaching license suspended or revoked. A school that breaches a contract can be fined. However, this varies from state to state.
If it is ever necessary to breach a contract as a teacher it is best to ask for a release through a resignation letter. Often, employers avoid keeping workers who no longer want to be there and the release is granted. Also, the administrative headache of keeping someone employed who does not want to be there is not worth it. Most contracts have some explanation of how either party can get out of it.
Tenure is a removal of the probationary status of a new teacher. With tenure, a teacher moves to what is called a continuing contract, which stays in effect until further notice. This means that signing a yearly contract is mainly a formality until otherwise. Obtaining tenure varies by state. In some places, it based on time serve while in others it takes an action from the school board.
The primary purpose behind tenure is to allow the teacher to focus on teaching without concerns with interference. One example of interference would be worrying if you had a job next year because of philosophical differences with the administration.
Tenure is not a guaranteed job, rather it means that there must be grounds for dismissal. There must be a strong reason to dismiss a tenured teacher as the job now belongs to the teacher. Examples of ways to get fired for teachers with tenure include gross negligence, clear incompetence, or inappropriate behavior with students. Even when a tenured teacher should be dismissed many states require that the tenured teacher is given a chance to change their behavior. The exception being for highly offensive behavior such as being convicted of a crime.
The exception to this is when a school has to reduce the size of its workforce. When a school is struggling financially even tenured teachers are not safe. The school simply needs to demonstrate that they do not have the finances to support all of their current teachers.
A teacher needs to be aware of the hiring and dismissal policies for their own protection. Failure to be aware of the ideas covered in this post could put the teacher in a bad situation in which there appears to be no solution.
Conflict is a natural result of interacting with people. Whether in the home or job there are times when rules are ignored and subordinates clash with leadership. In the context of the school, it is important that certain processes are respected and observed when it may be necessary to discipline or terminate a teacher. In this post, we will look specifically at due processes and it’s role in administrative concerns with teachers.
Due process within the context of education means that teachers are treated fairly and their rights should not be violated. Of course, there is always a problem with determining what is fair and what is a violation of a teacher’s rights. Determining these two things is left to the courts to decide for each case.
The idea of due process is derived from the 5th and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution. The fifth amendment speaks of how a person will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property with due process of law. The 14th amendment essentially says the same thing but indicates that the state governments also cannot take away things without due process.
When attempting to determine the fairness of an action an administrator may take against a teacher. There are two forms of due process that need to be considered which are substantive due process and procedural due process.
Substantive due process is essentially how big of a deal the issue/problem is and whether the action of the administration is reasonable for the issue/problem. An example of a substantive process being unfair is if a teacher is terminated from their employment for being 10 minutes late one time. The problem in this example is tardiness and the action was termination. The question to consider is whether being late one time for ten minutes is substantive, or a big enough of a deal, to justify termination?
Procedural due process relates to how fair the process was for making a decision about a teacher. Returning to the example of the late teacher, if the teacher was dismissed without even hearing their side of the story, many would see that as a violation of procedures. This is because the teacher was not given an opportunity to explain what happened.
The definition of due process varies from one state to the other. However, below are some examples of proper due process when needing to handle disciplinary measures with a teacher.
This is not an exhaustive list. Rather, it is just some of the ideas that one needs to be aware of.
The ideas presented here are primarily limited to the United States. Due process is found in other countries. However, in some contexts, the law is on the books but not enforced. This can leave a teacher in a bad situation without help. This is especially true if foreign teachers who often have no protection when working abroad.
Due process is a tool meant to not only protect the teacher but to also protect the school as well. If a process is conducted fairly the teacher cannot make false claims against the school. As such, both sides need to be familiar with this process just in case it is necessary to make decisions that may appear to be detrimental to one of the parties.
As a teacher or even as an administrator, it will be necessary to consider the role of computers in the school or classroom. Some things to consider are how many computers will be available and how the will be distributed within the school. There can also be concerns with cost and supporting faculty and staff in helping students with technology.
In this post, we will look at different options for distributing computers within a school. There are essentially three choices to consider when distributing computers within a school, and they are computer labs, computer clusters, and a single computer.
Computer labs are probably the most popular choice for integrating computers into the classroom. With the computer lab, students go to where the computers are. The benefit of this is all the computers are in one place which allows all students to use a computer. It also should make it easier to monitor the students as they all have their own resources so it should, in theory, be easier for them to focus. In addition, it is common for the computer lab to have a computer technician who can provide technical support.
There are also problems with a computer lab. There must be a schedule which means that usually, only one class can use the computer lab at a time. The startup cost of a computer lab can be high has well. Buying 5 computers vs 50 can be a big deal for many institutions. Behavior can still be a problem because even though the student has their own computer it doesn’t mean they are using it to learn. Lastly, with numerous computers comes a need to provide technical support through hiring staff.
Computer clusters are essentially combining the computer lab with the regular classroom. Computer clusters involve having several computers in the regular classroom. How many computers make a cluster depends on the school. If we exclude the teacher’s computer it safe to say at least two computers would be considered the minimum for a cluster.
A variation of computer clusters is computer carts. Computer carts are carts that contain laptops. These carts can be checked out by the teacher for student use. You can think of them as a mobile computer lab. This allows the teacher to infuse their own classroom with technology rather than having to go to the lab. Depending on the school there can be enough laptops for everybody or simply to make clusters. In addition, instead of laptops, the school may have tablets or other technology available.
The benefits of computer clusters are that they are available all the time. Computer labs are book and taken but the cluster should be at the discretion of the teacher. Several students can collaborate on their computers to complete a project or other tasks. The downside is that it is not possible for everyone to be on the computers so there must be some way to manage the students who are not using them. Computers are generally popular with kids, so they will all want to be on the computers when possible.
Single Computer Classrooms
A single computer classroom has one computer. Generally, this is the teacher’s computer and or their laptop. This may seem counterintuitive but having only one computer helps to keep the cost down. However, the use of technology is limited to teach led actions because not all the students can use one computer at the same time. This means using such tools as videos, PowerPoints, demonstrations, etc. Activities that require more passivity from students.
The purpose is not to claim that any of the options discussed are better than the other. The purpose was to explain the options that are available for educators who are training to match their resources with their technology. Any of the choices mentioned here can work with appropriate support and cooperation.
Universities have been around under many names for over a Millennium. What they all have in common is a desire to train primarily young adults for scholar and professional service. In this post, we will look at three early medieval universities along with the influence of the Catholic Church in higher education at that time.
The school that became the University of Bologna was initially a law school. There was a need for experts in Roman Law, particularly the Justinian code, due to the influence of the Catholic Church. The school was officially recognized in 1158 by Frederick I.
By the 13th century, there were over 10,000 students. This led to a need for better organization among the students. This was done through the development of organizations that represented students by country of origin. The country representation then joined one of two campus-wide groups. The two main organizations in Bologna were the universitas citranontanorum and universitas ultramontanorum.
