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Catching Up: Where we are in the Government & Politics Unit

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

 

We have been in a unit on the forms of government and the philosophies of the modern political spectrum and modern American politics.  Below is our key unit vocabulary by category and the lecture notes we have had so far:

1. UNIT VOCABULARY

Forms of Government & Related Terms:

Anarchy, Tyranny, Monarchy, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Republic, Dictatorship, State of Nature, Social Contract, Natural Law, Revolution, Right of Revolution, Sovereign, Popular Sovereignty, State, Nation, Rule-Set

Political Spectrum & Related Terms:

Anarchist, Radical, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, Reactionary, Authoritarian, Totalitarian, Libertarian, Populist

Philosophers & Thinkers:

Aristotle,  Plato, Polybius, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke,   Edmund Burke,  Socrates,  Ibn Khaldun,  Confucius

 

2. LECTURES:

Our most recent lectures in this unit. for the origin of society and for forms of government.

Origin of civilization.

Lecture slides on origin of Western Civ political concepts

Lecture slides political spectrum

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Unit Concept Review Assignments

October 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Here are two of the assignments covering major concepts in our first unit that were collected recently:

Teen-age Brains

September 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Students have begun reading about the amazing capacity of the human – this includes teen-agers – brain. Some classes have already begun reading assignments, the rest will start on Monday. More to come!

Mr. Little Posts on Multiple Intelligences

September 8, 2012 Leave a comment

The tallest member of the LJHS staff has a nice post on Howard Gardner’s  theory of multiple intelligences:

Multiple Intelligences & How We Learn 

Thursday we will identify the kind of “learners” that we are. Students will take a quiz to discover the ways they best learn and interact with others. To show what we learned, students will be making a “Student Inventory Sheet (SIS),” which will contain this information.  Both the students and I will have a copy to reference throughout the year.  Understanding the way we learn is crucial. It helps us feel comfortable and succeed in school by choosing the appropriate partners, projects and study habits. Later, this knowledge becomes an important factor in deciding our careers. Starting to identify ourselves now has been very helpful to students, not to mention a little fun.

Take the Learning Styles Quiz Here: This uses the Multiple Intelligences theory (Howard Gardner), identifying the 8 major “kinds of smart” that students are. Students find out what their areas of strength are, as well as weaknesses. This has been the most interesting so far.  This is what your test result should look like….. 

Read the rest here.

Howard Gardner has also written extensively on creativity in Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century  ,  Extraordinairy Minds and Five Minds for the Future. Gardner tends to take a restrictive view of creative thinking that aligns him somewhat with the ideas of Charles Murray and Mihaly Csikszentmihaly:

My definition of creativity has revealing parallels with, and differences from, my definition of intelligence….

….People are creative when they can solve problems, create products or raise issues in a domain in a way that is initially novel but is eventually accepted in one or more cultural settings…The acid test of creativity is simple: in the wake of a putatively creative work, has the domain subsequently been changed?

….Let me underscore the relationship between my definitions of intelligence and creativity. Both involve solving problems and creating products. Creativity includes the additional category of asking new questions- something that is not expected of someone who is”merely” intelligent, in my terms. Creativity differs from intelligence in two additional respects. First, the creative person is always operating in a discipline or craft. One is not creative or noncreative in general; even Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps the Western World’s ultimate Rnaissance man….was creative in certain domains, like painting and invention, and not nearly as creative in others. Most creators stand out in one domain or, at most, in two.

This argument is problematic for several reasons.

First, and most importantly, it is not particularly useful advice in terms of educating children.

“Creativity” is not a single activity, momentary event or cognitive function but a collection of related ones like divergent thinking, lateral/horizontal thinking, analogous/metaphoric thinkingsynthesis, insight, “tweaking”, free play and collaboration. Development of skill in these activities requires practice and the early efforts, however feeble, are also creative – just not significantly so when measured on a scale against, say, Albert Einstein or Leonardo Da Vinci.

The truth is, even Einstein wasn’t “Einstein” when he was in the fourth grade, so when considering how to inculcate or assess more creative thinking in our students, we need to use more realistic benchmarks than what Professor Gardner is offering..

Secondly, A clearer a priori rejection of synthesis, horizontal thinking and consilience could hardly be written. One that is profoundly weird, in my view ,given that some of the more highly significant acts of scientific discovery were precipitated by seemingly trivial observation of mundane events that yielded a moment when a sweeping insight crystallized. A history that begins with Archimedes of Syracuse and works forward to the present day.

