What to Remember

What to Remember from Chapters 1 thru 16

What to remember from Chapter 1

Chapter 1
A Perspective on Teaching Out of the Depths of Time

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • In subsistence societies, virtue-via-conformity needed to be an indisputable characteristic of whomever taught the children. Teaching was the responsibility of older, observably virtuous, close relatives. It’s likely that learning was delivered by example at least as much as by precept.
  • At that mythical point in deep historical time when there was no older close relative to teach the children, it’s probable that the family would have expected that the teaching would be done by one or more village members admired for their virtue-via-conformity.
  • The way in which most people – not only students but also their parents and other community members – thought about teachers and teaching in ancient times, and in some parts of the world even up to our present time, is composed of five elements in addition to virtue: directiveness, guidance, mastery, criticalness, and deference.

[Chapter 1 does not have a supporting genealogical chart.]

What to remember from Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Greek Philosophers Focus on a World Beyond the Senses

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • The Pythagoreans’ method was mathematical, which required only contemplation and yielded insights accepted as exact, certain, and eternal. These insights were experienced as a revelation from within, and thus as a route to Bacchanalian feelings of ecstasy.
  • The Orpheus tradition included a belief in transmigration of souls or reincarnation, which could have been Indian in origin. This belief helped spread the idea that there exists an essential, eternal quality of humans (psyche, soul, spirit) not accessible to the senses.
  • The Greek emphases on mental contemplation, ecstatic feelings, and the existence of an immaterial human essence all found support in philosophers’ often expressed doubts that the five senses were reliable, merely yielding information about illusory appearances.
  • Another support came from the Plato’s conception of a separate “Real” world, the world of perfect “Forms,” said to literally exist although it is beyond the reach of the five senses.
  • The beliefs in an eternal human essence, in a parallel Real world, and in reincarnation all became merged into one enduring belief: that at some point in the past, each individual’s essence had been united with the Real world of “Forms.” Therefore, valuable knowledge is inside each person, having been acquired by, or “given” to, him or her before birth.
  • Each person’s “given” knowledge can be drawn out, or caused to emerge from within, by means of a learning process of some kind; that process may be self-directed – intuitive – because contemplation alone is capable of bringing important knowledge up from within.
  • Aristotle taught that the goal of human growth and development is the attainment of the mature human form; this applies to mental capacity just as it does to the biological body. This process necessarily occurs. It begins with a “given” purposeful (telos) internal principle, then inexorably moves completion if nothing impedes it. This process does not depend on external support nor, importantly, on the person’s own intentional exertion.

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Because each person’s inborn “givens” comprise extensive knowledge accessible via intuition, classroom teaching should involve a great deal of eliciting, very little telling.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 2

What to remember from Chapter 3

Chapter 3
New Views of the Natural World

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • The 16th, 17th, and especially 18th centuries witnessed the beginning of the end of the old assumption that everything worth knowing is already fully known, and that society’s goal is to insure that important knowledge is passed, intact, from one generation to the next.
  • Pushing out that medieval assumption was the new observation-based, inductive process of science – initiated by Francis Bacon; brilliantly demonstrated by Isaac Newton – which laid the foundation for all manner of irreverent questioning and innovative thinking, not only by natural philosophers but also, and increasingly, by curious, educated Europeans.
  • Conversely, René Descartes argued that it is only through thought, not sense experience, that a human being can say that he or she has existence. His perspective put the mind in the central position with respect to knowledge acquisition; this strongly resonated with the views of the Pythagoreans, expressed some two millennia earlier.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 3

