Plato wouldn’t have be surprised if he had read last Wednesday’s New York Times and found this report om K-12 learning:
“ For the first time since 1990, the mathematical skills of American students have dropped, according to results of a nationwide test released by the Education Department on Wednesday. The decline appeared in both Grades 4 and 8 in an exam administered every two years as the National Assessment of Educational Progress and sometimes called “the nation’s report card.” a rebellion against them. … Progress in reading, which has been generally more muted than in math for decades, also stalled this year …“
This report on “educational progress” is appalling, especially after so much time, money and attention have been paid to the STEM disciplines in recent years. But in fact the gains have been very modest even in the best of years, and now the very title of the project – “educational progress” – looks like a bad joke.
Clearly we have not figured out what’s keeping students from making genuine progress.
Maybe it’s time to start thinking out of the ox – the box that requires focus on math and reading to the near exclusion of everything else. One way to climb out of that box is to open up Plato’s Republic and engage with his ideas about music. Here’s one example:
“ … education in music is most crucial because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the innermost part of the psyche and take strongest hold upon it … “ Plato Republic III 401 d
And it’s not just Plato. Greek literature is full of the recognition that in education music, shall we say, calls the tune.
We have thrown music out of the K-12 curriculum and signed it over to the entertainment industry. They know how to use it -- to make money. There should be no surprise about the effects: GIGO, Garbage In, Garbage Out.
And so the beat goes on, and the resulting distraction should be no surprise.
Back to the cithara, lads and lasses! There’s educational progress to be made!