a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Harun Najafizada (BBC) - Pakistan suicide blasts: Carnage in Shabqadar town
The Taliban says it carried out the deadly attack on a paramilitary training academy in the small town of Shabqadar in north-western Pakistan, which left at least 80 dead. . .
. . .People found it hard to digest that this had actually happened to them. They said they are used to listening to the news from across Pakistan - but they never thought they would be in the firing line. . .
. . .There is a mosque close to the scene of the blast and the mullah began preaching before Friday prayers. His speech was broadcast across the town on loudspeakers. But not once did he mention the bombing that had taken place only hours earlier. . .
. . .even as a series of yellow coffins carrying the bodies of some of the young paramilitary recruits were brought out of the academy, he never once touched upon the suicide attack. . .
been a while since I'd read Charles Peter's Tilting At Windmills column, and I'd forgotten how good it was:
Charles Peters - Tilting At Windmills Jan/Feb 2011
Finally, an audience!
Charles Peters - Tilting At Windmills May/June 2001
The members of the Foreign Service owe a great debt to Julian Assange. He got their cables read. . .
Several years ago, in testifying before the commission investigating 9/11, then CIA Director George Tenet was asked why nothing was done in response to a cable that reported one of the 9/11 terrorists had entered the United States. Tenet confidently replied, “I know that nobody read that cable.” And you can be sure when Hillary Clinton recently praised the quality of the leaked cables, she did so because she had just read many of them for the first time—and only because of WikiLeaks. . .
Take a load off, Army
One of the problems with our educated elite’s failure to serve in the military is their ignorance of the problems of the average soldier, and their resulting inability to pressure the Pentagon to take remedial action. A study by a Navy research committee in 2007 found that Marines carried loads of ninety-seven pounds. In the Army, according to Hal Bernten of the Seattle Times, upon whose reporting I rely for this item, the load is seventy to eighty pounds. Yet the Army Science Board recommends that soldiers carry no more than fifty pounds.
The consequences are not surprising. Thirty-one percent of combat evacuations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been for musculoskeletal, connective tissue, or spinal injuries. Of these, about 80 percent do not return to combat duty. An example is Spc. Joseph Chroniger, who returned from Iraq “with bone spurs in the vertebrae in his neck caused by a degenerative arthritic condition.”
Chroniger is only twenty-five years old. “What’s it going to be like,” he asks, “when I’m fifty or sixty?” . . .
One important issue, on which I'm not sure what I think, is the appropriate mix in education of freedom and discipline/accountability. One thing I find interesting is that accountability in the form of more testing seems to be the trend in the US, while in India the trend seems to be in the other direction, with, for example, films like 3 Idiots
, Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
, novels like Five Point Someone
, criticizing (appropriately, in my view) India's exam-heavy system.
Some essays excerpts, some on the `liberal' side of the issue, some on the `conservative' side:
Amy Chua (USAT)- Here's how to reshape U.S. education
. . .Our society's need to ignite "mommy wars" is especially odd because anyone can see that there are many ways of producing happy, healthy children — and clearly no one right formula. . .
Richard P. Feynman - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (1985)
. . .Interestingly, Asia is already looking West. Education in Asia is still too stifling, rote and high-pressured. In China, for example, kids often study from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., grades are publicly posted, and a child's future can depend on a single exam. . .
. . .Seeing these educational shifts in Asia, some Americans are taking a self-congratulatory stance. . .Such complacency is misguided. As every American knows, we have serious child-rearing problems in this country, and on the whole these are problems of too little structure, not too much. . .
This is a way to combine East and West: more structure when our children are little (and will still listen to us), followed by increasing self-direction in their teenage years. . .
. . .So I tell them that one of the first things to strike me when I came to Brazil was to see elementary school kids in bookstores, buying physics books. There are so many kids learning physics in Brazil, beginning much earlier than kids do in the United States, that it’s amazing you don’t find many physicists in Brazil — why is that? So many kids are working so hard, and nothing comes of it. . .
Monte Davis (OMNI Magazine) - Richard Feynman interview (1979)
. . .They can recite, word for word, without realizing that those. . .words actually mean something. To the student they are all artificial sounds. Nobody has ever translated them into words the students can understand. . .
. . .I said, “That’s how it looks to me, when I see you teaching the kids ‘science’ here in Brazil.” (Big blast, right?)
