What topics should be included in education?

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liveboy21
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What topics should be included in education?

Postby liveboy21 » Fri May 18, 2012 12:51 am UTC

Relevant predecessors:
Questions and Thoughts about Education
Design your own ideal education system
Dumbing down education - Are the "best" systems really good?
Education, why don't we fund it more?

Many societies have some form of education and judge people based on the type of education. "Oh wow, she went to Harvard" some would say. "He doesn't understand politics because he went to that crazy Christian school" another would say. "Even if the people from that school tend to be hired by the white house?" "Um...yeah...that's rather depressing".

So we have a general idea of what makes an education 'good' or 'bad' perhaps by using standard tests or proportion who proceed to the next level of education or whatever system your country uses. However, you could have 'bad' education throughout the country. Things like ignoring history, teaching falsehoods, treating opinions as fact, treating facts as negotiable and many more.

So my questions are:
What topics should everyone know? (Everyone should be able to spell...or should they?)
What topics should people be able to learn if they want further studies? (eg. Should computer programming languages be taught at tertiary level or should every 9 year old be able to at least program the game Pong.)
Should opinions be taught?
and Who should regulate the education? (The government? The schools? Some corporation specializing in education? Open source/Wikipedia style textbooks?)

Many questions, I know, hopefully it doesn't seem too daunting.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Economica » Fri May 18, 2012 2:08 am UTC

Primary level: reading, writing, arithmetic, with a decent chunk of time devoted to "creative" activity (music, art, etc).

Secondary level minima:
  • Two years of math: one year of algebra should be standard; similarly a semester of probability and statistics (with Excel skills integrated in)
  • Two or three years of science: biology, chemistry, and physics
  • Four years of English/literature/writing
  • Three or four years of history
  • I benefited from a fantastic one-year introduction to the humanities in high school and would not be displeased if it were made standard.

Tertiary:
  • Core: I would de-emphasize core education. Let students learn what they want. I would not be opposed to requiring one writing-intensive course in basic philosophy for all first-year students.
  • Major: I would, however, require that college graduates have a substantive portfolio of writings in their major. To that end, I'd like to see writing-intensive courses in-major. This could vary reasonably by department; a CS major might have substantive code with formal documentation instead of formal essays, for example.

These lists are not exhaustive.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby poxic » Fri May 18, 2012 2:33 am UTC

Slightly off to the side of the question: I've always wished we'd been taught more about how the stuff around us works. How does water get from mountains to our taps in our town? Where does sewage go around here? What goes into building a road? How long does it take to build a house, an office tower, a factory? How many professions get involved? Y'know, that sort of thing.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby maydayp » Fri May 18, 2012 4:40 am UTC

okay, so I think that we should move to bilingual education, second language up to the parent, but otherwise mandatory k-12. the only exception I can think of is if there were learning disabilities that would make it too hard for a child to learn another language. Then the child would receive help, like they often do now for disabilities.
beyond that, I've a few ideas, but many people will probably disagree with me. One I won't go into here, is that I think we should not teach in grades, rather we should teach by proficiency/skill ability, when ever possible (or half grades, having the student in one grade go to a different class that suits their abilities best).
k-3
I think that history should be completely dropped, instead turned into culture exposure class, where they learn how different cultures work, and what history is needed to understand that. This way it would be fun and interesting, rather then dry like the history classes typically are.
Reading, writing, and math of course. But at these grades I think it's important to have reading (like talking about books, in older grades' novel studies) where the teacher can help the children in smaller groups, based on their reading level (ex// those who excel, those who are average, those who are struggling). In these grades the focus on reading and writing should be on vocabulary, enjoyment, and spelling. emphasis on enjoyment. Math should be what it is, and it's really simple to allow kids to move forward if they want to, by having optional worksheets available for them (some kids will take you up on this. I got a teacher to write out multiplication questions for me after I finished my assignment, over 3 months before we started to cover them), at this level, I don't think most kids would find it too hard and so I don't think you have to worry too much about how to make it interesting, at least not if they still have blocks and toys to count with, like they did when I was in those grades (which was only 14 years ago)
there should also be PE, with gymnastics and sports played on an enjoyment level, rather then competition level.
obviously language classes. I'd also have music art and computer classes at least once a week.
Gr.4-6 should be a transition from primary to secondary education. culture classes turning to history. PE to teach the more intricate parts of sports, gymnastics should continue. Same with music, art, and computer classes. I think computer classes should start to be moved up to 3 days a week, maybe combined with other subjects. Current evens should be introduced, with notes sent home to their parents (there are people who refuse to watch the news. In high school, my mother wouldn't let me watch the news, even though my teacher wanted us to, to follow the French student's strike all those years ago.).
Gr.7 really should either be another catch up grade, or considered a high school grade. I'm on the side of high school, as I felt the material covered in grade 7 and 8 are were really similar, if not the same, and now feel that it would be a better time to transition from a one classroom environment to classroom per subject environment.
Classes I think should be mandatory for at least one year, and available for more then that one year:
Computer technology, and proficiency and introduction course first year, with basic programing included.
Shop(wood work and mental work) and home economics (cooking and sewing). as they are now. but for home ec, it should eventually include information about how to tell which spices go together, and how to tell. wasn't that into the sewing part, so I cannot comment on that.
Art
Classes for 3+ years:
Sciences, including dedicated sciences
Math
History
English...or lets call it Grammar and Language Studies (still what it is, but it could be for more then one language. And I just hate calling grammar studies English or Language Arts). BUT lets drop the poetry, and focus on actual writing and comprehension skills.
Classes that should be completely optional:
any Theater classes
Music
PE/Physical Education. This one is iffy on one year mandatory or completely optional. And from my Very Biased opinion, due to the social dynamics that can come into play (it's much easier to bully some one in PE then many other classes). But at this point I think PE should also include things like dancing, and archery. I do not agree at all with skill testing, and this is a class that should not be graded, IMOP. I have similar feelings about Home ec, shop, and art, but they at least try to teach you something (I find) useful. I've Ideas that would make it acceptable for me, to turn this into a mandatory subject, but it's not that important (and it's really long. this is already getting long winded) .
Actual programming courses, courses about creative writing, and Law.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby dg61 » Fri May 18, 2012 5:36 am UTC

maydayp wrote:I think that history should be completely dropped, instead turned into culture exposure class, where they learn how different cultures work, and what history is needed to understand that. This way it would be fun and interesting, rather then dry like the history classes typically are.

