Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mark Edmundson on teaching - and learning

If you haven't yet read about it, Mark Edmundson's new book "Why Teach?" sounds quite interesting - for a start, to anyone with kids in high school and college, but also for people with an interest in the future of education (not to mention the costs of college). There's an excerpt from the book on TheAtlantic.com titled "'Where Should I Go to College?'" in which Edmundson distinguishes universities that are more scholarly enclaves from those he calls "corporate cities." (He acknowledges that neither exists "in its pure form.") Here's how Edmundson outlines high school preparation for either kind of college:

High school now is about being an all-arounder. You've got to be good at your classes, but you've also got to shine as a citizen and a general hand- waving, high- enthusiasm participant. To do this, you've often got to make yourself into a superb time manager. You give each activity the amount of time and effort required so that you can reach the so- called standard of excellence. You give it that much, but you give it no more. Do I really need to read the whole book to get an A in English, the student asks herself? Probably she doesn't. Do I need a tutor and extra time to score a top grade in math? Perhaps yes. If so, the money is well spent and so is the time. Will it look better to put in two hours a week volunteering at the hospital or four at the soup kitchen? Does the guidance counselor say that both will look about the same to the college admissions board? Then better to do the hospital: You'll need those extra two hours for prom committee.
The article is worth reading in its entirety. You can also read a review of the book in the NY Times here. I hope you - and your kids - find the great teachers out there.

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