Then I held up the elementary physics textbook they were using. “There are no experimental results mentioned anywhere in this book, except in one place where there is a ball, rolling down an inclined plane, in which it says how far the ball got after one second, two seconds, three seconds, and so on. The numbers have ‘errors’ in them — that is, if you look at them, you think you’re looking at experimental results, because the numbers are a little above, or a little below, the theoretical values. The book even talks about having to correct the experimental errors — very fine. The trouble is, when you calculate the value of the acceleration constant from these values, you get the right answer. But a ball rolling down an inclined plane, if it is actually done, has an inertia to get it to turn, and will, if you do the experiment, produce five-sevenths of the right answer, because of the extra energy needed to go into the rotation of the ball. Therefore this single example of experimental ‘results’ is obtained from a fake experiment. Nobody had rolled such a ball, or they would never have gotten those results! . . .
. . .Finally, I said that I couldn’t see how anyone could he educated by this self-propagating system in which people pass exams, and teach others to pass exams, but nobody knows anything. “However,” I said, “I must be wrong. There were two students in my class who did very well, and one of the physicists I know was educated entirely in Brazil. . .
. . . Then something happened which was totally unexpected for me. One of the students got up and said, “I’m one of the two students whom Mr. Feynman referred to at the end of his talk. I was not educated in Brazil; I was educated in Germany, and I’ve just come to Brazil this year.”
The other student who had done well in class had a similar thing to say. And the professor I had mentioned got up and said, “I was educated here in Brazil during the war, when, fortunately, all of the professors had left the university, so I learned everything by reading alone. Therefore I was not really educated under the Brazilian system.”. . .
. . .Feynman: Right. I don't believe in the idea that there are a few peculiar people capable of understanding math and the rest of the world is normal. Math is a human discovery, and it's no more complicated than humans can understand. I had a calculus book once that said, "What one fool can do, another fool can." What we've been able to work out about nature may look abstract and threatening to someone who hasn't studied it, but it was fools who did it.
There's a tendency to pomposity in all this, to make it all deep and profound. . .
. . .Look at the equations for the atomic and molecular forces in water, and you can't see the way water behaves; you can't see turbulence.
OMNI: That leaves the people with questions about turbulence--the meteorologists and oceanographers and geologists and airplane designers--kind of up the creek, doesn't it?
Feynman: . . .With turbulence, it's not just a case of physical theory being able to handle only simple cases--we can't do any. We have no good fundamental theory at all.
OMNI: Maybe it's the way the textbooks are written, but few people outside science appear to know just how quickly real, complicated physical problems get out of hand as far as theory is concerned.
Feynman: That's very bad education. The lesson you learn as you grow older in physics is that what we can do is a very small fraction of what there is. Our theories are really very limited. . .
One thing I know nothing about is how much progress has been made in fields like turbulence over the past 30 years.
Ben Carson interviewed by Robert H. Schuller for the "Hour of Power" (2010)
. . .she prayed and she asked God to give her the wisdom to know what to do to help not only me, but my brother to achieve academically.
And God gave her the wisdom, at least in her opinion. My brother and I didn't think it was that wise, but it was to turn off the TV set. Let us watch only two or three TV programs during the week and with all that spare time, read two books a piece from the Detroit Public Library and submit to her written book reports. We didn't know that she couldn't read so, and she would take the reports and she would put little check marks on them and act like she was reading them, but interestingly enough and the real crux of the matter is, we had to do it. She was not a person who allowed us to have our own way. . .
. . . I initially started reading books about animals because I loved animals. After I exhausted all the animal books in the Detroit Public Libraries, I went to plants and then I went to rocks, because we lived in a dilapidated section of the city near the railroad tracks and of course, what is there along the railroad tracks ... rocks.
So I would collect rocks, bring them home, get my geology book out and study the rocks. Still in the 5th grade. . .
One interesting thing in terms of freedom/discipline is that they were compelled to read and write book reports, but had complete freedom in choosing what to read.
Siegfried and Therese Engelmann - Give Your Child A Superior Mind (1966)
. . .Recognize the Threat of the Learning Situation
C.S. Lewis - The Parthenon and the Optative (1944)
Look at learning from the child's point of view. One day she identifies the letter K and you praise her. A few days later, she says “K” and you nod. A few days later she says “K” and you reply, “Yes, but what sound does it make?” What has happened? She said it just as well as she ever had, but now, for some reason, the answer wonʼt do. When you ask a child to learn, youʼre asking her to abandon responses that are known and experiment with ones that are unknown. You are asking her to change her world when she would rather dig her nails into it and hang on. The potential rewards for her sacrifice are praise and a strong sense of accomplishment.