With organization began a push for social justice. There was often tension between students and teachers as well as students and the local community. As college kids of today, sometimes the university kids could cause the local community behavioral problems. There were scuffles between students and the local community that were called town and gown riots. “Town” refers to the non-academic and “gown” to students. In other parts of Europe, the fighting could be deadly.
At Bologna, the students pushed for and won the right to be judged by the university for their misdeeds. At this time, there were no official university buildings. This led to classes being held all over the city in random places. If there were any disagreements with the locals the students and or even the teachers would threaten to leave.
Salernum was another early university. Some have suggested that it was started in the 9th century. Salernum focused on medicine and was supported by Constantine of Carthage. Constantine was a scholar who studied music, math, medicine, and even necromancy.
Salernum was also associated with the crusades. The famous Robert de Guiscard, the father of the crusader Bohemond, supported this institution. Wounded crusaders would visit the school as they returned from battle in the Middle East. As the school grew, eventually students who wanted to practice medicine had to pass a government exam and serve under an experienced doctor for at least one year.
The school that became the University of Naples was organized in the 13th century as a law school. Naples was originally just several independent schools and teachers who were group together to make one academic community. The word “university” means one community.
By creating a single corporate body it was possible for the government to give privileges to the university such as conferring degrees. This prevented just anyone from starting a university and conferring degrees. Even the title of professor was controlled. A professor was a magister or doctor/teacher while a medicus was a practitioner
Role of the Church
The church was always looking for ways to extend its influence. When teachers, students, and the local community were fighting, the Pope was often serving as an intermediary. This naturally increased the influence and prestige of the papacy.
The church was also eager to recognize universities officially. This was similar to accreditation today and allowed students and teachers to work or study all over Europe at other schools. As such, both sides benefited from this transaction. However, the goal was not so much to asses the quality of the school as it was to gain influence over universities. As such, papal approval did not necessarily mean an excellent school but a school that the church had influence over.
These three universities played a critical role in the development of higher education in Europe, in particular, the continental side. Each school was reacting to the needs of the local community whether that was teaching law medicine or some other subject. The church was aware of the growth of this model of education and was sure to have influence in its development.
Some would say that success in the classroom begins in the mind. What and how a teacher thinks about the world around him can play a role in their success as a teacher. It’s within our minds that our attitudes are formed. By attitudes, we are talking about how one thinks or feels about something. What we think about something could have a serious influence on how we do oi ourselves. In this post, we look at several forms of relationships that teachers often develop attitudes about and these are attitudes towards self, students, peers, and the subject
Teaching is a profession that requires a lot of people skills and extroversion. However, to reach out to others a teacher needs to understand who they are as a person as well. If a teacher does not keep track of their own mental and emotional health it can quickly lead to burnout. This means that a teacher needs to be aware of their own emotions and stress in addition to the needs of the students.
A teacher needs to also reflect on how they are doing in terms of their teaching. There should be an internal desire to improve to help students to be successful. Many teachers neglect this as they focus on the social side of teaching.
What a teacher thinks about other students matters as well. If a teacher believes a student is dumb that students will often find ways to confirm this as stated by the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. However, sometimes a negative view of a student will motivate the student to excel in a desire to prove a teacher wrong. This is generally rare as students tend to succumb to the expectations of those around them.
Similarly, it is important for a teacher to consider their attitude towards parents. Demanding parents can have a negative effect on a teacher that can shape attitudes. The same can also be said of parents who are indifferent to their children’s studies. In both situations, a teacher wants to avoid a negative comment because the attitude you have towards a parent can spill over into the relationship/interaction with the student.
As with any other institution, schools have people who see things differently. Teachers will sometimes get along and will some times try to undermine each other. There will be disagreements and even fights over the use/allocation of resources, responsibilities, teaching styles, etc. Gossiping and forms of passive backstabbing do occur as well.
It is not all negative. There is laughing and camaraderie, sharing of ideas, and support when there are problems. Through the ups and downs of dealing with other teachers, it is important to try to maintain a positive attitude towards the people around and the institution we are working at.
It is also important that a teacher show interest and enthusiasm for their subject. This is normally not a problem as a teacher goes to school to learn this subject that they like. However, there are times when a teacher’s attitude towards a subject can become negative. If the teacher is asked to teach something they are not interested in or weak as it could cause a loss of enthusiasm. For example, a music teacher who is asked to cover PE. The music teacher might love music but would lack enthusiasm for PE.
Moving a teacher to a different grade or a subject within their expertise could also lead to this. For example, moving a 2nd-grade teacher to 4th grade my influence enthusiasm or moving a geometry teacher to teaching trigonometry. In both these situations, the teacher is competent for the assignment but not interested.
Lastly, any of the ideas present in the previous sections can influence enthusiasm for the subject. Lack of reflection, bad kids, bad parents, bad peers, can all drain the life of a teacher. This can carry over into the classroom and affect the enthusiasm of a subject that a teacher loves.
Success begins in the mind. For a teacher to be successful they must begin with monitoring their attitudes about themselves and the surrounding people.
There has been a surge in demand for online teaching resources due to school closures for health concerns. Many teachers are being thrust into online teaching with almost no notice or preparation. This post will provide educators with an awareness of some of the tools that are available.
To make things as simple as possible, you will need essentially some sort of online presence that allows for the following two things
True online teaching can be much richer than this. However, for someone who is struggling with short notice to make this happen this is the bare minimum. We will first look at available platforms before looking at communication methods. As an aside many of the platforms have integrated communications tools, however, sometimes they do not meet the needs for various situations.
An Elearning platform serves as a base of operation on the internet. Not all learning has to take place within the online platform. However, the students’ learning experience often begins here before branching of based on the activities that are involved. Generally, the platform provides a place for submission of assignments and asynchronous communication ie forum posts and announcements. Of course, you can extend the functionality based on expertise and or support. There are several free online platforms that require no support from your IT department. The first we will discuss is Google classroom
Google classrooms provides a basic interface for teaching online. You can post announcements assignments and there is a basic gradebook as well. You can post links as much as you want to other places on the web as well. You can also arrange a google hangout with your students through the posting of a link. This is a great resource for short notice. The functionality is limited for more advance actions but this works in a pinch.
The layout for Schoology is similar to Google Classrooms but with more features such as attendance and a great way to organize content using folders. There is a free package and there is also a subscription option. Although Schoology wasn’t specifically designed for higher education it is a superior choice to what Google Classroom is offered right now. One downside is there is no integrated system for face-to-face communication with Schoology, which means you would have to employ some sort of third party communication.
Microsoft Teams will not be an option for you unless you or your organization are subscribed to Office 365. Teams is a great resource that combines all the features of Schoology with embedded communication features and the integration of Microsoft products. There is a section for assignments, files, grades, and even a notebook. Students can also be placed into groups for online discussions. In addition, Teams is not limited to the classroom and can be used by the larger organization as well. Since Teams has more features, it can be a little harder to learn initial so it might not be the best choice in a last-minute situation.