I'll slightly disagree here. History doesn't have to be dry, and can and should be taught in interesting ways and in ways that emphasize the "how" rather than the "what" of history, as proper academic history does. For example, instead of a lesson listing the battles that Darius I fought it would be better to have a lesson explaining how he came to power and how he governed the Achaemenid Empire.It's also worth pointing out that modern historical research generally does place a heavy emphasis on cultural and social history, and any good history class should give substantial attention to that material. One could very legitimately for example build lessons around Ottoman religious policy or the history of organized labor in the 19th century. I do agree that culture exposure is an important topic, but that might be best served by teaching the other social sciences in addition to history, especially geography(the science of how people interact with land, that is, not bullshit state capitals memorization*) and sociocultural and archeological anthropology. This would be a better overall preparation for understanding different cultures, including ones we might not be able to predict people interacting with. I also agree that history is often badly and dully taught, but that does not mean that it should be abolished but that we should teach it better; for instance by choosing better texts to set, trying to teach more primary sources(many of which are easily available online in very good editions) or by encouraging students to examine disputed topics in history, of which there are many.
*although that could lead into a very interesting lesson on why state capitals tend to be minor cities, and maybe even discussion of why certain cities tend to be more important than others.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby FrancisDrake » Fri May 18, 2012 9:32 am UTC

James Joyce.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby maydayp » Fri May 18, 2012 11:25 am UTC

dg61 wrote:
maydayp wrote:I think that history should be completely dropped, instead turned into culture exposure class, where they learn how different cultures work, and what history is needed to understand that. This way it would be fun and interesting, rather then dry like the history classes typically are.

I'll slightly disagree here. History doesn't have to be dry, and can and should be taught in interesting ways and in ways that emphasize the "how" rather than the "what" of history, as proper academic history does. For example, instead of a lesson listing the battles that Darius I fought it would be better to have a lesson explaining how he came to power and how he governed the Achaemenid Empire.It's also worth pointing out that modern historical research generally does place a heavy emphasis on cultural and social history, and any good history class should give substantial attention to that material. One could very legitimately for example build lessons around Ottoman religious policy or the history of organized labor in the 19th century. I do agree that culture exposure is an important topic, but that might be best served by teaching the other social sciences in addition to history, especially geography(the science of how people interact with land, that is, not bullshit state capitals memorization*) and sociocultural and archeological anthropology. This would be a better overall preparation for understanding different cultures, including ones we might not be able to predict people interacting with. I also agree that history is often badly and dully taught, but that does not mean that it should be abolished but that we should teach it better; for instance by choosing better texts to set, trying to teach more primary sources(many of which are easily available online in very good editions) or by encouraging students to examine disputed topics in history, of which there are many.
*although that could lead into a very interesting lesson on why state capitals tend to be minor cities, and maybe even discussion of why certain cities tend to be more important than others.

I'm not suggesting abolishing it for all grades, just the lower grades. I agree that history is important, and can be fun (I completely admit to completely reading my history textbook out side of class in multiple grades). My personal experience was that I found the first few years of history really boring and hard, because we were talking about dry Canadian history (how North America was discovered, route then took across North America and south America). It wasn't until grade 6 that we focused on the culture side, and that was the only year. And remember we are talking about kids under 14 right now, they don't need a very detailed explanation of things, and having three more classes would be way too much. I would actually say that for all grades, because while there should be a geography class, I don't think it's necessary for everyone to know that much about history.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Dr. Diaphanous » Fri May 18, 2012 12:08 pm UTC

I think it is important that everyone should leave school with an understanding of the issues in politics. After all, democracy relies on the assumption that voters know what's best for the country.

To that end, there should be some class classes covering basic politics and economics (e.g. how leaders are chosen, how laws are made, what the budget deficit means, what exchange rates mean).
I don't know how that could be made interesting or at what age it should be introduced.

In my school there was "citizenship" on the syllabus but it was never taken seriously - it wasn't a proper class and there was no homework or testing.

Also science shouldn't just be the facts that humanity has learned about biology, chemistry, and physics. How about some kind of philosophy of science, rationality, critical thinking, experiment design, statistics?
On the other hand much of that would pass entirely over the heads of most kids if not done right.

Is there a point in music as a mainstream subject? The kids who want to learn a instrument do it as an extracurricular activity. For my part, I understood next to nothing in music lessons.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby maydayp » Fri May 18, 2012 4:39 pm UTC

Dr. Diaphanous wrote:I think it is important that everyone should leave school with an understanding of the issues in politics. After all, democracy relies on the assumption that voters know what's best for the country.

To that end, there should be some class classes covering basic politics and economics (e.g. how leaders are chosen, how laws are made, what the budget deficit means, what exchange rates mean).
I don't know how that could be made interesting or at what age it should be introduced.

In my school there was "citizenship" on the syllabus but it was never taken seriously - it wasn't a proper class and there was no homework or testing.

Also science shouldn't just be the facts that humanity has learned about biology, chemistry, and physics. How about some kind of philosophy of science, rationality, critical thinking, experiment design, statistics?
On the other hand much of that would pass entirely over the heads of most kids if not done right.

