1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

From Method to Curriculum

A struggle I've had as a public school teacher -- and I see this as quite relevant to the creation of a new school -- is the following: How do I take my approach to education and apply it to the courses I teach? In my limited experience of teaching history, philosophy and literature, I have found that a common theme in my approach is that in all cases I try to get the students to ask questions about meaning.

Trying to "understand the meaning of everything" will be central to our school. Here are some questions I have about how such an interpretive stance becomes incarnated:
1. Concerning particular courses, do we want to use traditional kinds of courses (with the risk of fragmentation) or a more inter/multi-disciplinary approach (with the risk of "fuzziness")?
2. What unites all of the courses into a coherent curriculum?
3. If course titles and/or course objectives deviate from state/district standards, how do we demonstrate that we are meeting the state/district requirements?
4. Should we draw from a Great Books kind of canon in the selection of our texts? My preference is that we would go to primary works and do without traditional textbooks -- for the most part.
5. In selecting texts, our criteria will not be the same as, for example, Mortimer Adler who had the aim of "general learning" for all; instead, we are seeking to educate what is most human in our students. So, what is our criteria for texts?
6. How does the school's philosophical approach to education connect with the day-to-day teaching of our teachers?
7. What kinds of pre-existing training for teachers would we like to use or adapt? (I'm all for using the Great Books Foundation's Shared Inquiry Method training)
8. If we use pre-existing programs, how do we ensure our own uniqueness in adapting it? How do we ensure that we don't incorporate contradictory methods?
9. Since the school's focus is the liberal arts, would it make sense to refer to the Trivium and Quadrivium in the curriculum? Might courses be arranged around Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric in some fashion?
10. In drawing from different sources, how do we keep our focus?

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