Moodle my be the mother of online platforms. The question is not so much what Moodle can do but rather what it cannot do. There are so many features and choices that it would be impossible to explain them all. Moodle requires extensive It support as it must be downloaded on the local server with all the other hassles of mandating a website. A such, unless you are already familiar with how it works Moodle would not be choice on short notice.
Communication in this post is defined as some sort of sc=ycrhonous interaction with at least the teacher providing audio and video. Below are some choices for doing this.
Youtube provides the ability to upload videos and to stream. Uploading videos is not that complicated and essentially you make the video and upload it to Youtube. You can share content or communicate about assignment expectations or other announcements. You can also take the link and insert it into whatever online platform you are using
For streaming, it is a little bit more complicated. You will some encoder software such as OBS Studio. The details of how to stream on Youtube are beyond this post’s purpose but your IT or AV support should be able to help you make this happen. There is also a live chat feature now which can allow you to discuss things with students in real-time. The benefit of Youtube is there is a small delay and only the teacher is producing audio and video which helps with slow internet connections.
Another problem with Youtube is that the content is available to everyone. Whoever has the link can see. This can be a problem of there is a desire to keep some information confidential.
Google Hangouts is another choice. It does not take a great deal of knowledge to maneuver using this software. The main problem is that only 25 people can participate in one hangout. This means that Google Hangouts is best for smaller classes. Other features allow you to share your desktop while communicating. There is not a large dealy but my own experience shows that student frequently loses their connection and have to keep rejoining the hangout.
Skype is similar to Google Hangouts except for up to 50 people who can participate. This will work for large classes.
If you are a gamer you might be familiar with Discord. Discord was designed to allow gamers to communicate online. However, it now has a second life as a communication tool for online learning. The setup is a little weird if you are not in technology and there is also a 50 person limit on this communication tool as well.
Stream looks exactly like Youtube but it is software with the Microsoft ecosystem. You can upload videos or stream live if you have the right subscription with Microsoft. The benefit of Stream is that it can be used in collaboration with Microsoft Teams which makes it an absolute plus. In addition, because it is being used within a company the video is not available for all eyes to see which can be a problem with Youtube videos.
Perhaps one of the kings of Voice over Internet platform is Zoom. Zoom allows real-time interaction among up to 100 participants or more depending on the package you signup for. It also allows you to separate students in discussion groups like in a real class. You can share your screen or have the students share theirs. Also, the communication is secured and only available to participants. However, if you want decent service you have to pay as the free package comes with a lot of restrictions. For the Moodle users, there is an extension so that you can integrate it into Moodle.
Hopefully, the information provided here will allow you to explore whatever combination of features work best for you. This is not in anyways an exhaustive list of what is possible. The point to remember is that whatever you do you need a way to communicate and receive assignments from the students.
There are challenges and issues in teaching any subject. Math is no exception to the challenge of teaching. In this post, we will look at a brief history of math teaching in the United States and how math is taught in many parts of America today.
Brief History of Math Teaching
Talk to most students, and they while share how it is difficult to learn math. One of the biggest challenges may be how abstract it is. When studying math it is often more of a mixture of drilling with an expectation to solve problems that have no context or relevancy for the student. For example, solving 2x + 4 = 10 lacks a connection for many students.
Prior to the 1960s mathematics was taught in the United States with an emphasis on computation. Calculate over and over until you get was one of the main philosophies of this approach. During the 1960s, there was a change to an approach called “new math” which focused on the structure or the components/theories of mathematics. This made math even more abstract. In addition, at least with the focus on computation a student could memorize the steps to complete problems, with the “new math” approach the focus on theories without heavy computational practice made learning difficult.
Teaching Math Today
Today, whether to focus on computation or structure depends more on the level of math the students are studying. College bound students are still exposed more to structure while those who are not are often taught using more of a computational focus. The challenge with this is that everyone wants every child to be college bound which means essentially that most students are taught with a focus on the structure and theories of mathematics with a goal of understanding why certain steps are taken when calculating something.
Generally, it is common for math teachers at the high school level and above to focus on teaching conceptual understanding first before procedural steps (elementary is usually hands-on). In other words, explaining theory and the why of the steps before actually using the steps to solve problems. This can sometimes lead to the teaching of long complicated mathematical proofs for various concepts such as the quadratic formula. For a math expert, proofs are critical to knowing why a certain approach works, however, for the average person, proofs can be incredible confusing because they involve math that the learner is not total comfortable with in many situations with little practical application.
The downside of learning procedural steps first is that it becomes difficult to apply them in different situations or to transfer the knowledge to new contexts. For example, in my own experience, it was common for a math teacher to teach the steps of how to solve a problem but then when it was time to practice, the problems were always slightly different from what the teacher taught. I would need to square something that the teacher did not square or factor something that the teacher did not factor in order to have success. The focus on the steps made it impossible to bring in other tools or handle situations that called for other steps.
For the math teacher, who was a natural expert, seeing a problem and bringing in other tools and adding and taking away steps was easy because of their understanding of theory. However, for the rest of us, there is a need to drill and become comfortable before expanding the use of the concepts to unknown situations.
The goal is not to indicate that there is one particular way of teaching math. The challenge is really how to help non-math students have success at math. This involves using both concepts and drill in a combination that allows weaker students to survive or even succeed in a difficult academic situation for them.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, there were several types of schools available for the education of young people. The schools mentioned in this post were primarily connected with and controlled by the church. These schools are the Claustral/Inner school, the Outer school, and the Cathedral/Episcopal school
Types of School
The Claustral or inner school was a school run within the monasteries of Europe. The inner school was inside the monastery and was for the training of future monks. In relation to cost, tuition was free since these boys were dedicating their lives to the church. The behavior of the students was strictly monitored and controlled due to their future vocation as a monk. As such, there was little individualism as uniformity was the expectation. This was probably not an education for the free-spirited.
A second school associated with monasteries was the outer school. The outer school gets its name from being outside the monastery but often near one. These were schools for future priests. However, it was also common for laypeople to send their children for education there as well. Since these schools had a dual purpose, costs were covered through tuition and also scholarships.
The final school was the cathedral or episcopal school. Each diocese of the church had episcopal schools scatter throughout it. The cathedral and episcopal schools were for the laity. Teachers came from the main cathedral school to the episcopal schools. To do this, the teacher needed to pay for a “facultas” or license to teach from the head of the cathedral school. This word “facultas” is where the word faculty comes from.
Curriculum & Instruction
The Bible, or what people said about the Bible, was one of the chief subjects of these schools, especially the monastic schools. The church did not support the study of the classics or other forms of secular literature at this time. Instead, the focus was always on what the church said was spiritual truth because this was considered immortal and unchanging. This dogmatic position stifled thinking and development in the sciences.
However, this position would change with the reemergence of Greek thought with the Reconquista of Spain and the crusades. When Aristotle was encounter among the writings of the Arabs, he was translated from Arabic into Latin and began to influence Europe. This left the church in a challenging situation in which the world wanted more secular thought that was not considered beneficial by the church elite.