Is there a point in music as a mainstream subject? The kids who want to learn a instrument do it as an extracurricular activity. For my part, I understood next to nothing in music lessons.

you are assuming that everyone can afford to get lessons. I couldn't but I loved the month of lessons we had in school. Same thing with singing and sports. I loved them, but I couldn't afford to join a team or get lession, outside of what was offered for cheap/free by the schools I attended.
The reality is more and more people cannot afford to pay for extra curricular activities. Sadly the only music offered at any of the schools I attended what that month of recorder lessons.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Fire Brns » Fri May 18, 2012 5:37 pm UTC

My 1 suggested criterion:
I do not believe that imagination and opinion should be tested or required to pass a course. Not a "you can fail this assignment and still get a D" either; you can get an A in this class by learning the course materials is what schools in Florida at least fail at. I did not learn what an article was until I took foreign language in 10th grade, and even then I had to do a web search because the class kept using the word.

This applies especially classes like science, math, history, language ect. In English I do not believe this should be a necessary for unless it is the point of the class, creative writing ect. English would be better teaching basic writing techniches, grammer, vocabulary, and everything else the average teenager proves incapable of.

Edit: examples so you can see where I'm coming from.
Spoiler:
My English class last year focusing on American literature had me write opinion based agreements or disagreements with editorials from a list of news websites on several occasions. While the teacher was ok, if he disagreed with you he could find your arguement flawed and as such not up to the grading rubric.

This year, with my English class focusing of classical literature, I was tasked with with writing an original short story based on deception after spending a month reading: Much Ado About Nothing and about 20 other short stories covering abour every plotline concerning deception. They might as well have ask me to invent a new color for the spectum.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Fire Brns » Fri May 18, 2012 5:58 pm UTC

poxic wrote:Slightly off to the side of the question: I've always wished we'd been taught more about how the stuff around us works. How does water get from mountains to our taps in our town? Where does sewage go around here? What goes into building a road? How long does it take to build a house, an office tower, a factory? How many professions get involved? Y'know, that sort of thing.

Missed this gem my first read through: I had a simmilar idea for a 1 semester class where they teach you basic life skills preferably by middle school.
Examples: Time management, keeping plants alive, basic laws and their punishments (hey kids if you punch someone you can spend 5 years in jail!), spatial and directional awareness(which way is north by looking at the sky), first aid, how public services work(police, first responders), personal sanitation(so many people don't know how to bathe), oh and manners(none of those flimsy handshakes).
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Greyarcher » Sat May 19, 2012 5:33 pm UTC

Argument analysis. Thus, the ability to reflect critically on the inferential connections between premises and conclusions; to grasp the general argument in a passage of text; to work out hidden assumptions and recognize common logical errors. Stuff like that.

Refine and polish their ability to reason a little bit.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby somebody already took it » Sun May 20, 2012 5:39 am UTC

Primary education should be about exposing people to as wide of range of problems (not just those with solutions), ideas, events, institutions, cultures, artifacts, activities, people, etc. as possible. The important thing is to spark the interest of students and give them ideas about the things they could do with their lives. When students do find a topic they are interested in, they should be encouraged to pursue it and given time/resources to do so. Many educational institutions have very rigid structures that waste students' time by forcing them to study in depth subjects they do not care about. Allowing students to pursue any interest they want can have pitfalls, so they should eventually have to defend their interests as being worthwhile. If someone wants to spend most of their life playing video-games we should let them, but the person should have to listen to and address the concerns raised by their community. The same goes for someone who studies classics, abstract algebra, or engineering.
We shouldn't think in terms of topics everyone should be taught, but rather discrete pieces of information everyone should be exposed to. I think everyone should be shown the periodic table of elements, but I don't think everyone should have to take a class in chemistry where they memorize it. In order to underscore this point I will make a provocative statement which may have consequences I do not foresee: If it can't be explained in less than an hour, it shouldn't be taught.

Astra Taylor talks about unschooling, which I think is generally on the right track as far as education goes.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby hawkinsssable » Sun May 20, 2012 1:38 pm UTC

There were a few things missing from my (Australian) education I think should have been absolutely mandatory:

Grammar and punctuation. The dry stuff. Combined with some slightly less dry stuff on writing style (clarity and that kind of thing)

Instead of being taught the same little chunks of trivial Australian History every year from prep to year 10 (Cook! Gold Rush! A few explorers! Ned Kelly! rinse and repeat), enough Australian politics that everybody at least gets the gist of our parliamentary system and how our democracy theoretically works.

This one's a bit iffy, but some critical thinking / analysis stuff that goes beyond just persuasive writing. Make it some kind of hybrid of argument analysis, rhetoric studies, film studies, marketing, that kind of thing. Basically, teach people how people try to manipulate other people across a whole range of media, not just newspapers.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Trasvi » Mon May 21, 2012 2:37 pm UTC

A few things frustrated me in school (only just finishing university now, I'm a secondary-level tutor and my mother and girlfriend are teachers so I have a reasonable amount of exposure to the education system)

1) English (as a first language). Our English classes were, to me at the time, pointless. I see the point to them now, beginning my career, but there was so much emphasis on unimportant things that the message got lost to most people. There was not a lot of emphasis on why you were being asked to write an essay deconstructing a movie, and I think the English course should be changed significantly to focus on how the skills that you learn from such tasks are useful life skills.

2) Other languages. In Australia, second language programs are a joke. I have a lot to do with European students and am constantly amazed by their ability to speak four or five languages fluently. I think every single school graduate should be fluent in at least one other tongue. In Australia this would likely be Japanese, Mandarin or Indonesian.

3) Software skills. I'm pretty biased here, being a software engineer, but the computing skills taught in most secondary skills also leave a lot to be desired. Not just programming (although I do think this should be offered in more schools) but basic word-processing and spreadsheet skills I believe are more essential to most jobs than anything else people might learn at school.