What to remember from Chapter 4

Chapter 4
New Views of Human Consciousness and Learning

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Between the early 16th and late 18th centuries, humans began to be seen as autonomous (if not independent) in relation to their families and other primary groups, and as capable of making judgments based on their own five senses and life experiences. This new view meant that there were now two active paradigms for thinking about children’s learning:
    1. The Realist paradigm featured notions said to be “Real” but unavailable to a human’s five senses. It traced its origin at least as far back as Plato in the 4th century B.C.E. It included the idea that what’s-worth-learning is inside the person, waiting somehow to be revealed. This paradigm was belief-based, i.e., non-empirical, and aligned with axiom-driven deductive thinking as well as trust in intuition’s power.
    2. The newer paradigm emphasized the natural and man-made environment as grasped and understood by each individual’s five senses. It traced its origin at least as far back as Francis Bacon (late 16th century) and highlighted the belief that what’s-worth-learning is waiting to be revealed outside the person. This paradigm was evidence-based and aligned with observation-driven inductive thinking processes.
  • A third active paradigm was that of the Rationalists, associated with Descartes, who was likely influenced by the Pythagoreans. Not concerned with children, Rationalists focused on the faculty of reason, saying that it profits from development by study just as muscles are fortified by exercise. What’s worth learning is that which best disciplines the reason: mathematics, philosophy, Greek, and Latin. Their paradigm was belief-based, i.e., non-empirical. They were oriented to contemplation, deductive reasoning, and intuition.
  • The Humanists had a community of interest with the Rationalists. It’s important to note that Humanist thought posited intentional effort on the part of those seeking excellence.

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Attention began to be drawn to the idea that schools should develop in youth socially applicable capabilities, should pay attention to observable things in the external world, and should teach by more by experience and example than by precept and punishment.
  • Emerging at this time was the audacious idea of the Humanists that each person might be able to step away from of the age-old presumption of powerless dependence, then step towards a measure of self-direction and the deliberate attainment of a better future. Such ideas began to influence the judgments people made about classroom teaching.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 4

What to remember from Chapter 5

Chapter 5
New Views of Children and Childhood

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • During Gutenberg’s era, young children were viewed as innocent even though they had inherited that awful “given,” Original Sin. Thought leaders put effort into devising ways of preserving children’s innocence even as they also dealt with their ignorance.
  • As the positive perspective of the Humanists gained ground and intertwined with views of Christians about Original Sin and the innocence of little children, there gradually emerged a parallel belief that the younger the human, the better the human. This message had a breakout moment with the wide publication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Émile in 1762.
  • Beliefs about the uncorrupted purity of the youngest children came to resonate with the presumably uncorrupted naturalness of “savages” discovered in distant lands. The assumption about child-savage similarity remained strong over time (see Chapter 10).
  • “Nature” became deified by the public. Thus, spontaneous “organic” growth, driven by innate, natural factors needing no external support, came to be idealized for children.

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • The notions that classroom teaching would be better if it involved practice instead of memorization, and if it were pleasant and non-authoritarian, long predated Rousseau.
  • Émile gave a breakout moment to the above ideas about teaching. But Rousseau went much farther by advocating “negative education,” which meant that:
    1. Teachers should give little attention, especially early on, to the knowledge and skills that, in the past, adults had believed important for children to learn.
    2. The emerging of a child’s interests should occur not by means of teacher-delivered lessons, not via printed words, but spontaneously as the child interacts with nature and tangible objects.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 5

What to remember from Chapter 6

Chapter 6
New Views of Authority in Societies and Schools

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • During the 17th and 18th centuries, widely read treatises argued that it was not appropriate for societal and political leaders to be accorded deference and obedience solely by ascription. Authority needs rational justification. These paradigm-shifting ideas were applied to clans, communities, churches, kingdoms, and commerce. Gradually, these ideas came to be applied to the teaching of children in classrooms. Authority-related expectations of community members about teachers – guidance, criticalness, and directiveness – thus began to be eroded.
  • Contributing to this trend was the weakening of two centuries-old assumptions, that (a) everything worth knowing is already known, and therefore (b) society’s goal is to insure that the most important knowledge is passed, intact, from one generation to the next.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 6