The promise of rewards must overbalance the inevitable threat of the learning situation. Until it does, the child will not be an eager learner. She cannot appreciate the rewards of learning until she's experienced them. Therefore, you must push her. Only about one out of ten children would learn much if the decision to learn or not to learn rested with them. They would go along with the learning situation until they felt threatened. Then they would decide that learning was not for them after all. Despite the common-sense assumption offered by many educators, children are not good judges of what they can learn or when they are ready to learn it. . .
. . .5. Give the child plenty of free time. Weʼve stressed the point that the most active environment is the one that produces the greatest learning gains. Please don't interpret this to mean that you should ride herd on your child all day long. Mothers who do this aren't actually providing an environment with greater vistas of learning. They're sifting many dimensions out of a rich environment and funneling everything through an oversimplified, artificial medium — Mother. . .
Let the child work out rules for handling life, not simply the child-mother phase of it. . .Formal lessons should not consume more than one to one and a half hours of the child's day. In the remaining time, he should be free to think, to play, to be a child.
. . .I have tended to use the Parthenon and the Optative as the symbols of two types of education. The one begins with hard, dry, things like grammar, and dates, and prosody; and it has at least the chance of ending in a real appreciation which is equally hard and firm though not equally dry. The other begins in `Appreciation' and ends in gush. . .
C.S. Lewis - The Weight of Glory (1942)
. . .well-meaning educationalists are quite right in thinking that literary appreciation is a delicate thing. What they do not seem to see is that for this very reason elementary examinations on literary subjects ought to confine themselves to just those dry and factual questions which are so often ridiculed. The questions were never supposed to test appreciation; the idea was to find out whether the boy had read his books. It was the reading, not the being examined, which was expected to do him good. And this, so far from being a defect in such examinations is just what renders them useful or even tolerable. . .Tell the boy to `mug up' a book and then set questions to find out whether he has done so. At best, he may have learned (and, best of all, unconsciously) to enjoy a great poem. At second best he has done an honest piece of work and exercised his memory and reason. At worst, we have done him no harm: have not pawed and dabbled in his soul, have not taught him to be a prig or a hypocrite.
But an elementary examination which attempts to assess `the adventures of the soul among books' is a dangerous thing. What obsequious boys, if encouraged, will try to manufacture, and clever ones can ape, and shy ones will conceal, what dies at the touch of venality, is called to come forward and perform, to exhibit itself. . .meanwhile no one has found out whether the boys actually understand the words the author wrote, for that is only the `coarse fringe'. Yet that could have been tested with tolerable accuracy by any number of people and the boys would have been spared doing spiritual gymnastics under their examiners' eyes. The old kind of examination was better.. . .
Of course we meet many people who explain to us that they would by now have been great readers of poetry if it had not been `spoiled for them' at school by `doing' it for examinations of the old kind. . .It may be so: but why should we believe that it is. We have only their word for it; and how do they know?
. . .An enjoyment of Greek poetry is certainly a proper, and not a mercenary, reward for learning Greek; but only those who have reached the stage of enjoying Greek poetry can tell from their own experience that this is so. The schoolboy beginning Greek grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of Sophocles as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishment, or to please his parents, or, at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural or proper reward, but he will not know that till he has got it. Of course, he gets it gradually; enjoyment creeps in upon the mere drudgery, and nobody could point to a day or an hour when the one ceased and the other began. But it is just in so far as he approaches the reward that be becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward. . .
C.S. Lewis Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955)
. . .poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship. . .
. . .If he is an imaginative boy he will, quite probably, be revelling in the English poets and romances suitable to his age some time before he begins to suspect that Greek grammar is going to lead him to more and more enjoyments of this same sort. He may even be neglecting his Greek to read Shelley and Swinburne in secret. In other words, the desire which Greek is really going to gratify already exists in him and is attached to objects which seem to him quite unconnected with Xenophon and the verbs in mi. . .