Discipline in school would be considered harsh by today’s standards. Children were frequently beaten for minor problems. For example, it was common for students to be beaten for failing to memorize something. At this time, the only way a person knew something was from their ability to remember it. This may have been one reason for the severity of forgetting.
By the end of the 10th century, many within Europe were convinced the world would end in 1000. This is similar to how people thought the world would end in the year 2000. With this focus on the impending end of the world, churches, houses, farming and schools were neglected. This contributed to a temporary decline in education.
Education was primarily focused on spiritual development rather than for secular means. This does not mean that people were not educated for other more mundane reasons. With the focus on clerical training, there were certain restrictions placed on learning. With the reemergence of ancient secular thought led to a change in learning that would be weakened with a focus on the end of time.
Among educators who specialized in reading instruction there has been a long controversy over how to teach students to read. Generally, the two main schools of thought are phonics on one side and the whole language approach on the other side. In this post, we will look at both of these approaches as well as a compromise position.
Phonics is an approach that has the students decode the words that they see by sounding out individual letters and letter combinations. By blending the individual sounds of a word together the students is able to read the word. This requires that the student know what sounds different letters make. Without this phonemic awareness there is no hope for reading.
The benefits of this is that it is clear if a student can do this or not. This makes it easy to provide the needed support in order to help the students. This means that it is easy to assess the students development. Another benefit of this approach is that it focuses on the smallest aspects of speech sound. This helps a child to keep track of one thing at a time.
Problems with a phonic-based approach is that the importance of the context is lost because students only focus on sounding out the words rather than developing reading comprehension. This can lead to students who can read and sound out well but have no idea what they read nor the meaning of the text. The idea of seeing the passage as a whole is lost.
Whole language is a literature based approach that emphasizes the relevancy for the student and culture. Activities used include oral reading, silent reading, journal writing, group activities, etc. Students do not focus on sounded out words but rather on knowing the whole word through a knowledge of the context. There is even allowance made for inventive spelling in which students make for up their own words for spelling to avoid discouraging them through frequent correction of misspelled words.
An extreme example of whole language approach is when students are allowed to use substitute words in a text they are reading rather than the word the author wrote in the book. For example, if in the story the author mentions the word “pony” and the student does not understand this word. The student can substitute the word “horse with “pony” in the author’s story and this is considered okay by whole language approach standards.
Some benefits of this approach is that it is much more enjoyable in comparison to the phonics approach. Students begin reading immediately content that is relevant to their lives and interesting and their prior knowledge supposedly helps with understanding.
The drawbacks of whole language is that at times students struggle to generalize their reading skills to new contexts. In addition, the replacement of unknown to known words of the student with their own words can make it difficult for the teacher to understand where the students are struggling. If all students are doing this, it becomes difficult for them to communicate with each other about a commonly read text. This may be one reason why whole language has been reject over the pass 30 years with an emphasis on phonics.
Currently, there is more of a push for a mixture of both methods. Phonics can be taught to enhance a bottom up approach while whole language is more of a use for bottom down approach to reading. By blending the two method it is possible to capture the strengths of both approaches without the corresponding weaknesses.
How this may look in the classroom may be relevant literature for the student with reading teaching that matches the needs of the students. If the student can reading without extensive phonemic awareness, training whole word might be more appropriate. When the student cannot read a word, phonics may be beneficial;.
It is better to match the system to the student than to match the student to the system. Whenever extreme positions are taken it helps some while hurting others. A teacher needs to have the flexibility to find the best tool for the context they are working in rather than based on what they were taught as students.
The university, as we know them today, arose sometime during the 12th century. Of course, it is not exactly clear in terms of the exact date. The universities followed the example and traditions laid down by the Romano-Hellenic schools of the Roman Empire and the monastic/episcopal schools of the church. This post will look at factors that led to universities, characteristics of universities, and the church’s view of the growing influence of universities.
Factors Leading to Universities
Several things had changed over the centuries from the fall of the Roman empire that led to the development of universities. First, the crusades had exposed Europeans to many Arab/Middle East ideas. Among these ideas was Aristotle, concepts related to medicine, and the possibility of some form of higher education.
There were also economic factors such as the establishment of free towns. Free towns were essentially free of feudalism in which you had independent artisans and other free people. With the rise of an independent middle class came a correlated need for specialization in some areas of expertise, especially medicine, law or even theology. The freeman seemed to always have issues with the nobility and clergy and wanted people who were trained separately from the monastic schools. The priest/monks lacked the expertise to thoroughly train people for practical occupations such as doctors or lawyers.
Furthermore, universities provided an education the was free from the rules and oppression of the monastic orders. The rules for monastic life can be highly arduous for a layperson. Waking up early, eating in silence, harsh living conditions, physical labor, all this was a part of the educational experiences in a way that was bewildering to the laity at times. Universities offered a similar education in a secular environment which naturally led to the release of a high amount of licentious behavior that the universities had to suppress eventually. In other words, whereas the monastics schools were too strict the universities were initially to lenient.
Despite the disdain that many had for the church, the church itself helped to contribute to the growth of universities through the stability it provided. Supposedly, if someone was a priest or scholar, they were safe to travel throughout Europe unmolested. The accuracy of this is hard to assess but if scholars could move freely it would have made it easy to start schools and move to the best positions rather than being trapped in a single place due to safety issues.
The church also provided the closes thing to an international language that Europe had through its use of Latin. Latin became the language of government and scholarship. Its influence is still felt today in the Latin names that are used in science for the classification of animals.
A major difference between the universities compared to monastics schools involves the leadership style. Monastic schools were monarchies in nature in that one person made the decisions. Universities are run by a community, which is a more democratic style of leadership. Universities were also founded by major European leaders such as kings, emperors, and popes. Monastic schools were founded by lesser leaders.
In addition to the specialization, universities emphasis the three R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic). Philosophy would eventually join as well. The course of study was four years, which is supposedly an idea from ancient Greece.
The church supported learning that supported the church. Other lines of thought were either ignored if non-threatening or discourage if they poised a problem. The primary goal was normally the preservation of existing knowledge and the transfer of this knowledge through education. When universities first arose, the church did not have any control over them, as they were independent.
Universities initially had a large number of clergy faculty. However, this slowly changed and the clergy facility disappeared and were replaced by secular facility. With time, the church would begin to have their clergy teach in the secular universities along with starting their own universities. This is especially true with the rise of the Jesuits several centuries later. During this time, priest and monks were still trained by the monastic/episcopal schools
Universities are a standard part of life in the modern world. However, this was not always the case. What first began as a way to escape the power of the church eventually became an expensive requirement in the training of the middle class.
Academic dishonesty, in the form of cheating and or plagiarism, is one of the unfortunate consequences of education. For example, in Southeast Asia, a group of students were caught cheating on an exam to enter medical school. Their strategy involved the use of smartwatches. People outside the building were sending wireless messages to the students through their smartwatches with prospective correct answers. The students who were caught paid around $30,000 for the illicit support, which is about 10 times the yearly minimum wage in the country.