What to remember from Chapter 7

Chapter 7
New Ideals for Human Life and Learning

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • The Romanics of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were preoccupied with nature and the limitations of science. They said that it is unproductive, even wrong, to analyze and try to harness nature. They devoted much of their warmly inspiring literary output to advocating that nature’s mysteries be accepted and appreciated by intuitive, emotional means, which in their view held the promise of leading humans to ultimate perfection.
  • One of the Romantics’ most inspiring images was of spontaneous botanical growth and flowering, which – they emphasized – comes from within the organism; it is “given” at birth. The word “organic” increasingly was used to capture this view of development. This idea was not new; its origin lies in Plato’s belief that each mind has inborn contents, and in Aristotle’s belief in each mind’s “given,” purpose-driven (telos) principle, resulting in inevitable growth to attain a pre-determined form and function at maturity.
  • Authority of all kinds – church, state, logical systems, classical aesthetics, any externally imposed structure or rule – was rejected. Self-directing individualism was affirmed.
  • The term “natural” – comprising “organic” and (implicitly) “given” – became a term of honor among those captivated by the Romantics, rising to the status formerly held by “divine law.” To be natural was automatically to be Good, in life and in learning.*
  • These concepts and their implications were liberally applied to children, who were held in reverence by the Romantics due to presumed qualities such as open-minded simplicity, absence of preconceived ideas, and naturalness. Reaffirmed (see Chapter 5) was the belief that the younger the human, the better the human. The youngest children came to be viewed as models for adults – mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, and spiritually.
  • This entire constellation of associated ideas also comprised the belief that each person’s “given” inner light illuminates the path to Truth. “Imagination” came to connote an instrument of insight superior to one’s senses.
  • The image of spontaneous growth and flowering, conceived as botanical, was applied to all aspects of human development, including learning. This image is active today in the notion of “readiness.” But keep in mind: The organic principle is a passive principle.

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • All of the Romantics’ related beliefs and assumptions about the young – especially their innately “given” capacities, all-around natural qualities, and internally guided mental as well as physical development – fostered a distrust of, even aversion to, classroom teaching. Books, too, were regarded with suspicion.
  • It wasn’t only the acts of teaching and studying in classrooms that came in for criticism at the hands of the Romantics, but also the whole notion that young children should be in classrooms at all. Classrooms were explicitly portrayed as undermining, even destroying, the qualities and capacities that the Romantics valued in children.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 7

* Paraphrase of E. D. Hirsch, Jr., The Knowledge Deficit (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 6.

What to remember from Chapter 8

Chapter 8
An Influential Educator Reflects the Currents of His Time

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Pestalozzi’s objective was figure out how to regulate instruction in accordance with the natural developmental patterns of children, which in turn necessitated the alignment of instruction with a psychological analysis of the nature and process of perception.
  • Pestalozzi believed that children learn best in a “love environment” that enabled them to feel emotionally secure. By all accounts, he supplied a warmly accepting atmosphere in his schools. He also tried to support the children’s feelings of security by organizing instruction into a step-by-step delivery process “with the strictest psychological order.”
  • Pestalozzi thus faithfully carried forward a paradigm that, in previous eras, had emerged and gathered emotional credibility. Pestalozzi states it something like this: In order to improve teaching, first discover and understand the inner life of children, then devise methods and approaches that reflect and cater to children’s inner life.
  • Pestalozzi believed that he did understand, apparently on an intuitive basis, children’s inner lives, and he constructed his methods on that basis. He explicitly stated that he was “psychologizing instruction.” This kind of intense effort to get inside children’s minds will reappear as we follow developments into the 19th and 20th centuries.

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Pestalozzi-influenced individuals believed that they, and all others, can actively coöperate with nature in order to rise to their respective levels of potential; they view this “given” in terms of latent quality, ability, or power that each individual can only partially attain if acting alone, but that Pestalozzi’s classroom “instruction with heart” can release.
  • Calvin-influenced individuals believed that they, and all others, can’t do anything at all to affect their respective eternal destinies; they view this “given” as an on-off switch that was irreversibly flipped before the individual was conceived.
  • The Pestalozzian and Calvinist views seem diametrically opposed, incapable of being more different. On closer inspection, we see that they share a belief that each individual is born into the world with certain “givens,” determined in advance by God or nature.
  • The Pestalozzian “given” – influenced by Rousseau, the Romantics, and the Pietists – is optimistic and encouraging. The Calvinist “given” is rigid and dour. But Pestalozzi’s comes with a Trojan Horse: “Potential,” generally viewed as positive, also sets limits and enforces boundaries that the individual cannot push beyond, not even with the benefit of the “instruction with heart” that Pestalozzi practiced as well as preached.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 8

