Education: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Education: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Gary Thomas

Language: English

Pages: 114

ISBN: 0199643261

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Education is one of the hot-button issues of our time, heatedly debated by parents, teachers, local school boards, and national politicians. But despite the many measures taken to overhaul the educational system, student math and reading scores rarely seem to improve.

Taking the reader from the schools of ancient times to the present day, this Very Short Introduction explains why education has followed the path that it has taken-and what we might do to improve it.

Education expert Gary Thomas delves into some of the big questions of education and the twists and turns the field has taken over time, looks at the work of such key thinkers as Piaget and Vygotsky, and examines such recent innovations as the introduction of progressive education in the 20th century and the marketization of schools over the last few decades.

Thomas repeatedly returns to the question of why education has recently become so test-orientated and he explores the consequences of this obsession with testing for children. He also looks at moves that teachers and policy-makers have made to try to improve what goes on in schools, from changing teaching so that it mirrors the way children learn, to making schools more inclusive and meaningful for a broader range of students.

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imply for the structuring and sequencing of teaching. From the 1950s until the end of the 20th century, despite the challenges to its validity, it took a central place in the theory of education taught to many teachers in training: it was taken to be relevant to a wide range of topics from the teaching of reading to the teaching of science. Unfortunately, in this education of teachers, Piaget’s contribution to our understanding of children’s thinking has focused on his developmental stages and

the right level and presented in the right way. (This contrasted, of course, with Piagetian ideas about ‘readiness’.) The teacher’s job is thus not to ration out information, having decided what facts or skills need to be learned, but to encourage students to think in such a way that they understand a subject. Describing his own work, Bruner says: ‘It seemed natural that emphasis should shift to teaching basic principles, underlying axioms, pervasive themes, that one should “talk physics” with

the quality of education—by the accountability-testing mindset. Chapter 7 School’s out! From century to century the edifice of the school, both in its actual building and in its practices and routines, has held firm. The law continues to oblige parents to send their offspring to an institution organized broadly on military lines where children will be instructed in the subjects taken to be important for the smooth running of society. Teachers continue to stand in front of classes and

belief that education can deliver growth offers an easy way of avoiding our own obligations.’ We don’t need no thought control As we have seen, dissatisfaction with the traditions and routines of school has been a constant refrain through schooling’s story. A theme through this has been concern about the persistent regimentation of the school, which often operated, critics such as philosopher Bertrand Russell said, as a cross between a prison and an army camp. Highly critical of the

schools and in the universities—lectio, the reading of a text by a teacher, without questions, the forerunner of the lecture, and disputatio, the posing of a subject for dispute and debate. Later in the Middle Ages, but before the invention of printing, other kinds of schools began to emerge. The great American educator Neil Postman suggests that these were principally associated with apprenticeship and the learning of particular trades—for there was not considered to be much else worth

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