Another example involves students wearing what has been referred to as “anti-cheating hats”. These hats essentially involve wearing paper on one’s head to block your view of all the people around you so you can only see your own answer sheet. Locally, this is done as a joke to remove the stress of the exam. However, when international media found a photo of this on social media they took it as a sign of intense cheating and dishonesty, which embarrassed the school.
The majority of high school and college students have admitted to cheating in one form or another. This includes critical fields such as medical school. Such rampant behavior must have some causes. At such, in this post, we will look at causes and simple solutions for cheating. In this post, we will look at motivations for cheating as well as solutions to alleviate the problem.
One reason for the large amounts of cheating is that it is highly successful with less than 2% of students being caught when teaching. With a success rate of almost 100%, there is almost no reason to be honest if your grade is in danger. If an adult knew that there was almost a 99% chance of getting away with a crime, such a crime is highly likely to increase.
Another factor is the fact the students can be inattentive to their studies. With all the distractions of friends, family, work, and entertainment it can be hard for students to exercise the discipline to study. Besides, when students do study it is often for the goal of memorization rather than comprehension. Understanding is hard to forget but the memory is weak. Add to this the belief of cramming and staying up late before exams and students will experience intense anxiety when they cannot recall a key idea or concept.
Teachers can also contribute to cheating. If a teacher is unclear, heavily focused on memorizing, provides little feedback, these can all contribute to students cheating to “survive.” If students think a teacher is unfair in their assessment and or instruction they will try to even the playing field through cheating.
Clear communication of what to expect on exams as well as preparation through reviewing can help to reduce cheating. If students know what to expect and believe they are prepared there is less pressure to cheat in order to control things students think they cannot control. However, it is up to the teacher that they understand the importance of consistency between what is taught and assessed in their classroom to establish the trust necessary that the teacher is not looking to fail students but to help students excel.
Another strategy is to move away from heavy memorizing closed question exams to critical thinking open-ended exams. Multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc. are all examples of questions with one answer. If there is only one answer, a student simply needs to memorize the one answer.
Open-ended questions require critical thinking and the development of a unique answer based on the student’s prior experience. Essay questions are one example of this. It is extremely difficult to memorize an essay question answer in advance. This naturally helps to reduce the temptation to cheat do to the hopelessness of that at the moment.
Providing alternative forms of assessment can also help. Some students just do not do well with exams. Considering that at some universities the mid-term and final exam can account for over 60% of the final grade such high stakes testing can encourage cheating. Through providing smaller more frequent assignments teachers can support learning while decreasing high stakes testing.
Cheating will always be a challenge in education. With the distractions that young people face, the culture of accepting academic dishonesty, and the incredible inability to catch students who do this. There is little hope that the current situation will change. A student cannot cheat without opportunity. Therefore, the use of preventive measures that help to reduce the risk of academic dishonesty.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th-century learning went into a decline at least temporarily. When the chaos of collapse and invasion settled several types of schools emerged. These schools and the curriculum that was a part of them is the focus of this post.
Charlemagne (748-814) played a major role in reviving learning within Europe. He created Palace Schools to educate members of the Royal court and their children. Charlemagne was also a lover of the arts and incorporated Gregorian chants (worship music) and the organ into worship.
In addition to the Palace schools, other schools developed during this period in part through the support of Charlemagne, and they include the Monastery and Episcopal schools. Monastery schools were created primarily for training for future clergy. The training was of a higher standard compared to Episcopal schools. The episcopal schools were for non-clergy and offered an inferior education. Both were frequently located in the same place with the only difference being the quality of the education. Originally anybody could go to the Monastery schools but this changed after the death of Charlemagne.
In terms of instruction, school began when a child was 7 years of age. Reading was learned through first memorizing the alphabet and then memorizing the Latin Psalter. A Psalter was the book Psalms extracted from the Bible. Imagine a child trying to memorize a book with 150 chapters, over 2,400 verse, and over 40,000 words. Of course, understanding does not matter only memorization. As the Psalter was developed for singing so was singing also taught.
Writing was learned through the use of wax-covered tablets. When the child mastered this he would move to pen and paper. This system of writing was used for students to make their own textbooks. Students would write down the message on tablets that were then transferred to parchment.
Grammar was also studied and was considered the queen of the subjects. This is not the grammar of today but one with a slightly different purpose. The grammar of this period is similar to critical thinking and public speaking/communication today. Students learned the art of explanation and persuasion and not so much how to use commas and semicolons.
Latin, the primary language of the Catholic Church, was also studied. It was expected to be the only language used at school but even the teachers lacked the ability to use Latin exclusively. The emphasis was on heavy memorization. Math was studied until the point of learning basic calculations and adjusting the calendar.
Upon graduation job placement was usually predetermined. Graduates of the Palace schools worked in the government. Graduates of the Monastery schools often became monks/priests, and graduates of the Episcopal school did everything else. Even the education represented the 3 estates of Medieval Europe.
The reforms of Charlemagne are really the reestablishing of education in parts of Europe. Once there was some semblance of stability and safety leaders, such as Charlemagne, could focus on other pressing needs of their kingdom.
All schools have different goals and purposes for their being, In this post, we will look at some of the different goals and views schools have for themselves.
People who see the goal of school as intellectual development believe that the growth of the mind and reason is one of the chief aims of schools. Students who are well-rounded mentally are able to function in various challenges in the real world as people who support an intellectual purpose may say.
The development of the mind often happens through the study of the humanities and the “Great Books” of the past. Since the great books provide examples of the sound reasoning that students need, reading these books will help students to develop their own reason and thinking skills. These beliefs are drawn heavily from perennialism and its focus on the past to prepare students for the present and future.
The economic view sees school as a place to prepare students for the workforce. This means attaining relevant skills and knowledge for employment in the world. As such, students are trained to competency in various areas that they show at least some interests in such as accounting, plumbing, computer science, etc.
With the focus on job skills and the development of the economy, it is clear that the economic view has less tolerance for the study of “Great Books” compared to the intellectual view of the school. Reading irrelevant classics does not benefit industry and is not necessary. However, developing reason and critical thinking is beneficial to industry and should be encouraged in the context of problem-solving of real-life challenges and not intellectual debates. These views are similar to essentialism and its focus on developing practical skills for the application in the real world.
The economic development view of school seems to be the primary mover in education today. Almost everything is focused on the economy and the need for properly trained workers to help the economy grow. Rarely, does industry mourn the ignorance of its workforce in matters relating to the humanities and arts. For people who are not motivated by money and building the national economy, it can be intolerable to study in such a context.
Others view that the purpose of schools is in helping students to conform to the norms of society. This social view believes that a teacher’s job is to help students to find their place in the social structure. What society wants is what the child should become. This echoes the views at least partially of John Dewey.