What to remember from Chapter 9

Chapter 9
New Views and Ideals All Coalesce in One Man’s Mind

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • On the collective human level, Spencer posited homogeneous-to-heterogeneous as the inevitable template for all things developmental. This notion bore an optimistic message for the long-range future of the human race, which Spencer viewed as being purposefully conveyed towards ever-higher planes of harmony, orderliness, and fulfillment. Thus, he counseled government and voluntary groups to not ameliorate social ills.
  • Spencer also proclaimed that each living individual is irretrievably determined by, and thus shackled by, the “givens” with which he or she had been born. At the individual level his message is not optimistic: One can attain the potential with which he or she acquired at birth but is neither adaptable nor capable of further development. Humans are arrayed on a spectrum, from the “fit” to the “unfit”; the latter are inevitably doomed.
  • “Survival of the fittest” was coined by Spencer. The meaning of “survival of the fittest” is…
    1. “demise of the unfit,” referring to those congenitally unable to adapt or develop;
    2. not at all similar to the meaning of Darwin’s “natural selection,” which is actively reactive and adaptive;
    3. that “givens” are about potential and about rigidly set limits on one’s development.
  • The views of Spencer and his contemporaries such as Henry Mansel and Francis Newman posited astounding capacities of the human mind, notably that each individual’s intuition or insight is a valid and wholly self-sufficient means of scientific investigation. Spencer proclaimed that an individual’s instincts are never mistaken. Like so many other ideas that we are encountering, this one was not original. Its deep origins were revealed in Chapter 2:
    1. Pythagoras’s teaching that mental contemplation alone yields revelations from within oneself that are exact and certain, providing valuable true insights about the world;
    2. Plato’s teaching that knowledge is “given” to each human at birth due to his or her prior unity with the “Real” world, so that knowledge can be drawn from within oneself.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 9

What to remember from Chapter 10

Chapter 10
Basic Guidelines for the Western-Contemporary Paradigm

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • One of Spencer’s most significant public impacts occurred when he took Ernst Haeckel’s hypothesis about prenatal development of the fœtus and leapfrogged it into the post-natal realm. This, in turn, led Spencer to put forth a set of “science-based” declarations about infants, children, and youth, and stern directives to parents and teachers.
  • Spencer’s key declaration was this: The minds of newborns develop according to pre-determined, biologically inherited (“given”) patterns that closely parallel the historical development of the human race. Any deviation from the patterns dictated by nature and history inevitably will result in a child’s failure to properly mature, and in physical and mental injury, because the young are not capable of flexibility, adaptability, or resilience.
  • Spencer applied a biological model of growth and development to human mental activity from birth to maturity. Knowingly or inadvertently, he was observing Aristotle’s idea of a purpose-driven “final cause” of every process: The mind has an innately bestowed disposition to reach a pre-determined form, and it will do so if adults are careful to introduce no impediments. This analogy with the physical maturing of animals and plants envisions growth up to a pre-determined point, after which it ceases (though the mature form is long maintained). It envisions growth as passively happening to the individual, who plays no active role.
  • Spencer also said that each person’s vitality exists in fixed and finite quantity. Infants, children, and youth (a) are growing physiologically and (b) are very active physically; therefore they (c) have very little vitality left over for exertion mentally. The physical and emotional consequences of mental overstrain are dreadful (especially for girls). The only responsible course of action is for parents and teachers to be very gentle in what they expect children and youth to absorb and accomplish in their academic studies.
  • The message to caretakers was: You must be “subservient to that spontaneous unfolding which all minds go through.” Today we say: You must attend to the child’s “readiness.”
  • What is also significant for us is that all of the above is grounded in an assumption that what is provided at birth to each human comes with fixed directions and limitations.

