Public school teacher, private school parent

A veteran public school teacher, Michael Godsey explains why his daughter will attend private school. He wants her to go to school with classmates who think learning is cool.

History Day at San Luis Obispo Classical Academy

History Day at San Luis Obispo Classical Academy

San Luis Obispo Classical Academy (SLOCA) is a small private school in California that promotes “personal character” and “love of learning,” he writes in The Atlantic.

In 90 minutes of observing a class at SLOCA, he saw “zero interruptions, zero yawns, and zero cell phones.” All 15 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, were ready, willing and able to learn.

That the teacher was fluent in that day’s topic, the Holy Roman Empire, was clear in at least two ways: One, she answered every question thoroughly, without hesitation; two, I could actually hear every word she said, in the tone and volume she intended. She didn’t have to yell to be heard, and she didn’t speak quickly in fear of interruption. She could subtly emphasize certain words, and her jokes landed.

He also observed a class at the public high school where he teaches English.

The educator’s passion is evident, and his typed lesson plans are immaculate and thoughtful. It’s not completely clear how fluent he is in the subject matter, however, because he has been interrupted or distracted by 20 things in 20 minutes: a pencil being sharpened, a paper bag being crumpled and tossed, a few irrelevant jokes that ignite several side conversations, a tardy student sauntering in with a smirk, a student feeding yogurt to a friend, a random class clown outside the window, and the subsequent need to lower the blinds, to name a few. The teacher is probably distracted by a disconcerting suspicion that he’s talking primarily to himself.

In public school, where “everything is both free and compulsory,” there is a “culture of coolness, the norm of disengagement,” writes Godsey. He’s willing to pay for his child to be immersed in a community that supports enthusiastic learners.

‘Why I study Latin’

Latin is worth studying, writes Zeke Coady, a 15-year-old student in Sydney, Australia. “It’s fun.”

The thing that makes Latin intriguing is that it is not used any more. Studying it is like looking through a museum of language, seeing what parts of language we didn’t want or need, and what parts we’ve kept for more than 2000 years. And then if you take Latin and change some other things, changing different words and adding some grammar, you get an entirely different language, such as Italian. Latin is the common ancestor here; Latin lets us look at Italian, and instead of seeing an entirely different language, we see that it just followed a different path from the common root.

Zeke  knows his Latin studies probably won’t help him find a job. He chose Latin — and ancient Greek — over economics “because I think it’s enjoyable just to learn for the sake of learning.”

Via Norm Geras.

What’s love of learning got to do with it?

It’s great if children “love learning,” but it’s not a goal, writes Mark Bauerlein on Brainstorm. In his State of the Union speech, President Obama called for parents to instill a love of learning — and to push “hard work and discipline” and achievement in math and science. Not all kids are going to love it.

How many conscientious, education-conscious parents who limit TV time and monitor homework end up with children who declare, “I hate math!”? Furthermore, if the “love of learning” message is explicit, young children may extend it into a new and damaging corollary: “If I don’t like it, it isn’t worth learning.” (I’ve heard this termed the “Sesame Street effect.”) That is, an absence of love turns into a justification for blowing off homework.

In addition to excess sentimentality, “love of learning” is too abstract, Bauerlein argues.

. . . children don’t love learning per se. They love history and stories and cell biology. They want to know about what happened at Little Round Top, or to find out how Odysseus escapes from Polyphemus, or observe a cell divide. In fact, the same student might love to collect and classify tree leaves and hate to read a poem. . . .  In emphasizing love of learning, the process of education, we under-appreciate the specific content that inspires the feeling. We should, instead, urge parents to instill a love of numbers and words and ideas and natural things . . .

Parents should tell children that learning is important, not necessarily lovable, Bauerlein concludes.