Thursday, February 06, 2014

The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education (Week 2)

I've gotten a slow start on Week 2. It's already Thursday night and I have listened to only one lecture segment, and I was not able to attend Katie's class on Wednesday as I had planned to do; but I reread the introduction and third chapter of Cathy Davidson's excellent book, Now You See It (reviewed by me here).

In Part 1 of the lecture, Cathy noted that the antecedents to the modern university included Taxila (619 BC, Pakistan) and Plato's Academy (380 BC, Athens), and that Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, mistrusted books (he thought they "clouded the mind"). Denis Diderot systematized the knowledge he had access to at that time in his Encyclop├ędie (1751-72). In the 18th century, Immanuel Kant said in his Critique of Pure Reason (1788) that our mind filters our experiences of the world (brain scientists are finding this to be true, I think). Cathy suggests that we need to ask who shapes this filter? How can education help shape a more egalitarian filter? Can we fund/support public education to shape the filter?

Seminal quotation by Alvin Toffler, seen at the beginning of each lecture segment:
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."

Lecture Segment 2: the origins of the research university (the Humboldtian university, after Wilhelm von Humboldt, a German educator)

  • The emphasis on producing new knowledge--not just repeating and memorizing old knowledge
  • labs, seminars, student research under profs' tutelage
  • create the most productive, innovative thinkers
  • to encourage innovation and exploration
  • compare French (disciplinary, hierarchical, interested in requirements) and German (modern, develop the filter) and British (some of each; influenced the American colleges like 
    • Harvard 1636--of which the primary focus was to train young men for the ministry)
    • College of Wm. and Mary - second American college - taught liberal arts (trained the mind, helped create the filter, provided rigor)
  • Method: repetition: memorization, recitation
  • 18th/19th c - emphasis changed to a more Humboldtian model of research and writing in US higher education
  • Keywords:
    • timeliness: being on time, doing things on time
    • Hierarchy: carried over from the French system
    • Productivity (Humboldtian)
    • standardization
    • scientific method and metrics from industry and science to assess productivity
    • 2 cultures: scientific/technological/math vs the interpretive/creative/artistic/historical knowledge
    • teaching, not learning
Lecture Segment 3: 19th century industrial age schooling: training farmers to be factory workers
  • 1876 Johns Hopkins U, first research university in America
  • industry needed a certain kind of worker; education a major component in creating that worker
  • the school marm's job: to enforce this education
  • the advent of compulsory public (primary) education - justified by the need for timeliness (how to teach farmers to do things "on time"
    • farmers need to be flexible about what they do and when they do it - lots of choices
    • they collaborate with others a lot
    • nobody else above them is measuring their productivity
  • public education instilled the values of timeliness, standardization, hierarchy (rows, lines - training for the assembly line)
    • small units of learning (math from 8-9, etc) independent of student interest ("an odd view of learning that worked so hard to segregate one tings from another")
    • emphasis on age - everyone beginning school at the same age, narrowly defined (absurd)
  • Think of the role education played in preparing us for the industrial world. What role should education play today, in the post-industrial era?
Lecture Segment 4: Attention
  • William James 1890, Principles of Psychology - the first to write about attention: focused, linear attention to task, and distraction; how we stay focused on a task
    • important because most of 20th century education is about focusing on a task
  • Frederick Winslow Taylor: 1890s: factories are the future! applying ideas about attention to the workforce: scientific labor management (how to make human beings as much like machines as possible)
    • how to keep people working on an assembly line
    • reward the worker "soldiers" who didn't seem to get tired at the end of the day
    • "malingerers" showed their exhaustion, worked at a variable speed
  • Industrial Educational Complex - 1875 to 1925 (scientific learning management)
    • kindergarten
    • mandatory public secondary schooling
    • land grant universities
    • US Office of education
    • majors and minors
    • certification
    • graduate schools
    • collegiate law schools
    • nursing schools
    • education schools at universities
    • business schools
    • degree requirements
    • grades
      • Mt Holyoke was the 1st to adopt grades in place of expository explanations (1897)
      • reduce all the complexity to one standardized letter grade
      • (the American Meatpackers' Association was the second entity to adopt grading)
      • it spread like wildfire throughout the world of education, for grammar school, secondary school, and higher ed
    • statistics, standard deviation
      • Francis Galton invented the idea of deviation from a mean and standard deviation. A famous eugenicist, he proposed that the British gov't pay aristocrats to have more children and sterilize the working class (ugh)

    • spreadsheets
    • blueprints
    • return on equity
    • punch clocks
    • IQ tests
    • learning disabilities
    • multiple choice tests
      • Frederick J Kelly invented them; in 1914 as a PhD student. He wrote about variability in teacher grades.
      • His method allowed anyone to grade a test.
      • (I think I heard somewhere that Kelly later changed his mind about the fficacy of multiple choice tests. He decided it had been a really bad idea, but by then there was no getting rid of them.)
    • rapid response/item response college entrance exams
    • school rankings
    • tenure
That's it for tonight. Vicki and I are going to read Chapter 3 of Mary Poppins (seeing Saving Mr Banks last weekend inspired us to re-read it).


At 8:31 AM , Blogger Nina Liakos said...

This is really funny. The place I read about Frederick Kelly's rejection of the multiple choice test method he devised was in Now You See It (Chapter 4, How We Measure)! Small world.


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