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Spencer’s message to parents and teachers was: Passive conformity is not enough. You must actively promote each child’s “givens” by insuring that the correct new experiences, in the correct order, are placed before the child. Those experiences and their order of occurrence have been fore-ordained by biological inheritance and human history.
  • With reference to classroom teaching, the homogeneous-to-heterogeneous model must be explicitly followed, and self-development and discovery learning must be encouraged. Note that Spencer’s view of discovery learning is conditioned by his belief that it will work if, and only if, “the subjects be put before [the pupil] in right order and right form.”
  • Of overriding importance is that the pupils not be expected to do academic work in any sustained or serious manner because (as reviewed above) this saps their limited energy.
  • The pupils’ immediate happiness and pleasurable excitement is the test for determining whether the teacher is doing everything according to Spencer’s recommendations.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 10

* I cannot be certain that Spencer was the originator of this leap, but in any case he was an early adopter and one of its most influential popularizers, especially as “recapitulation” applied to teaching.

What to remember from Chapter 11

Chapter 11
Evolving Notions of Child-Rearing in Pre-Civil War America

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • With respect to child-rearing, the Calvinists’ “break-the-will” views prevailed among many Colonists. During the early 19th century gentler views, echoing Rousseau and the literary Romantics, began to be heard; these alleged that children are mentally fragile and easily exhausted. Pressed on teachers was the notion that children should be protected from the stress of academic work, especially at a tender age; this view, which slowly gained adherents as the century progressed, is an early example of the “readiness” concept.*
  • During the first half of the 19th century, two perspectives on the nature of childhood and the responsibilities of caregivers were in competition. One traced its roots to Calvinism. The other traced its roots to Rousseau and literary Romanticism. Starkly divergent in outward activity and advocacy, they were remarkably similar in two underlying respects:

    1. Both paid primary attention to the child as a unique individual.

    2. Both were grounded in the assumption that each child’s innate “givens” include the necessity to obey universal imperatives, which in turn oblige teachers and parents to be mindful in their guidance so as not to contradict any pre-programmed tendency.
  • Simultaneously, a third perspective on childhood and caregivers also came to the fore. It traced its roots to the inductive methods of Francis Bacon and the sense realism and empiricism of Comenius and Locke; its tireless advocate in the U.S. was Horace Mann. Not hostile to viewing the child as a unique individual, this view put its emphasis on the child as someone who soon would contribute in practical ways to local adult society.
  • Each of these three views about the nature of children – I’m now christening them as the “Calvinist,” the “Romantic,” and the “Practical” Perspectives – led to a derivative set of values and beliefs about children’s learning and a preferred style of classroom teaching.
  • As the United States descended into the trauma of the mid-19th century Civil War…
    The Calvinist Perspective was very much alive but beginning its irreversible decline.
    The Practical Perspective was associated with the growing Common School Movement.
    The Romantic Perspective had the advantage of being simple, emotionally comforting, trustful of intuition, non-intellectual, and gentle towards the beloved little ones.

Which classroom teaching is best. In the book, turn to the first three pages of the Appendix, 175-177, where full-page tables summarize each of the three perspectives: the Calvinist, the Romantic, and the Practical. A fourth perspective is discussed in Chapter 13.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 11

* The infrastructure for the “readiness” concept was laid by Aristotle (Chap. 2); built on by Rousseau (Chap. 5), the Romantics (Chap. 7), and Pestalozzi (Chap. 8); then widely popularized by Spencer (Chap. 10).