4) Pop culture. There is a generation now that knows Darth Vader is Luke's father, but has no more knowledge of Star Wars than that. They know the bullet time sequence of the Matrix, but have never seen it. There are some works and pieces of history that have such an impact on new media that they should be taught. Watching Star Wars should be mandatory.

And thats it for now.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Magnanimous » Mon May 21, 2012 8:14 pm UTC

My only big suggestion is a class dedicated to basic reason/rationality and critical thinking. Ideally this would be around 5th grade, I imagine, when students have grown up a bit. The class would be based on problem solving at first, then move into real complicated social issues and morality... Logic would be a plus, especially if you can tie it into mathematics. 5th grade is about pre-algebra times, so the connection between logic and abstractions would probably help in that area.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby thc » Tue May 22, 2012 12:08 am UTC

At the elementary level, I think that science should NOT be taught. Every single science textbook I've looked at aimed at elementary students is wrong in some fundamental way, and elementary teachers most of who do not have science backgrounds, are often learning from the textbook themselves. This isn't a dig at elementary teachers, because being able to focus the attention of 20 hyperactive children is an amazing and godlike skill. But that doesn't correlate in any way with having a scientific way of thinking that should be required to teach science.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby curtis95112 » Tue May 22, 2012 2:32 am UTC

thc wrote:At the elementary level, I think that science should NOT be taught. Every single science textbook I've looked at aimed at elementary students is wrong in some fundamental way, and elementary teachers most of who do not have science backgrounds, are often learning from the textbook themselves. This isn't a dig at elementary teachers, because being able to focus the attention of 20 hyperactive children is an amazing and godlike skill. But that doesn't correlate in any way with having a scientific way of thinking that should be required to teach science.


I see your point, but that could lead to science being regarded as an esoteric and difficult subject. You know, the one only geniuses get. Perhaps if they were replaced with general "nature" classes? I'm thinking of a class where you learn the names of animals and plants, the core concepts of gravity, the water cycle, and so on. That being said, I can see this not really working too, so maybe the solution is having better science education for teachers? (Yes, I'm aware this is somewhat a catch-22)
Thing is, science is difficult to learn and teach. It demands much more precision than other subjects from the very beginning. Maybe this should be acknowledged and we should have separate science teachers even for elementary schools for the time being.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Tue May 22, 2012 6:45 am UTC

I don't think science suffers that much differently from math. The amount of build-up people have to keep track of is more intricate, and unlike the humanities we don't get near 24/7, daily practice by interacting with other people.

I wish we would find structures to get children more often out of the classroom and into more situations where they're practicing what they're learning. Teaching them some habits and activities they can participate in to keep that knowledge from rusting out.

Another big gripe I have against education is when it contains busywork, where your evaluation is heavily weighed by completion of superfluous tasks. Some classes do a good job of using "homework/assignments" as meaningful practice to build a skill, but many other times it just feels impractical and as dead wight meant to reward mindless labor.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Ormurinn » Tue May 22, 2012 7:02 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:I don't think science suffers that much differently from math. The amount of build-up people have to keep track of is more intricate, and unlike the humanities we don't get near 24/7, daily practice by interacting with other people.

I wish we would find structures to get children more often out of the classroom and into more situations where they're practicing what they're learning. Teaching them some habits and activities they can participate in to keep that knowledge from rusting out.

Another big gripe I have against education is when it contains busywork, where your evaluation is heavily weighed by completion of superfluous tasks. Some classes do a good job of using "homework/assignments" as meaningful practice to build a skill, but many other times it just feels impractical and as dead wight meant to reward mindless labor.


I'm in 100% agreement with you.

The biggest thing for me would be that when schooling makes the jump from compulsory to elective subjects (GCSE level in England) a student should be able to test out of any compulsory subjects. Going on personal experience, I didn't learn anything I didnt already know in GCSE English, Citizenship or PE.

PE should have the emphasis taken away from sport. It should be there to bring students to a minimum standard of fitness - sport training should be an elective. Weightlifting and circuit training perhaps twice a week, with minimum standards that can be tested out of.

I'd like to see something in schools to instill a bit of cultural pride. This seems to be unique to England, but all we ever learn in school is how terrible our culture is - and England or the British empire is always the designated villain. Kids should learn some Anglo-Saxon in primary school, just scattered words, untested, and maybe include Beowulf in GCSE. Teach British history with a bit more of an even hand - we've been overwhelmingly good for the world. Maybe special activities for national days.

And a pet peeve - if you're going to make people study poetry, give them some Kipling and Tennyson - get them to read The Wanderer or Dickens. Things that are really culturally relevant, not postmodern nihilistic third-wave feminist drivel. Just ban Carol-ann Duffy :)
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Wed May 23, 2012 5:11 am UTC

I don't really have an opinion on elementary education because it was too long ago for me to remember what I learned there and what I learned elsewhere.

For HS, I will agree with the other posters that some life skills class is needed, perhaps replacing the usual government class that really (in my school at least) only taught about the federal government. Nothing about common state laws or typical ways communities governed themselves. I know that most students will live out of state at some point, and almost all will move to a different municipality where the laws may be radically different, but it would be a nice way to show all the students a way to reasonably manage their lives. Something that should also go into the government class is the meta-politics of politics. Teach things such as how to run a campaign and how to overcome the idiots who get their idea from a book (that doesn't have a judgement on anything related to the issue), rather than reason. More importantly, lightly instil libertarianism. Do not force it or teach that it is the only way, but show students that people can do many reprehensible things without hurting anyone else.

RE: English. I don't even. I really don't remember learning anything from my English classes, other than to resent otherwise good literature. I learned far more about writing from my history classes.