This belief can lead to a large amount of social stability but a growing undercurrent of resentment from the pressure to conform. For example, the high conformity of the United States in the 1950s was followed by the rebellious 1960s and ’70s. In addition, this view is seen by many as being oppressive today. Society now is pushing heavily the idea of inclusion of everyone. This means that all people are accepted as they are and the norm taught today is conformity to tolerance which is now the standard.
A social purpose is also related to political activism in a democratic context. Schools should be seen as places to develop skills in democracy in order to participate in civic life after graduation. This is important because democratic participation is critical to the success of the nation in the minds of many.
A related idea to social development is character development. Character development is focused on having certain traits as an individual. Whereas in secular education these ideas are often called social traits in religious education this concept is frequently known as character. The difference being that social traits and skills can vary whereas character in the religious context is thoroughly defined by some religious text.
It would be naive to say that any school only has one purpose. Rather, schools serve multiple views. The views listed above are present at most schools in one combination or another. For example, some schools may emphasize intellectual views while also considering economic views. Since schools have a diverse student population it makes it necessary to have diverse views for schools.
One of the dangers a school may face is having a view that is out of harmony with the local community. If people want their kids to get jobs and want the school to focus on economic purposes it would be detrimental for the school to focus on other aspects of education as if they know better. Schools are there to serve the needs of the community and need to keep this in mind when supporting students.
Schools are a part of a society to provide a service to the families that make up the society. Therefore, it is not surprising that different schools have different goals for themselves. The primary responsibility of a person should be to identify the local vies on education in order to understand how to function in that particular context.
Reconstructionism is a belief among many in education that schools should serve as institutions that train and developed students to enact social change. This is in stark contrast to the view that schools should serve as cultural transmitters. Reconstructionists believe that reverence for the past is neglect of current and future problems. Furthermore, reconstructionists believe in making autonomous individuals who question existing norms, such as the dominant culture, and strive to make the world a just and equitable place.
One of the main influencer’s for the philosophy of reconstructionism was George Counts and his highly influential essay/speech “Dare the School Build a New Social Order?” Counts’ work was written in the context of the Great Depression and proposes that schools should be the source of change in America. His views laid the foundation for the philosophy of reconstructionism. In this post, we will focus on two main branches of reconstructionism. These branches are economic reconstructionism and democratic reconstructionism.
Economic reconstructionism tends to have a strongly suspicious view of those in power. In this view, schools are used by the elite i.e. dominant culture to conform students to the existing world view. This allows the elite to maintain power culturally and financially. Schools are either willing or ignorant participants in this system of intellectually and social oppression.
To be fair, there are examples of this taking place in history. Both Hitler and Ferdinand Marcos use various forms of “youth camps” to educate people to support the existing power structure’s worldview. Hitler had the “Hitler Youth” while Marcos had “Village Youth” which was controlled by one of his relatives. The purpose of these groups was to teach loyalty to the status quo through the transmission of state-approved values and beliefs. Or you can say oppressive cultural transmission.
Economic reconstructionists and reconstructionism, in general, are heavily inspired by Karl Marx and his communist views. This includes a deep suspicion of capitalism, which is viewed as oppressive, and catering to the whims of the rich. Marx’s focused on how the bourgeoisie uses capitalism to oppress everyone else. The economic reconstructionist tends to focus more on how those with money use education to oppress students.
The classic text of economic reconstructionists is Pablo Friere’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” In this text, Friere explains how he believes the elite actually use education to hold people down. This is based on his experience of teaching adults to read in Brazil. As he taught reading, Friere noticed that the problems were not only reading but the worldview and beliefs of the people. The students were passive, subservient, and indifferent to thinking critically or questioning. For Friere, this was due to how they had been trained in the past by an educational system controlled by those with power who wanted these characteristics in their workers.
There are naturally several concerns with this approach, Economic reconstructionism does not inspire cooperation between the oppressors and the oppressed. Both view each other as enemies which tends to lead to a zero-sum game in which one side wins while the other losses.
A second problem is that there is no end to who is oppressed. If one class topples another it becomes the new dominant group then has to fight off the new group of oppressed people. In other words, it is similar to a game of king of the hill. One group gains power and then uses the same oppressive measures it once despised to stay in power. This is one reason why communist states of today, who were once freedom fighters, are often oppressors now. To put it simply, the only thing that changed was who was doing the oppressing. This constant cycle of changing who is doing the oppressing can make a country unstable. In the end, the problems never end just the person who is blamed for causing them.
Democratic reconstructionist believes in training a politically active citizenry. In contrast to economic reconstructionists who often want to tear down the system, democratic reconstructionists want to work within the system to promote change.
To do this, schools should focus on teaching students about the democratic process, developing critical thinking skills, and solving local community problems. The focus is on problems rather than on conspiratorial views of oppression as with economic reconstructionist.
Democratic reconstructionists are highly influenced by John Dewey and progressivism. The ideas of changing society through the use of the existing system are things that he frequently encouraged through his views on democracy in the classroom. This approach is less antagonistic in comparison to economic reconstructionism. Yet, the peaceful implementation of it does not happen as much anymore. For example, many protests in the name of change have become violent in ways that did not happen decades ago such as the protesting in Hong Kong and India or the violent protesting that takes place in America now.
As such, it is common to acknowledge this approach however, many schools support the more extreme view of economic reconstructionism even though they may believe that they are supporters of democratic reconstructionism. Just examine how people speak only of removing “privilege” and bringing equality even by force if necessary in the name of democracy
Change is a part of life. There will be times when life is good and when it is bad. Reconstructionism struggles with this cycle of good and bad. The primary tenet is that there should be no bad or suffering. However, whenever the oppressed takes over they simply become the new oppressors.
Many would agree that education, as found in schools, as an obligation to socialize students to help them fit into society. With this goal in mind, it is logical to conclude that there will be different views on how to socialize students. The two main extreme positions on this continuum of socialization would be
As I have already mentioned, these may be the two extremes on a continuum going from complete and total cultural preservation to complete and total anarchy. In this post, we will focus the discussion on schools as agents of cultural preservation.
School as Cultural Preserver
In the view of the school as a cultural preserver, the responsibility of the school to society is to support the dominant ideas and views of the culture. This is done through teaching and explaining things from a dominant group’s perspective and excluding or censoring other viewpoints to some degree. In other words, American schools should produce Americans who support and live American values, Chinese schools should produce Chinese who support and live Chinese values, etc.
This approach to schooling has been used throughout history to compel people from minority groups to conform to the views of the dominant group. In the US, there were boarding schools for Native Americans to try to “civilize” them. This was also seen in many parts of Asia in which ethnic tribes were sent to government schools, forbidden to use their mother tongue in place of the national language, and pledge devotion and loyalty to the dominant culture. Through the process of weakening local identities, it is believed by many that it will help to strengthen the state or at least maintain the status quo. If you are in a position of dominance either of these would benefit you.
What this view lacks in diversity, due to minority views being absent, it makes up for it through stability. Schools that support cultural preservation show students their place in society and how to interact with those around them. Through the limits of a specific predefined worldview, it lowers but does not reduce internal social strife.