Gardner is correct that highly creative people are not able to be equally creative in all fields in which they have no reference or skill mastery as where they have demonstrated expertise but that is akin to saying that because Michael Jordan could not hit a baseball as well as he could a jump shot, therefore he has no intrinsic athletic ability. Put Jordan up against a couch potato in a sport neither have ever played or seen before and lay odds on who will have the best initial performance. How can “kinesthetic intelligence” be intrinsic but not “creativity” ?

Finally, Gardner’s bias against lateral/horizontal thinking across domains conflicts with the nature of intellectual creativity itself which struggles against the constraining rules that constitute the definitional standards, official orthodoxy and received wisdom of the field’s trained experts. How, for example, was Einstein’s ” Big C “ creativity ( to use Gardner’s term) possible when Relativity theory and quantum mechanics violated the precepts of the long established scientific world of Newtonian physics ?

Creative people work not merely in domains but, especially, across them. Something Howard Gardner ought to know better than most people. Teaching children to think in a domain or subject area is not harmed by teaching them to see connections across different disciplines!!

Content, Critical Thinking and Creativity in Education

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I divide each Social Studies unit into content and conceptual mastery, analysis and creative interpretation because public education as a k-12 and beyond system has three primary objectives:

1. To impart a body of knowledge and academic skills deemed valuable by society.

2. To teach the students to think analytically, critically and independently.

3. To render the students capable of  having original insights and pursuing the discovery of new knowledge or invention.

The first goal  has been delved into depth by educational researchers and gurus like E.D. Hirsh of “Cultural Literacy” fame, Chester FinnWilliam BennettDiane Ravitch and others, and is reflected in such legislation as NCLB, which has put tremendous pressure on school districts to focus on test scores in a Math and Reading and expanding the amount of instructional time in those subjects  in the curriculum by increasing the time spent on rote memorization exercises and skill-based drills. Breadth but not depth.

This has proven to have adverse effects, causing original supporters of NCLB like Diane Ravitch to change their position and call for the law’s repeal or modification of the law. Another effort at education reform, the Common Core Standards have been implemented by 45 states to increase content depth and the amount of reading in non-fiction content areas. like science and history.

The second goal is reflected in what used to be termed ” liberal education” or “Great Books” programs or the upper tiers of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Schools do this less effectively across the nation but there is still a fair emphasis on eliciting critical thinking in public education, most of all in Honors and AP classes, gifted and talented classes  and special programs like and Paideia and International Baccalaureate though all students benefit from learning critical thinking skills. Colleges and universities, of course, are also intended to focus on liberal education but the degree to which this is true in practice has declined since the 1960′s.

The final objective, made possible by the teaching of creative thinking, divergent thinking and synthesis to students, public education as a system does not do well at all at present, here or in any industrialized nation, where measurable declines in the creativity and problem-solving abilities of k-12 students appear across the board. Some people even consider creative thinking to be inimical to mastering content or logical analysis; this is untrue. One cannot think creatively or engage in analysis without content knowledge and content is itself meaningless unless the student can effectively put it to use in the real world. Content knowledge, critical thinking and creativity are like the three legs of a stool – our students need them all.

Ken Robinson, noted educational expert, giving a lively talk on creativity and public education

Perception vs. Reality

September 7, 2012 Leave a comment

The students were introduced to two concepts in the last week – that Perception and Reality can be very different and that Western Civilization has two basic and opposing Worldviews on the nature of Reality itself (going back to Plato vs. Aristotle). Characters from the sci-fi movie, The Matrix, were used to illustrate the point.

After viewing material and discussion, questions were asked:

And now, simply for fun !:

Unit Vocabulary: Perception, Cognition and Worldviews

August 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Concepts/Terms:

Perception   Perspective   Position   Cognition   Metacognition   Bias

Orientation   Objective   Subjective   Philosophy  Meme  Values   Worldview

Paradigm  Paradigm-shift   Schema   Culture   Society   Cultural Evolution

Empiricism   Scientific Method    Natural Law   Revolution   Humanism

Social Contract  Framing    Feedback     O.O.D.A Loop

Worldviews:

Prehistoric   Ancient    Medieval   Renaissance   Reformation   Enlightenment

Scientific Revolution

Thinkers:

Socrates   Plato   Aristotle    Cicero   Francis Bacon   Rene Descartes

Isaac Newton   Thomas Hobbes    John Locke

Charles Darwin   Thomas Kuhn   Richard Dawkins    George Lakoff    John Boyd