For maths, I would dump the paradigm that calculus is the best maths and aim for statistics and discreet maths. I know that calc is the basis for higher maths, but stats and maths dealing with integers are far more applicable to daily life to most people. Even if calc is used for the entire design of something, it is rare that there is an integral facing the user. However, a solid understanding of stats (and even binary logic) would do wonders to boost understanding of the news (see citizenship/government class).
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby curtis95112 » Wed May 23, 2012 6:09 am UTC

cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:For maths, I would dump the paradigm that calculus is the best maths and aim for statistics and discreet maths. I know that calc is the basis for higher maths, but stats and maths dealing with integers are far more applicable to daily life to most people. Even if calc is used for the entire design of something, it is rare that there is an integral facing the user. However, a solid understanding of stats (and even binary logic) would do wonders to boost understanding of the news (see citizenship/government class).


This. Statistics doesn't get nearly enough attention.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby RoberII » Wed May 23, 2012 10:44 pm UTC

Ormurinn wrote:
And a pet peeve - if you're going to make people study poetry, give them some Kipling and Tennyson - get them to read The Wanderer or Dickens. Things that are really culturally relevant, not postmodern nihilistic third-wave feminist drivel. Just ban Carol-ann Duffy :)


Dude, Carol Ann Duffy rocks.

That said, I think English (and a few other classes) is a class where a lot depends on the teacher, for better or for worse - A teacher who insists that there is only one correct interpretation of any given poem or story is a good example of how NOT to teach literature. Literary history is something that I believe that everyone should know at least a little bit of, since its so important for all the culture that surrounds us every day. But ultimately i think students should be allowed to draw some of their own conclusions about what the various themes are for the various stories, and maybe we shouldn't be teaching 6th-graders The Waste Land - although I think The Waste Land would be a good 'final' test on the high-school level - if you can explain how and why it is so important, you understand literary history, or at least literary history in an English context.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Zcorp » Thu May 24, 2012 12:52 am UTC

Economica wrote:Primary level: reading, writing, arithmetic, with a decent chunk of time devoted to "creative" activity (music, art, etc).

Secondary level minima:
  • Two years of math: one year of algebra should be standard; similarly a semester of probability and statistics (with Excel skills integrated in)
  • Two or three years of science: biology, chemistry, and physics
  • Four years of English/literature/writing
  • Three or four years of history
  • I benefited from a fantastic one-year introduction to the humanities in high school and would not be displeased if it were made standard.

Tertiary:
  • Core: I would de-emphasize core education. Let students learn what they want. I would not be opposed to requiring one writing-intensive course in basic philosophy for all first-year students.
  • Major: I would, however, require that college graduates have a substantive portfolio of writings in their major. To that end, I'd like to see writing-intensive courses in-major. This could vary reasonably by department; a CS major might have substantive code with formal documentation instead of formal essays, for example.

These lists are not exhaustive.

This is an entirely wrong approach. This is essentially what we do now and it is a giant failure.

Don't focus on time focus on skills. You say 2-3 years of science, instead give the concrete expectations of what you want students to learn. Regulating it to years and classes results in giant failures in teaching and a system that does not account for how people actually learn..

liveboy21 wrote:So my questions are:
What topics should everyone know? (Everyone should be able to spell...or should they?)

Psychology, Sociology. Specifically the impact of culture on human behavior and aspects of human nature and how we behave. Without a strong understanding of the basics in these fields we can't expect people to think critically.

Math. Specifically what math is, a way of quantifying observations about our world and a means of solving problems. Leads in to statistics and exponential growth, two important things everyone should fully understand.

Grammar. Not so much the rules of it that we pound into people now but the purpose, to speak or write in a way that allows others to understand what you mean to say.

Logic and reason. Foundation of reason and the second half of critical thinking next to self-awareness. Leads into computer science with math. Something that every kid in the modern world should understand as we continue to automate.

General Knowledge. We call these 'science' classes right now. We can change the subject material up a bit but understanding how knowledge is gained and in general what knowledge has been gained. Additionally how to gain further knowledge, parts of the internet are already great tools. We will see much better within the next decade.

What topics should people be able to learn if they want further studies? (eg. Should computer programming languages be taught at tertiary level or should every 9 year old be able to at least program the game Pong.)
That we try and gerenally succeed at limiting this now is pathetic. Knock down that ivory tower.

Should opinions be taught?
Should we indoctrinate people? No. Should we teach people about different opinions and talk about values? Of Course.

Who should regulate the education? (The government? The schools? Some corporation specializing in education? Open source/Wikipedia style textbooks?)
The schools aren't the government? Realistically the market regulates it right now. And by market I probably mean HR departments that are full of idiots.

We shouldn't regulate education, but I imagine more your question is who should set standards. That too right now is kind of the market but there is a place for genuine experts in different fields and pedagogy to do so.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Thu May 24, 2012 8:14 pm UTC

curtis95112 wrote:
cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:For maths, I would dump the paradigm that calculus is the best maths and aim for statistics and discreet maths. I know that calc is the basis for higher maths, but stats and maths dealing with integers are far more applicable to daily life to most people. Even if calc is used for the entire design of something, it is rare that there is an integral facing the user. However, a solid understanding of stats (and even binary logic) would do wonders to boost understanding of the news (see citizenship/government class).


This. Statistics doesn't get nearly enough attention.



I'm in the field of physiotherapy aiming for medicine, and I can't agree enough with this. I actually resent being forced into classes that will rust out once I go off into my profession and other personal activities. Calculus is way too limited in application; and even for some STEM programs, particularly biology, you'll at best used a very select form (read: bare-boned) of calculus if any. I've found that statistics classes are far more useful, especially when it comes to staying up to date via journals and understanding their tables and graphs more efficiently.

Methodology is one aspect I wish was more heavily focused on during STEM programs. It feels too tangential.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby omgryebread » Fri May 25, 2012 3:05 am UTC

Not many fans of teaching literature, huh?

I have absolutely no need to know about circuits, terminal velocity, plant anatomy, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, L'Hopital's rule, or that thing in Algebra 2 where you had like lines and then numbers and problems took like a page to solve or something like that. I doubt I'll ever need any of those, either in life in general, or in my career choice.