Problems and Pushback
A natural consequence of schools as cultural preservers is a strong sense of pride in those who belong to the culture that is being preserved. This can lead, at times, to a sense of superiority and pride. Of course, if you are not from the dominant culture, it can be suffocating to constantly have other people’s values and beliefs push upon you.
This sense of exclusion can lead to serious challenges from minority groups. There are countless examples of this in the United States where it seems everyone is pushing back against the establish dominant culture. There are those who are pushing for Black, Latino, Asian, feminist, and other worldviews to be a part of the education of the school. This is not inherently a problem, however, if everyone has an equal voice and everyone is talking at the same time this means that nobody is listening. In other words, a voice needs an ear as much as an ear needs a voice.
It is convenient to take an extreme position and say that using school to preserve culture is wrong. The problem with this is that the people who say this want to preserve the belief that using school to preserve culture is wrong. In other words, it is not the preservation of culture that is the problem. The real battle is over what culture is going to be preserved. Whether it is the current dominant view or the view of a challenger.
During the transition from the Greek to the Roman Empire, there were several significant changes to education. In particular, we will look at early financial support, the history of the first university, and the influence of the government during this period.
As time progress, it was becoming common for education to be supported by endowments. Several chairs in rhetoric, politic, and philosophy were established. In addition, the fees students paid in the form of a honoraria was the primary source of income for schools and teachers. It was also common for teachers to fight over students. This happened through teachers sending “recruitment” agents to the ports when young people arrived in order for the agent to advertise whatever courses the teacher taught. The more students in a class the higher the honoraria for a teacher.
First University & Changes
Under the Ptolemies in Egypt was founded what is considered the first university by Western standards. Located in Alexandria, the university offered training in medicine, math, grammar. The teaching here in Alexandria was considered to be more practically focused compare to Athens. The purpose was primarily to train people for economic purpose rather than only for intellectual development.
During the height of the Roman Empire under Augustus, Greek and Roman teaching was combined into something that some called the Roman-Hellenic school. However, how this was done varied between the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire. In general, Rome placed an emphasis on practical things such as law and this was combined with Greek philosophy in terms of the education of students. Philosophy became more and more abstract and less and less practical over this time period as well. As philosophy grew in importance it became more and more of an annoyance for the early Christian church.
Growth of Government
Throughout this time period, the influence of the government became stronger and stronger. This was shown through financial support and prestige. For example, the government would provide funding to build buildings. In addition, at one point, teachers were given senatorial rank for their work. All this was done in order to have influence over the education process and prevent teachers from fomenting rebellion it seems that teachers have frequently sparked revolutionary ideas throughout history.
Despite the efforts of the government, one overarching theme of this time was the gradual and steady decline of education. By the end of the fifth century, which aligns with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the majority of the Roman Hellenic schools were no longer in existence. This laid the foundation for the rise of a new system of education that was at first shunned by Christianity, then influenced by Christianity, and finally controlled by Christianity.
Over time the structure of education became more formalized. It went from individual teachers providing education to the systematic structure of the university. With this new structure came also various costs that were hard to account for. Strangely enough, as the empire collapse so did education in a way that makes one wonder if the collapse of education was because the Roman Empire was collapsing at the same time.
Often, it is expected that new teachers have a reason for wanting to teach. In this post, we will look at several common reasons why people choose the occupation of teaching.
This is probably a reason for not teaching. Teachers normally make enough money but not much more than that. Generally, there is an increase over time but it is often difficult to get ahead financially in the teaching profession. However, if you take the skills you develop as a teacher (communication, planning, leadership, etc.) you can pivot these skills into side jobs or other career fields. Many famous writers and musicians were at one time teachers (JK Rowling, Stephen King, Gene Simmons, Sting).
Towards the end of one’s career the salary can be lucrative. This often takes 20 plus years in many countries and requires additional professional development in order to continue to progress of the step salary. If continuing to study appeals to you than teaching might be the right choice as a career.
Despite the apparent association with how poor the educational system, is teaching is still considered a highly respective occupation. Often, people speak highly of teaching in general but often have sharp criticism of the teachers of their own children or even of the teachers they experienced as a student.
The amount of prestige varies depending on the discipline and level of teaching. Often science and math are more prestigious than the humanities due in part to the higher expect salary of science and math majors. Teaching at the university level is often considered more prestigious than teaching K-12 due in part to the higher level of education required and the assumption of greater talent that is necessary to teach at the tertiary level.
In many ways, the respect given to teachers is almost tongue in cheek. People are suppose to say that teaching is important and respectable even if they rarely appreciated the hard work of their own children’s teachers or the teachers they studied under.
Teaching comes with a large amount of power and authority over students. The students spend several hours a week with you as you play a critical role in shaping their character. This can be good or bad depending on the type of teacher. There is also a great deal of academic authority over students. As a teacher, it is not hard to find ways to fail hardworking students are to pass lazy ones. The difference is in the integrity of the teacher and how they use this authority.
Teaching still allows for a better work life balance when compared to other professions. This in part due to the holidays and built in vacations. However, during a given week in a semester a teacher is putting in about 50 hours a week in the US which is comparable to other occupations in America.
This means that once Christmas, Easter, and holidays are removed from the equation teachers a worker just as hard in terms of hours given to their job as others. However, there are additional burdens on teachers with meetings, clubs, field trips, and other extra-curricular activities at the school. Someone has to watch the kids during recess, lunch, etc and this is in addition to the teaching load of the teacher.
Students & Colleagues
Many people become teachers for the chance to interact with students and colleagues. For students, it is a chance to help them to develop and grow intellectual and socially as well as a chance to spark interest in learning in general. This opportunity to have an impact on the lives of young people is a primary motivation for entering the teaching field.
There are downsides to working with students as there are times when behavior becomes an issue. Nothing is more draining to a teacher than dealing with a group of students who do not want to learn. Navigating this disinterested in education can be discouraging to say the least.
For the colleagues, it is a chance to wok within what is usually a non-competitive environment. Unlike other industries where there is a best salesman or best manager, in teaching every teacher can be a great teacher because there is normally no ranking. However, with the pressures of standardized testing teaching has become more competitive.
Everyone must determine for themselves what is their motivation for becoming a teacher. This is really a personal decision and there is rarely a way to state conclusively that someone’s motivation to teach is wrong. The examples provided here are for giving reasons to think about why someone may want to teach.
Secant periodic function
With the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, there were several gradual and strong changes made to education. All the changes mentioned are not directly caused by Christianity, but they are correlated with it meaning that they happened at the same time Christianity was rising in Europe.
Changes in Curriculum
The trivium and the quadrivium were replaced in part by other subjects. Theology was studied for the obvious reason that Christianity was growing in popularity among people. There was a need for clergy in this religion which begat the need for academic training. In addition, unlike other religions in which the priesthood may be limited by tribe or hereditary, any male could at least express interest in being a religious leader in early Christianity assuming he passed vetting by elders and others.