What to remember from Chapter 12

Chapter 12
Emerging Social Currents in Post-Civil War America

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • In response to the crushing problems presented by the vast numbers of immigrant children entering urban schools, adults with an interest in their education decided to “sort” them at a young age on the basis of each child’s “givens,” and to permanently assign them to “differentiated” curricular paths or “tracks” that were career-defining.
  • The industrial capitalists and other leaders of the many rapidly expanding businesses had a preferred solution, one that would bring them large numbers of workers who needed little more than an ability to perform, day-after-day, mind-numbing repetitive tasks. Leaders of the U.S. educational establishment at the city, state, and university levels, with very few exceptions, lined up in support of the businessmen’s preferred solution.
  • Simultaneously emerging were ways to test and quantitatively measure human abilities (this will be discussed at length in Chapter 16). Drawing on Americans’ fascination with facts expressed numerically, these methods were received as major scientific advances.
  • Findings from the early testing of immigrant and migrant children yielded “scientific” evidence that the vast majority of them had been “given,” at best, modest aptitudes.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 12

What to remember from Chapter 13

Chapter 13
Emerging Intellectual Currents in Post-Civil War America

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • During the second half of the 19th century, American educators participated in the fascination with, and interest in, quantification and measurement. Their perceived need was to measure the intellectual capacity, or “aptitude,” of each learner (widely conceived as an innately “given,” fixed quantity) so they could be “sorted.” Of the several researchers who stepped forward to attempt this, the acknowledged leader was Edward L. Thorndike, who famously wrote that “Whatever exists at all exists in some amount.”.
  • Very influential among psychologists and educators, Thorndike had two lasting impacts:
    1. He appeared to have made it scientifically possible, and therefore respectable, to measure the mental aptitudes of individuals, i.e., to measure what was very widely conceived as one’s inborn “given” in terms of mental prowess. Thorndike was not responsible for the American public’s focus on this “given.” But by providing a way to assign a quantifying number to each one’s “given” aptitude, he further confirmed and solidified the public’s assumption that aptitude not only guides but also tightly limits.
    2. He claimed that his research demonstrated the invalidity of “transfer of training,” the belief that “disciplining” the mind by studying the classical curriculum prepared him or her for any and all future mental challenges. Thorndike’s claim proved to be the fatal blow to the “Classical Perspective” on teaching, which along with faculty psychology was already losing credibility among the ever-more scientifically minded public. By asserting that studies must address specific future challenges, Thorndike opened the door to a significant broadening of the high school and college curriculum. Note that Thorndike did not start the curriculum-broadening drive. That emerged from the values of the Common School Movement, which favored education in some quantity for all children. But earlier Common School advocates had been thinking of an academic curriculum, not a downgraded one catering to presumed student “needs.” Also note that questions have been raised about Thorndike’s research and the rush by educators to use it to justify their “meeting all students’ needs” (see Chapters 12, 14, and 15).
  • William James’s stand against pedagogy that “attempts to lubricate things for students,” and his focus on the learner’s effort, not the teacher’s effort, as the key success factor, appealed to teachers. But his recommendations were eclipsed as educators drove home their determination to loosen academic standards (see Chapters 12, 14, and 15).

Which classroom teaching is best. In the book, turn to the fourth page of the Appendix, 178, where a full-page table summarizes the Classical perspective.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 13

What to remember from Chapter 14

Chapter 14
American Educational Metamorphosis, I: Socially Efficient Education

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • The three key objectives of the professors of education, sequestered in isolated schools of education attached to major universities, became to attain social efficiency (discussed in this chapter), child-centeredness (discussed in Chapter 15), and institutional support for the ages-old belief that “given” mental abilities define youth so accurately that predictions can confidently be made about their futures (discussed in Chapter 16).
  • In practice, “social efficiency” meant that it was pointless, possibly even dangerous, to make traditional academic subjects available to all secondary school students. The single exception was that academics were acceptable for miniscule minority of college-bound learners. For all other students, the objective became to replace most if not all of the traditional subjects with “practical studies” that ostensibly had high adult-life applicability.
  • In rhetoric, “social efficiency” was supported by the assertion that “democracy” would be most readily attained by “meeting all students’ individual needs” through curriculum “differentiation.” To realize this objective, it was assumed that the vast majority of secondary school males would enter menial blue-collar occupations, while virtually all secondary school females would inevitably assume the traditional role of homemaker.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 14