Now, I will grant that I won't technically need to know anything about Hamlet or "Do not go gentle into that good night". That, however, doesn't make it less useful than all of the above to me, it makes it exactly as useless. (In fact, since I wish to work in a field in which rhetoric and good writing are important, I'd say understanding literature probably helps a little more.)

That being said, I think it's important that we teach all those things (okay maybe not that Algebra 2 thing). I'd like to think our engineers understand plant anatomy and that our botanists understand a bit of calculus. Not so much because they'll need to use it, but because I think well-rounded people provide for a better society. An engineer who understands some biology is going to have his worldview shaped by it.

We don't educate the young merely so they can be productive workers and add to our GDP or build us useful things. We also seek to instill in them abilities to deal with the world, and pass on our way of dealing with the world. We as a society find art valuable, so we pass on that appreciation of art, and we pass on the abilities needed to understand and appreciate it. I'd also like our engineers and botanists to understand The Canterbury Tales and Their Eyes Were Watching God.


Ormurinn wrote:And a pet peeve - if you're going to make people study poetry, give them some Kipling and Tennyson - get them to read The Wanderer or Dickens. Things that are really culturally relevant, not postmodern nihilistic third-wave feminist drivel. Just ban Carol-ann Duffy :)
Uggghhh. Setting aside my hatred of Kipling and Dickens, I'll take this on.

Poetry is large, it contains multitudes (c wut i did thar?). I'll first note that all your listed examples are English, white, and men. (Assuming, reasonably, that The Wanderer was told by men.) If all your taught is "classic" poetry, then you're woefully limited. It will only reinforce the idea of poetry people have, that of it being rhyming, in certain meters, and little odes to love or nature or some great battle. Teach them e.e. cummings so they understand that poetry has no boundaries. Teach them William Carlos Williams to teach them how meter and verse can be used, played with, and broken appropriately to great and beautiful effect. Teach them Sylvia Plath (because she's awesome and) so they understand that poetry can be about despair, rage, and mental illness. Teach them Amiri Baraka so that they know how poetry can express things far beyond what classical poetry did.

Of course teach them Tennyson and Shakespearean sonnets as well, but if we only ever taught the classics, then we would have all just learnt Homer and Virgil. T.S. Eliot broke drastically from poetry traditions of his day, and is now considered a classic in his own right. (RoberII is right, The Waste Land should be a final exam.)

RoberII is also right in that the absolute worst way to teach something is assume there is one correct interpretation. As long as students can tell why they interpreted something in the way they did, they should get credit. We had a running contest among the members of my AP english class. Whoever could get the highest grade on an interpretation of literature or poetry while arguing that it was about Jesus won. It led to some pretty mediocre grades (a valiant attempt to argue that the narrator in "Daddy" was Jesus talking to God) and some rather surprising successes (an argument that Yossarian from Catch-22 was a Christ figure who rejects his fate to die, and that the negative things in the novel stem not from his rejection of death, but rather the system that demanded it.) It's almost certainly not what Plath or Heller intended to mean, but our game actually gave us good insight into literature and how to interpret it. We understood it far more than if someone had just told us the popular interpretation of the poem and made us memorize it. (None of us actually tried this on the AP exam.)
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Fri May 25, 2012 3:50 am UTC

When I took Calculus I & II, I passed them with flying colors. 2 years later, after not using the material at all, it has completely rusted. I can handle several integrals (which I'll never use currently in my job as a starting physical therapist), but the bulk of the classes is just gone from my memory. So I just paid ~2k a class for material that evaporated and I never used again. $4k, and countless hours of my life, for what?

Similarly, at the technical levels that you get people taught some subjects, those engineers probably have forgotten all those concepts unless they work in fields or participate in social circles where that knowledge gets reinforced. That's a problem.

If you're not in a program that will make constant use of that knowledge, a better use of resource is to provide knowledge in a format that you do get to keep and get some use out of. It's why having a particular statistics class for humanities major is not bad because it's not so technical that it becomes obsolete post-class, and it incorporates applications and practices relevant to the person's career and hobby goals. It's one thing if they were electives people pursued -- but remember, these are mandatory classes that you are obligated to pay for and invest in so your academics don't suffer, and the point is that you should be seeing some return to your investments.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Fri May 25, 2012 3:55 am UTC

omgryebread wrote:RoberII is also right in that the absolute worst way to teach something is assume there is one correct interpretation. As long as students can tell why they interpreted something in the way they did, they should get credit. We had a running contest among the members of my AP english class. Whoever could get the highest grade on an interpretation of literature or poetry while arguing that it was about Jesus won. It led to some pretty mediocre grades (a valiant attempt to argue that the narrator in "Daddy" was Jesus talking to God) and some rather surprising successes (an argument that Yossarian from Catch-22 was a Christ figure who rejects his fate to die, and that the negative things in the novel stem not from his rejection of death, but rather the system that demanded it.) It's almost certainly not what Plath or Heller intended to mean, but our game actually gave us good insight into literature and how to interpret it. We understood it far more than if someone had just told us the popular interpretation of the poem and made us memorize it. (None of us actually tried this on the AP exam.)

This reminds me of one of the things I hate about many literature classes. They all assume that there is some hidden meaning behind the work, or that the author was speaking in code when explicitly stating what the work was about. Sometimes a poem about nature really is about how beautiful the day was until it got humid, and not about how we are all Jesus in Purgatory.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Fri May 25, 2012 4:00 am UTC

I guess it's a tradition from our more oppressive days when authors had to hide messages and create allusions in order to avoid censorship and financial/social repercussions; it's a hard habit to break.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Magnanimous » Fri May 25, 2012 4:52 am UTC

Surely, even if it is just a poem about a beautiful day, it's a worthy class exercise to look for meaning or think of how meaning could be inserted? That would also bring in student creativity, instead of just reading an author's opinions.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby RoberII » Fri May 25, 2012 12:04 pm UTC

The author's opinion isn't really that important when discussing a text - what the author has to say is far less interesting than what the text actually says. Why should their interpretation of the poem be any better than ours?

