Readings of Note

February 01, 1990 2 min read

From When I Was Young I Loved School, by Children’s Express, edited by Anne Sheffield and Bruce Frankel (New York, Children’s Express Foundation, 1989).

Working Without Reserve

David Flinder, an assistant professor of education at the University of Oregon, studied how three high school English teachers actually do their jobs and made some policy recommendations based on what he found: "[I recall a] teacher’s description of his work as like chasing a tiger around a tree and then gradually realizing that the tiger is chasing you, not you chasing the tiger. The point is that in many cases teachers need to hold some ‘back up’ resources if they are to turn their attention from their own survival to the personal and intellectual growth of their students. It is in this context that calls from political leaders for educators to ‘redouble their efforts’ (Bennett 1987) are, at their very best, empty rhetoric....For teachers operating without reserves of time or energy, the advice to ‘try harder’ will only augment their frustrations. Indeed, the opposite advice--'slow down a bit, step back from your work, do less, build up rather than dissipate your energies'--may be far more appropriate advice for a significant percentage of today’s high school teachers.’'

From Voices from the Classroom: Educational Practice Can Inform Policy, by David Flinders (Eugene, Ore., ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, 1989).

The First Scientists

In the last book he wrote before his death, writer and educator John Holt argued that parents and teachers should remember that children are naturally drawn to the scientific method: “Children observe, they wonder, they speculate, and they ask themselves questions. They think up possible answers, they make theories, they hypothesize, and then they test theories by asking questions or by further observations or experiments or reading. Then they modify the theories as needed, or reject them, and the process continues. This is what in ‘grownup’ life is called the--capital S, capital M--Scientific Method....If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process, we disturb it. If we continue this long enough, the process stops. The independent scientist in the child disappears.’'

From Learning All the Time, by John Holt (Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1989).

History As Memory

Elaine Wrisley Reed, administrative director for the Bradley Commission on History in Schools and a former 4th grade teacher, suggests some ways elementary school teachers can generate interest in the past: “If history is the study of the past, let us begin with children by developing the concept of the ‘past’ and why it is important to us. Professor William H. McNeill writes about history as memory, both private and public, and that the lack of knowledge of history is somewhat analogous to amnesia. Tell the children a story about waking up one morning and not having any memory at all....Then extrapolate to our public, collective memory of the past. Or try Michael Kammen’s analogy of driving a car without a rearview mirror....Ask: How does a rearview mirror help us? How is history like a rearview mirror? How is it not like one?’'

From Historical Literacy: The Case for History in American Education, edited by Paul Gagnon and the Bradley Commission (New York, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1989).

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1990 edition of Teacher as Readings of Note