. . .the curious thing was that despite all this cruelty we did surprisingly little work. This may have been partly because the cruelty was irrational and unpredictable, but it was partly because of the curious methods employed. Except at geometry (which he really liked) it might be said that Oldie did not teach at all. He called his class up and asked questions. When the replies were unsatisfactory he said in a low, calm voice, "Bring me my cane. I see I shall need it.". . ."Lessons" of this sort did not take very long; what was to be done with the boys for the rest of the time? Oldie has decided that they could, with least trouble to himself, be made to do arithmetic. Accordingly, when you entered school at nine o' clock you took your slate and began doing sums. Presently you were called up to "say a lesson". When that was finished you went back to your place and did more sums - and so forever. All the other arts and sciences thus appeared as islands (mostly rocky and dangerous islands)
R.K. Narayan - A Writer's Nightmare (1988)
Which like to rich and various gems inlaid
the unadorned bosom of the deep
-the deep being a shoreless ocean of arithmetic. At the end of the morning you had to say how many sums you had done; and it was not quite safe to lie. But supervision was slack and very little assistance was given. My brother - I told you he was already a man of the world - soon found the proper solution. He announced every morning with perfect truth that he had done five sums; he did not add that they were the same five every day. It would be interesting to know how many thousand times he did them. . ."
. . .in Mathematics, whatever could be done my mere reasoning (as in simple geometry) I did with delight; but the moment calculation came in I was helpless. I grasped the principles but my answers were always wrong. . .
. . .I still had to pass "Responsions", which involved elementary mathematics. To prepare for this I returned after Christmas for one last term with Kirk - a golden term, poignantly happy under the approaching shadow. At Easter I was handsomely plowed in Responsions, having been unable as usual to get my sums right. "Be more careful", was the advice everyone gave me, but I found it useless. The more care I took the more mistakes I made. . .
. . .That I never passed Responsions is certain, but I cannot remember whether I again sat for it and was again plowed. The question became unimportant after the war, for a benevolent decree exempted ex-servicemen from taking it, Otherwise, no doubt, I should have had to abandon the idea of going to Oxford. . .
Dorothy L Sayers - The Lost Tools of Learning (1947)
. . .My mind refuses to work when it encounters numbers. . .
. . .There was a fashion in the elementary school in which I read to prescribe a book in which the sums were all about English life. The characters in the problems were all John and Joan and Albert, and the calculations pertained to apples and the fares of hansom-cabs. In those days we saw apples only in coloured picture-books and we never understood what hansom-cabs meant. We were used to dealing in mangoes and jutkas and bullock-carts, and the payments were not in farthings or pence, but in rupees, annas and pies. While wrestling with the problems in this book I was always racked with the thought that perhaps I could solve the sums if they dealt with Indian life. Fortunately, in answer to this prayer, we soon had sums dealing with the interminable transactions of Rama and Krishna. But I soon found that this did not make things easier for me. . .
. . .Every time I did a sum I turned to the last section with trembling and prayer, but I always found there a different figure from what I had arrived at laboriously. The disappointment reduced me to tears. A sense of hopeless frustration seized me each time I referred to the answers in the printed book. I sometimes wished I had been born in another world where there would be no mathematics. The whole subject seemed to be devised to defeat and keep me in a perpetual anguish of trial and error. . .
. . .To this day I have no idea what it is all about. . .Anyway, one got out of high school with a feeling of escaping from a concentration camp, the greatest virtue of university education seeming to be that unless one chose one need not go near mathematics. . .
. . .I don't think years have improved my outlook or equipment in regard to mathematics, although as a grown-up I am not supposed to give out my real feelings in the matter. . .
`No School Today.'
. . .It is all nature's balance, the child's aversion to school and its elders' zeal for it. No one can object to it. But what I really find objectionable is the adult's horror at the thought that a child should hate its school. With devoted parents, school is an obsession. They are dismayed at the attitude they see in their child. I know a parent who started a separate establishment twenty miles away from his working place because he wanted to put his child in school. Four-year-old Ramu was to all appearances enthusiastic about the scheme. He liked the change and the new satchel and books bought for him. The first day Ramu went to the school he insisted upon standing all the time in the veranda and watching other children going through their drill and games in the quadrangle. Next day he was persuaded to enter an infant section but he insisted upon his father's coming up and taking his seat beside him in the classroom. They prodded and persuaded and made him go to school every day: each day it was a trial of wit, strength and patience between him and his parents. Thus he attended the school for a few weeks an suddenly one Monday morning announced his unshakable resolve, "I won't go to school." His father was nearly in tears when he reported to me, "I have taken a house on seventy-five rupees a month only for his sake, although it means driving back to my factory twenty miles every day. I wouldn't mind any trouble or expense if only Ramu could be made to like his school." They were very kind there: they even tried to tempt him with chocolates and toffee, but that didn't work. It seems Ramu told his teacher, "My father has ordered me not to eat sweets. They will do me harm." I told the father, "Why do you despair? This is probably a child's happiest stage, when every nook and corner at home looks rich. mysterious and soul-satisfying; no school-room, however well=organized. however psychological or well-behaved the teachers might be, could ever compare with the quality of the home. It's the best period of one's life to be home in." In this respect all schools are deficient. Until we adopt the view point of a child and reorganize our educational system, our schools will continue to repel children. They may overcome it, get use to it or resign themselves to it - but love the school, never.