And of course, the vast majority of poetry taught in class *is* in fact multifaceted, that's why it is being taught in class in the first place ;)

But I think this discussion is a good example of some of the common misconceptions about poetry, which are reason enough to teach it in the first place.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby curtis95112 » Fri May 25, 2012 12:58 pm UTC

It's kind of important when the teacher's talking about the author's intentions.
I don't know about other countries, but here in Korea there was a big fuss when a poet came out and said that he didn't intend half the things he was said to intend. As a result of that and other similar fiascoes, our test questions now usually say something along the lines of "XXX can be best interpreted as..." as opposed to "XXX was intended to convey...". But while the standardized tests are better, a lot of classroom teaching still second-guesses the author's intentions. People will teach as they were taught.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby MinotaurWarrior » Fri May 25, 2012 3:47 pm UTC

liveboy21 wrote:What topics should everyone know? (Everyone should be able to spell...or should they?)


Practically:
Birth Language, spoken, written, literal, and poetic.
Regional Lingua Franca (English in most places), or a secondary language if the birth language is the Lingua Franca.
The scientific method of acquiring knowledge (including all required math / logic)
Critical scientific facts (how electricity flows, laws of thermodynamics, stuff that comes up in everyone's life)
Basic philosophy (people should at least know what the basic areas of philosophy are, and be made self-aware of their philosophical perspective)
Practical skills (computer literacy & citizenry)

Ideally:
Replace the language requirements with a constructed language that has demonstrated some sort of genuine superiority.

What topics should people be able to learn if they want further studies? (eg. Should computer programming languages be taught at tertiary level or should every 9 year old be able to at least program the game Pong.)


I don't quite see what makes this separate from the first question. But I just want to say that I do not believe any real "specialized" education should be mandatory. Nobody should be required to take a programming course, unless something happens to change and programming becomes a universally required skills, or it's shown to improve performance in other skills (as with learning a second language).

Should opinions be taught?


This depends on what you mean, but generally? No. Even when a school tries to "teach the controversy" they usually end up creating false dichotomies. I'd also argue that most of the time, injecting opinions into your lessons is just a sign of laziness. Things objective details should be described well enough that, if there is a "correct" reaction, students can't help but reach it on their own.

Who should regulate the education? (The government? The schools? Some corporation specializing in education? Open source/Wikipedia style textbooks?)


This may be a bit off-topic, but since it is my answer to a direct question in the OP, I hope it is considered acceptable.

I feel that the best method would be to have teachers get paid according to the performance of their students (perhaps once they enter the workforce, a small portion of each student's income is distributed to their past teachers?) and then allow the teachers to do as they wish, so long as they demonstrate that they are teaching the subject they are supposed to be teaching (so, no poetry classes that are really about computer programming). Let teachers reap the rewards of investing their time and energy into their students. This way, using the best methods (whatever they are) would be rewarded.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Fri May 25, 2012 3:49 pm UTC

RoberII wrote:The author's opinion isn't really that important when discussing a text - what the author has to say is far less interesting than what the text actually says. Why should their interpretation of the poem be any better than ours?

And of course, the vast majority of poetry taught in class *is* in fact multifaceted, that's why it is being taught in class in the first place ;)

But I think this discussion is a good example of some of the common misconceptions about poetry, which are reason enough to teach it in the first place.


What the author says the text says is what the text says. I can say Harry and Draco were just actually bickering closet cases in Harry Potter, and that Snape was just sexually frustrated, but if J.K. Rowling says otherwise, it's her authorship and vision that stands as true. How can you even say that the author's explanation of his creation is just his "opinion"? Will I suddenly have license to call whatever you post on Facebook, blog entries, and autobiographical notes as just "opinion", that I have just as valuable a claim to interpreting what your text is about as you -- the guy whom the text wouldn't exist without -- do?

You can twist and contort people's psychology to derive whatever meaning you feel attuned to from a text, but that doesn't make it as worthy of consideration as the author. One is working through assumptions and gut feelings; the other knows exactly what he means to write and why he did it.

This isn't some unnamed, ambiguous painting with the objective of audience participation. Many authors do want to convey some definitive idea through their work, and not all appreciate someone presumptuous enough trying to convince them and others that he has no control over the definition and understanding of his work, as if they understood the work better than the artist who devoted hours of work and soul-searching to make this available to people.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri May 25, 2012 3:51 pm UTC

I agree with statistics being wholly undervalued. It's a really dang useful subject for just about everyone where as calc is a bit more STEM focused. I still think a basic understanding of the concepts in calc could be very useful to most people, but stat is way more relevant to the masses.

I also believe that "home economics" needs to be radically changed. Yes, sewing is a good skill to have, but just stick with the basics - buttons, a small rip, maybe a patch and a hem. Then you can focus on other things such as how to set a real budget, how to prepare for retirement, things to know before buying a house, the effects of student loans, how to actually meal plan so you don't eat take out all the time, etc.

And while I know this sounds somewhat silly next to my previous content, but I really believe that some sort of craft or handiwork should be almost mastered by the time you're 12 or so. This could be woodworking, knitting, machining, sewing, sculpting, weaving, basket weaving, anything where you do something with your hands in the physical world.

While I know there would never be the budget for it, I think it would be really helpful to many students to be able to see things they're actually doing, to look back and have hard evidence of how they've improved and gotten better. I also just believe that making things with your hands is something that has gone by the wayside in today's virtual culture, and I think that with doing this, students will learn problem solving, logical thinking, creativity, and a lot more basic skills.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Puppyclaws » Fri May 25, 2012 4:32 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:What the author says the text says is what the text says. I can say Harry and Draco were just actually bickering closet cases in Harry Potter, and that Snape was just sexually frustrated, but if J.K. Rowling says otherwise, it's her authorship and vision that stands as true. How can you even say that the author's explanation of his creation is just his "opinion"? Will I suddenly have license to call whatever you post on Facebook, blog entries, and autobiographical notes as just "opinion", that I have just as valuable a claim to interpreting what your text is about as you -- the guy whom the text wouldn't exist without -- do?

