07 February 2008

18 inspirations for educators and social entrepreneurs

Some people collect stamps. Others collect curiosities. I collect (among other things) pedagogical models, theories of learning, writings on education, and great educators. Someday I'll boil it all down and give you just the bullion, just the essence. But I need more time. My collection is far from a complete 7-course chowdown; heck, it won't do anything more than whet your appetite... but at least that means I've probably gotten to hors d'oeuvre status.
Vincent, Levin (1658-1727) - 1719 - Elenchus tabularum...1
"My! You have such an interesting collection of... um... what are these, exactly?"

Model Institutions, Organizations, Etc.

  1. Danish Folkeuniversitetet ("Folk High Schools"). The keystone of Danish national and democratic identity. One of the great triumphs of modern liberalism (in the strict sense of the term).
  2. Hampshire College. The Un-Ivy League. Classes, but no core curriculum. Written evaluations, but no grades. Books, but no teacher's dirty looks.
  3. The Nueva Escuela ("New School"). A program aimed at the developing world which supports schools as agents of positive social change. Focuses on education which is "active, participatory, cooperative, child-centered, and life-relevant." The story is that the founder asked every Nobel laureate she could get her hands on what kind of school they wished they had attended.
  4. The KaosPilots (of course). A new kind of business school, aimed at at the fourth sector.
  5. The Acton MBA (of course). Business school on steroids, which aims to produce entrepreneurs rather than managers.
  6. Y Combinator. Although it claims to be a new kind of venture capital firm, it's really an intense education in how to be a world-class tech entrepreneur.
  7. Gever Tully's Tinkering School. Let your kids do dangerous things, otherwise they'll never learn how to handle dangerous things. When I put it that way, it's obvious, right?
Writings Worth Reading
  1. "On Education." Ralph Waldo Emerson's seminal essay on the subject, in which he argues that "the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil."
  2. "Talks with Teachers." Brilliant lectures on teaching by eminent 19th century American psychologist and philosopher William James.
  3. "Complicity." Online journal on complexity (read: chaos theory) and education. Be warned: this journal has a rather pointy head.
  4. Infinite Thinking Machine. A blog providing coverage of innovation in education.
Models, Movements, and Technologies
  1. Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises, by which I mean more than simply the book by the same name. The exercises are a masterfully conceived and carefully refined ethical technique (read: a practice by which one acquires a particular character).
  2. Unschooling. Let the child set the educational agenda; teaching consists principally in encouraging and enabling.
  3. Moodle. A widely used open source course course management system.
Educators to Emulate
  1. Socrates. The gadfly of great Athens.
  2. Johan Amos Comenius, the Czech (Moravian, to be precise) "Copernicus of education."
  3. Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig, founder of the Danish Folk High School.
  4. Amos Bronson Alcott, the original Transcendentalist, and the greatest teacher [.pdf] in U.S. history.


Connelly Barnes said...

I liked Philistine and Genius by Boris Sidis, although he uses far too negative of a tone, it's still interesting if one looks past that. http://sidis.net/philistine_and_genius_menu.htm

(Although perhaps I just find "interesting" whichever theories repeat my own preconceptions...maybe I should challenge myself by finding either more unorthodox or more orthodox texts, written for different learning styles. Oh well; limited time!)

J. Powers said...


Thanks for the high-quality reference. I agree about the tone: rather too strident and acerbic to be entirely persuasive. Still, high quotients of passion and erudition; very engrossing reading.

At the end of section IX, I found the following profound observation concerning habits--a topic with which this blog is much concerned:

"The important principle in education is not so much formation of habits as the power of their re-formation. The power of breaking up habits is by far the more essential factor of a good education. It is in this power of breaking down habits that we can find the key for the unlocking of the otherwise inaccessible stores of subconscious reserve energy. The cultivation of the power of habit-disintegration is what constitutes the proper education of man's genius."

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