My Educational Outlook
My educational outlook has always differed from those of my elders and well-wishers. . .I am not averse to enlightenment, but I feel convinced that the entire organization, system, outlook and aims of education are hopelessly wrong from beginning to end; from primary first year to Ph. D., it is just a continuation of an original mistake. . .
In my boyhood, the teacher never appeared in public without the cane in hand. . .a cane in his right hand while the left held a pinch of snuff between the thumb and forefinger. He took a deep inhalation before proceeding to flick the cane on whatever portion of myself was available for the purpose. I really had no idea what I was expected to do or not do to avoid it. I could never imagine that a simple error of calculation in addition, subtraction or multiplication (I never knew which) would drive anyone hysterical. . .
. . .I notice nowadays a little girl at home always playing the school-game in a corner of the veranda, but never without a flat wooden foot-rule in hand, which she flourishes menacingly at the pupils assembled in her phantasmagorical class-room. On investigation, I found that the cane, being discredited, has yielded place to the foot-rule, especially in `convent' schools. The foot-rule, has the advantage over the primitive birch of mauling without marking (which could count as an achievement in torturing technique) and it also possesses the innocent appearance of a non-violent pedagogic equipment. . .
. . .at higher levels of education, torments to a young soul are devised in subtler forms progressively; admissions, textbooks and examinations are the triple weapons in the hands of an educator today. In June every father and son go through a purgatory of waiting at the doors of every college. Provision of seats planned in a grand musical-chair-manner keeps every applicant running frantically about, unless, as in certain well-geared technical colleges, the parent could make a bid in the style of a competitor at a toddy auction of old times. . .Those who cannot afford it have to queue up in the corridors of colleges, hunt and gather recommendations, plead, appeal canvas and lose weight until they find (or do not find) their names in the list of admissions. At the next stage the student will once again queue up, beg, beat about, and appeal - for textbooks this time (especially if it happens to be a `Nationalized Textbook', which may not be available until the young man is ready to leave the college).
Finally the examination. In a civilized world the examination system should have no place. It is a culmination of all sadistic impulses. Learned commissions and conferences meet and speculate why young men are always on the verge of blasting street lamps and smashing furniture. It technical language it is known as `student indiscipline.' It has always amused one to note the concern the problem causes and how it always ends in woolly, banal resolutions such as: students should be given compulsory military training, asked to perform compulsory rural service, and compulsory what not. Students should keep out of politics (a great many others ought to keep out of politics too; in any case, it's too late to suggest this as students were inveigled into politics not so long ago in our history). The real wrecker of young nerves, however, is the examination system. It builds up a tension and an anxiety neurosis day by day all the year round, all through one's youth, right into middle age (for some). I remember the desperate nervousness that debilitated me from January to April every year. After four decades, I still jump off my bed from nightmares of examination. I feel convinced that the examination system was devised by a satanic mind. The anxiety and sleeplessness, the gamble over possible questions, the hush-hush and grimness of the examination hall, the invigilators (the very word has a Grand Inquisitorial sound) watching like wardens at the gallows, the awful ritual of breaking open the seal of the examination papers, the whole thing now appears ridiculously ritualistic and out of tune with a civilization in which man is capable of taking a stroll thousands of miles above the earth towards the moon.
If I became a Vice-Chancellor, my first act would be to abolish all secrecy that surrounds question papers. .. I would add a postscript to every question paper: `If you cannot answer any of the above questions, don't despair. Remember your examiners are not infallible and may not do better if placed in your predicament. Your inability to answer will in no way be a reflection on your intelligence. We apologize for the embarrassment. Also, remember if you expect a first class and do not secure even passing marks, don't rave against your examiner, he is also a human being subject to fluctuating moods caused by unexpected domestic quarrels or a bad digestion just when he is sitting down to correct your papers; also, not being an adding machine, occasionally he may slip and arrive at 7 while totalling 8 and 3. Please forgive him.'