You can twist and contort people's psychology to derive whatever meaning you feel attuned to from a text, but that doesn't make it as worthy of consideration as the author. One is working through assumptions and gut feelings; the other knows exactly what he means to write and why he did it.

This isn't some unnamed, ambiguous painting with the objective of audience participation. Many authors do want to convey some definitive idea through their work, and not all appreciate someone presumptuous enough trying to convince them and others that he has no control over the definition and understanding of his work, as if they understood the work better than the artist who devoted hours of work and soul-searching to make this available to people.


Authors determine what the text says. They don't and can't determine what it will mean to me. Also, the goals of the author exist in a larger cultural framework which the author can be influenced by without being aware of it, and their work can certainly be examined and understood in this context, no matter how loud they might like to protest. Their work may also be interpreted in terms of things that the author actually knows nothing about. The point of literary analysis is not to divine what the author wanted his work to say. It is about what the work says. Otherwise literary criticism would be meaningless. But then, you seem to be saying it is.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Fri May 25, 2012 6:44 pm UTC

Puppyclaws wrote:
The point of literary analysis is not to divine what the author wanted his work to say. It is about what the work says. .


And the author is in a much better position to talk about what his work says than some stranger's analysis. Your analysis is just about what you think it says; only the author knows what his work says. He/she is not some puppet channeling a message unbeknownst to them -- the process is deliberate. It's a reason why some authors object to fan fiction -- they claim full ownership of how their work functions, and you benefit or do not benefit from the product they put out. You can change the meaning to suit your intellectual inclinations if it will make the work meaningful to you only through that way, but it doesn't give your interpretation equal validity to the intended meaning by the author unless he/she deliberately made it ambiguous for the select purpose of opening his work to cooperative writing/storytelling.

Otherwise literary criticism would be meaningless. But then, you seem to be saying it is.


Just a slippery slope. Literary criticism can hold meaning without needing to distort someone's work to go on a tangent of your own or use it to get on a soapbox. You can still criticize how a message is conveyed, the merits of the message, whether a structure fit the message, etc. while still respecting the idea that the author's design of the message is exactly what he has presented and should be evaluated. When an author says X character of his work is Y or does something due to Z, his explanation is not of the same value as your interpretation.

And going "everyone's interpretation is just fine so long as you can justify it with some creative reading of the text" waters down literature for many people and has hounded the field with unfair stigma from people who perceive it as a wishy-washy center of sophistry.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby maydayp » Fri May 25, 2012 7:12 pm UTC

Lucrece wrote:
RoberII wrote:The author's opinion isn't really that important when discussing a text - what the author has to say is far less interesting than what the text actually says. Why should their interpretation of the poem be any better than ours?

And of course, the vast majority of poetry taught in class *is* in fact multifaceted, that's why it is being taught in class in the first place ;)

But I think this discussion is a good example of some of the common misconceptions about poetry, which are reason enough to teach it in the first place.


What the author says the text says is what the text says. I can say Harry and Draco were just actually bickering closet cases in Harry Potter, and that Snape was just sexually frustrated, but if J.K. Rowling says otherwise, it's her authorship and vision that stands as true. How can you even say that the author's explanation of his creation is just his "opinion"? Will I suddenly have license to call whatever you post on Facebook, blog entries, and autobiographical notes as just "opinion", that I have just as valuable a claim to interpreting what your text is about as you -- the guy whom the text wouldn't exist without -- do?

You can twist and contort people's psychology to derive whatever meaning you feel attuned to from a text, but that doesn't make it as worthy of consideration as the author. One is working through assumptions and gut feelings; the other knows exactly what he means to write and why he did it.

This isn't some unnamed, ambiguous painting with the objective of audience participation. Many authors do want to convey some definitive idea through their work, and not all appreciate someone presumptuous enough trying to convince them and others that he has no control over the definition and understanding of his work, as if they understood the work better than the artist who devoted hours of work and soul-searching to make this available to people.

I have to say it really depends on the work that is being analyzed.
there is this recent release by taylor swift, "ours" which to me, is very open to interpretation. I mean obviously it's about a relationship, but what kind of relationship?
well if you go by the video, then it's about a girl and her soldier boyfriend. But I think it could fit more controversial relationships, like lesbians, much better. or social economic differences. It doesn't have to be about a military relationship.

If it's obvious what the author means I agree with you, if it's not obvious, in any way, well I really think it is open to interpretation of the reader. Because that can have as much or more impact on the reader then how the author intended it to be interpreted.

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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby Lucrece » Fri May 25, 2012 7:21 pm UTC

Oh, sure, I don't disagree when an author opens it up for interpretation by purposely making it ambiguous (this is something many musicians do, to widen the pool of people that can relate to a song and thus purchase their product). I just become annoyed when people try to diminish the input authors get to have on what their work actually means. As if the analyst's erudite understanding of the work is something the maker of the work was too oblivious to recognize after spending hours upon hours carefully constructing a product that would be released to public scrutiny and consumption.
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Re: What topics should be included in education?

Postby EdgePenguin » Fri May 25, 2012 7:21 pm UTC

The is a cluster of Montessori schools in my area:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education

Its a model where the child directs their own education through investigation. It sounds like what some of you are suggesting.

My personal addition is Latin. I learned it at school, and found it very rewarding, and gave me a good grasp of European languages. At present, a Latin qualification is a sign of having gone to a 'good school' and is thus seen as a badge of elitism. I think this is a great shame; state schools ought to offer it.


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