What to remember from Chapter 15

Chapter 15
American Educational Metamorphosis, II: Child-Centered Teaching

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Between roughly 1875 and 1925, three highly visible authorities (each enjoying near-celebrity status), together with a host of lesser lights with scientific credentials, went out of their way to promote the belief that what one is “given” at birth is beyond anyone’s control. The eminent Mr. Spencer coined “survival of the fittest.” The inspiring Dr. Hall wrote, “One shouldn’t pity the [defectives], because by aiding them to survive it interferes with the process of wholesome natural selection….” The beloved Col. Parker said, “Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.” Such opinions were intoned repeatedly.
  • Aiding the process of cementing these assumptions and beliefs into the minds of the educated was the child study movement. It actively involved tens of thousands of volunteers in painstakingly and persistently observing and recording the growth and development of individual children, all with the goal of learning more about “givens.”

Which classroom teaching is best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Turn-of-the-century Americans were struggling to adapt to the avalanche of culturally-different students arriving in school (see Chapters 12 and 14). Armed with (a) solidifying beliefs and assumptions about children’s “givens” and (b) insistent claims by scientists that “givens” could be measured (see Chapters 12 and 16), decision-makers “sorted” young children and assigned them to occupation-linked curricular “tracks.”
  • The variety of tracks led to a perceived need for “differentiated” teaching practices to “meet the needs” of the learners. Advocates of the new education came to view the ideal school no longer as scholiocentric but rather as pedocentric.
  • Advocates of the new education also came to believe in the usefulness for all children of “manual training” in basic motor skills. As the sorting of children continued, many of those presumed to have lower abilities tended to receive a curricular diet heavy with this kind of training and other largely undemanding, non-academic work. The few who were presumed to have higher abilities – and/or perhaps parents who were affluent, socially prominent, and/or vocally demanding – also were provided with a variety of manual and other activities, but these, soon termed “active learning,” usually had more intellectually stimulating content.
  • The focus of educational decision-makers’ attention was shifting, says Graham, “from the poor to the rich; from the immigrant to the native born; …from the disciplinary subjects of English, mathematics, and science to the arts of music, painting, and dance.” A driver of this shift was affluent parents, who valued the trendy new educational practices and distrusted most or all traditional classroom ways.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 15

What to remember from Chapter 16

Chapter 16
American Educational Metamorphosis, III: A “Given” Joins the Establishment

How children learn best. These points are worth remembering:

  • Belief in a single, inherited, gene-specific “general intelligence,” or “g,” emerged in Great Britain during the latter half of the 19th century. Its research grounding included, in one case, the obituaries of eminent Europeans and, in another case, a study carried out at a single village school in Berkshire.
  • French psychologist Alfred Binet became interested in general intelligence, in his case for the purpose of identifying pupils who needed extra assistance in school. He developed a one-on-one method of gauging a young person’s “mental age.” Binet strongly protested against the then-prevailing belief, that intelligence is fixed and immutable (i.e., “given”).
  • Binet’s method was brought to the United States by Henry Goddard, a eugenicist who hoped to identify mentally defective people who (based on a belief that they could not be helped) would then be isolated from society. Lewis Terman, also a eugenicist, developed and popularized a version of Binet’s test, the well-known Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test.
  • The testing of “general intelligence” took a giant leap forward when the United States entered World War One. This highly visible Army program introduced intelligence testing into mainstream consciousness.
  • After the war, the psychologists who developed the Army tests denied the growing body of evidence, which referenced their own statistics, that their tests very largely measured environmental impacts accumulating over time, not one fixed, “given” intelligence. Enthusiastically revising the Army Alpha, they brought their new tests to market, largely for the purpose of assessing the general intelligence of students.
  • The College Entrance Examination Board, created in 1899 to administer tests of subject mastery (“achievement”), noticed the groundswell of interest in intelligence testing. Led by Carl C. Brigham, an Army psychologist, the CEEB finally adopted “psychological tests.” Largely for budgetary reasons, it also adopted the impactful multiple-choice format. The fateful outcome became the Scholastic Aptitude Test, first administered during 1926.
  • Three of the prominent American psychologists who heavily contributed to these efforts to assess fixed general intelligence recanted their views, two publicly, one privately.

Genealogical chart for Chapter 16