At a certain university in America I met an advanced soul. He taught Political Science. One month before the annual examination, he cyclostyled (or `xeroxed') the questions and distributed them among his students, who thereafter spent nearly twelve hours a day in the library in the `assigned reading room.' I described to him our habits of hiding the questions till the last moment. He remarked `Why on earth keep the boys in the dark over questions that after all concern them?' I explained , `We believe in mugging up, on an average 200 pages per subject, and fifteen subjects in a year. One who can demonstrate that he can recollect three thousand pages in the examination hall will be considered a first-class student in our country, although he need not understand a word of what he reads, or remember a syllable of what he has read after the examination. The whole aim of our education is to strain the faculty of memory. . ."
`Your system must have been devised before Caxton, when there was no printed book, and handwritten books were chained and guarded. Memory is not so important today. Our need is for more libraries and multiple copies. The only condition I make for my boys is that they spend at least six hours a day in the library a month before the examinations, while writing their answers I permit them to refer to the books. My only condition is that they should write their answers within the given time.'
In my college days, I had a professor of history, who said, `It's a pity you have failed. If you didn't know the answer, you could have written any answer you knew; if you didn't know anything of the subject, you could have just copied the question paper. If you couldn't do even that, you could have told me and I would have given you marks.'
`I didn't know you were an examiner, sir.'
`What a pity, they ought not to keep it a secret. All our troubles are due to it. After all, you have listened to my lectures for a year and that's enough.
I had another professor from Scotland who taught us English; an enlightened soul, who marked a minimum of 35 per cent on all papers, and raised it on request. He was accessible, and amenable to reason and even to bargaining, He would ask, `What marks do you expect to get?'
`Sixty, sir'. He would pick up the answer paper, glance through it, shake his head ruefully. `I have given you the minimum, of course, but I'll raise it to 40.'
`Sir, please make it 52, I want at least a second class.'
`All right. I hope your interest in Literature is genuine'.
Oh, but for this noble soul, I'd never have passed in English.
Here is an instance of memory without intelligence. A story of mine called `Attila' has found its way into Pre-University Prose in a certain university. I had a chance of learning how questions on the story were answered. A few answers were just line-by-line reproductions of the original, but nowhere could I see that they had realized the story was about a dog. . .
`R.K. Narayan was a romantic poetess who died in 1749.'
Long after getting his BA Degree, a person met his old teacher and confessed, `I am sorry, sir, I never till today that Lady Macbeth was a woman.' Another teacher was asked, an hour before the literature paper, ` Is King Lear a tragedy or comedy, sir?'
I mention these without comment. If our educational system is not to continue as a well-endowed, elaborately organized, deep-rooted farce, remedy must be found immediately. I dare not end this on a note suggesting crisis, as before the ink on this sentence dries, academic experts and ministers of education are likely to pack up and leave for New York, Rio de Janiero, or Toronto, in accordance with the almost superstitious believe among our leaders (in all fields) that when there is a crisis at home the thing to do is to buy a round-the-world air ticket and leave.
That I, whose experience of teaching is extremely limited, should presume to discuss education is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology. It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw. Up to a certain point, and provided the the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. . .
. . .My views about child psychology are, I admit, neither orthodox nor enlightened. Looking back upon myself (since I am the child I know best and the only child I can pretend to know from inside) I recognize three states of development. These, in a rough-and- ready fashion, I will call the Poll-Parrot, the Pert, and the Poetic--the latter coinciding, approximately, with the onset of puberty. The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. The Pert age, which follows upon this (and, naturally, overlaps it to some extent), is characterized by contradicting, answering back, liking to "catch people out" (especially one's elders); and by the propounding of conundrums. Its nuisance-value is extremely high. It usually sets in about the Fourth Form. The Poetic age is popularly known as the "difficult" age. It is self-centered; it yearns to express itself; it rather specializes in being misunderstood; it is restless and tries to achieve independence; and, with good luck and good guidance, it should show the beginnings of creativeness; a reaching out towards a synthesis of what it already knows, and a deliberate eagerness to know and do some one thing in preference to all others. Now it seems to me that the layout of the Trivium adapts itself with a singular appropriateness to these three ages: Grammar to the Poll-Parrot, Dialectic to the Pert, and Rhetoric to the Poetic age. . .
The Sayers essay is very popular with home-schoolers. I'd be interested in what education reformers think of it.