Law was also added to the curriculum. This may not be directly related to Christianity but it happened around the same time. In particular, people wanted to understand Roman law in greater detail leading to a growth in those who were trained as lawyers. For whatever reason, the natural sciences were sometimes classified as being part of law studies during this time as well. Perhaps this was meant to refer to natural law as alluded to by Aristotle.
The subjects of the trivium and quadrivium were often reduced to a single subject called philosophy. By the dawn of the Christian era in the Roman Empire, the influence of Plato and Aristotle was strongly felt. As such, the study of their work along with anything else related to the humanities was temporarily classified as philosophy.
Changes in Traditions
Within schools, at this time students were encouraged to think independently. Free thought was supported and schools were locally controlled. There was also a discussion style of teaching instead of simply lecturing. Education was about bringing forth from the student rather than filling the head of students. This is in part what the Latin word “educere” means which serves as the root word for education.
The religion of Christianity has several strong absolute beliefs such as what is right and wrong. This influenced education in that academic learning was focused on finding universal truth. Education was searching for the ideal. This is in sharp contrast to education today with its obsession with the subjective. The idea of an absolute God led to the focus on finding absolute ideal truth.
Higher education also had something in common with monasticism. When students went away to study, it was expected that they would live away from society in part and study it objectively before returning to the world and engage with it. The idea of leaving the world is one of the goals of monastic living not with the purpose of studying the world objectively but of trying to have a closer connection with God.
Education like most things in this world, changes with the times. As a new religion began to make its presence felt there was a corresponding change in education. It would be simplistic to trace all the changes provided here solely because of any religion. However, historical people saw education differently when they began to see the world from a Christian perspective.
The first universities can be traced back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome. In terms of location, early universities were located primarily in Athens, Alexandria (Egypt), and Rome. In addition, to being educational centers, these three cities were also seats of spiritual authority with Alexandria and Rome playing critical roles in the development of Christianity.
In this post, we will focus on higher education in Ancient Greece. We will look at the curriculum and teaching styles of this time period.
For Greeks, there were three key subjects students needed to study at university. These were grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Grammar was focused on written communication and not just spelling and punctuation. Instead, the grammar of the Greeks was about learning to write and communicate persuasively in text.
Rhetoric goes by the name of public speaking today. Again, the goal of rhetoric was to learn how to communicate persuasively and to develop ideas and arguments during oral communication. Lastly, logic is often seen as critical thinking today. This subject focused on developing arguments, judging their quality, and applying the same skills to the arguments of others.
Trivium & Quadrivium
Under Alexander the Great there were some changes to what was considered higher education. The education at the university level was divided into two main components which were the trivium and the quadrivium. The trivium consisted of the three subjects we have already discussed (grammar, rhetoric, logic). However, logic was refocused and renamed dialectics.
Grammar during the days of Alexander the Great was mostly the same with a stronger emphasis on poetry, semantics, and the addition of history to this subject mater. Rhetoric continued to stress public speaking but also included the study of the forms of literary works. Dialectics was more of a teaching tool and encourage dialog and debate. Subjects under this term included metaphysics, physics, and ethics. Generally, the trivium is seen as focusing on human nature are laying the foundation for the humanities.
The quadrivium consisted of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. Arithmetic was basic practical math. Geometry dealt with theorems and also geography. Astronomy was not complete about the stars but natural science and philosophy in general. Music included not only music but theatrical arts such as comedy and tragedy, and also dance, lyric poetry, and hymns. The quadrivium is often seen as focused on nature.
Greek education was also highly focused on physical education through gymnastics. This is, of course, one of the inspirations for physical education today.
The teaching style in Greek universities has been described as dry. There is a focus on memorizing and the minute details of a subject. However, there was also a contradictory emphasis on finding patterns and examining the form of things. It was believed that if students saw the big picture it would help to enlighten the details.
There was a focus on debating. This could have made learning more tolerable and interactive. However, argue for the sake of arguing could lead to a great deal of discord and bruised egos if taken to an extreme.
It also needs to be mentioned that universities were not thought of as universities as we do today. It would better to use the word of higher education or education beyond the basics. Often teachers would have their own school in which they would pass on their knowledge to pupils.
Ancient Greece and its influence are felt to this day. The role of the university was first established in the West by the work of this early time. Without this pioneering work by Greece the world may have been a much different place.
In this post, we will look at two issues that Christian education had to address during the period of AD 300-900. These two concerns are the debate between Christian learning and Greek thought and the teaching capacity of educational leaders.
Faith & Hellenism
With the growth of the Christian church within the Roman Empire was a corresponding tension between Christian thought and Greek philosophy. Church leaders were split over whether Christians should study Greek thought along with church teachings.
This debate continued and perhaps grew when the Christian church had firm control of education within the empire by the fourth century. In general, the divide over the inclusion of Greek thought in the education process was split between those who said avoid Greek thought and those who said embrace it.
For the anti-Greeks, they had a strong example of what happens when a Christian studies Greek teachings in the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (331-363). Julian’s exposure to the classics of Greek thought (and Neo-Platonism) as a student, led him into outright involvement with mystery cults and magic. To further compound matters, Julian attempted to reestablish paganism as the religion of Rome before his untimely demise at the age of 32. Julian was the last emperor to openly oppose Christianity and his actions were all the evidence anti-Greek Christians had that the writings of Plato and Aristotle should be avoided.
For those who supported the study of ancient Greek writers, their argument rested in caution and temperance when reading the classics. One Christian educator warned against hating worldly sciences and that the ideas of these authors should be supplementary to scripture. Julian’s problem was an intemperate and uncritical study of Plato and his peers.
This debate over faith vs Hellenism has continued for the pass 800-900 years. However, there is not as much objection to studying secular thought as there used to be as Christian education has mostly accepted it with the strong exception of several highly controversial ideas (sexual orientation, creation, etc.).
As time continued, monks and priests began to educate the young. Unfortunately, the education that they provided was considered of low quality as they generally focused only on teaching the trivium (Grammar, logic, and rhetoric) in terms of knowledge. Quadrivium was rarely taught if at all.
In addition, the monks and the priest were in need of education themselves. It was common for these men of faith to a lack of a formal education in the position in which they served the church. As such, they were frequently not much ahead of the students in terms of their learning. This led to a push for formal training and education of priests and monks in the 7th and 8th centuries.
In terms of the teaching style, there was a move from the discussion-oriented style of the Greeks to a focus on memorization. This was not done simply to stifle the critical thinking of the students. Rather, the price of parchment rose drastically during this time period, which made it difficult to write things down. The only way to learn now was to memorize large amounts of material because there was no other cheap way to retain knowledge.
There will always be differences and issues that challenge education. The purpose is to examine how others have addressed problems in order to learn from their successes and failures. To this day, Christian leaders struggle with the role of secular thought tin the education of its members. In addition, there are still issues with the qualifications of teachers and the style of teaching tat is employed. As such, a look to the past will simply confirm that problems never change.