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danielshrugged

My thoughts on academic vs. elective education.

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Is a vocational education in elementary through high school an example of Pragmatism? Are academic courses any better for training one's conceptual faculty than elective courses?

I wrote an article for Toronto's New Intellectual in which I argued in favor of academic over elective courses. Their editor, Andrew Lui, rejects my position. If nobody persaudes me I'm wrong, I'm going to cancel my plans to distribute the paper at my college, so a lot hinges on this. Persuade away!

I will include the most important parts of my article below in order to give you some material to work with:

The true, according to Pragmatism, is that which works. To judge the truth of an idea, one must not appeal to theories or principles, but to experience. If an idea works, it can be accepted as true. Consider, for instance, the Ptolemaic view of the universe. For hundreds of years, this view allowed people to predict the motions of the heavenly bodies. In the Pragmatist’s sense, then, it “worked”. Thus, the theory used to be true. Today, a different model works, and a different model is true. The standard of truth is not reality. Whether the earth or the sun was actually the center of the solar system, since it supposedly made no practical difference, was unimportant and meaningless.

As in epistemology, so in morality. The good, like the true, is that which works. If one is deciding whether to lie to a friend, one merely has to decide whether a lie will be practical. If one is deciding what is good for a student to learn, one merely has to decide what subjects are practical.

These ideas did not bode well for the academic curriculum. If the practical is the standard of value in education, then mathematics, literature, and history will seem worthless. What good is it to know about the Peloponnesian War, the Pragmatist will ask, when a person has to put food on the table? How does the ability to calculate the area of a sphere help a miner or a farmer to do his job?

Two dominant schools of thought emerged among twentieth century Pragmatists. One focused on the future need of an occupation, and advocated as the means vocational education. The other focused on the immediate needs of the student, with some advocating as the means letting them roam free, and others advocating teaching them about such issues as peer pressure, dating, and sex. The common enemy was the academic curriculum, which they considered impractical. The academic curriculum suffered.

To teach a student fitness, they said, one instructs him in various exercises. To teach him how to sew, one hands him the thread. To teach him to have safe sex, one instructs him about condoms. To teach him not to use drugs, one tells him about their harmful effects. Such is the whole of education.

What is the common denominator in the Pragmatist’s approach to education? A focus on teaching concrete, particular, specific skills or ideas. It would never occur to him to encourage fitness, as is proper, by teaching fiction with muscular heroes and asking the student to think about the relation between their bodies and their heroism, i.e., by teaching in abstract form why a healthy body is good and important, and then trusting the student to pursue on his own what he learns to be good and important. Through literature, then, he learns, among other things, an abstract principle about the human body.

This is in addition to the abstract principles about how the world works that he learns from physics, about how man thinks and acts that he learns from history, about how to communicate that he learns in language classes. Together, the abstract knowledge from academic classes allows the properly educated student to live successfully.

The Pragmatist’s student, by contrast, only learns particular skills and ideas, and thus can only perform particular skills and think particular ideas. What is he to do when he needs a skill or idea he hasn’t been taught? What happens when, say, a dictator seizes power in his country? Unfortunately, this student never took a course in how to respond to a coup. He does the only thing he knows how to do: he obeys his dictator. Meanwhile, the properly educated student, who understands abstractly why the body is important, applies that idea to a new situation. He sees the dictator threaten his body, so he flees the country.

What happens to the Pragmatist’s student when, having learned to repair cars for a living, a new type of transportation takes over? Typically, he writes his congressman and demands the government regulate and restrict the new industry. Meanwhile, the properly educated student, who understands abstract ideas, is the one who brought that new industry into being. For he observed that the body is important and that traffic accidents harm the body, so, using his abstract knowledge of physics, he invented a safer vehicle. Only abstract ideas can allow one to create new ideas and confront new situations.

History shows the consequences of men’s ideas and actions, developing conceptual knowledge about monarchy, rights, and integrity. The student of history will learn to see parallels, on both a national and personal level, to past events. When his parents make irrational demands, he will remember not to make the same mistake that Nicias made in responding to the irrational demands of Athens during the Peloponnesian War (which was to concede that the demands are justified, but difficult to enact).

Science, to take one more example, teaches students how the greatest minds learned about the world, as well as how the world works. Students of science learn how to learn about the world. They learn how to gain knowledge. Few skills are more practical than that one, since knowledge of the world is a precondition of practical action in the world.

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Good: Giving students the choice to take vocational classes IN SUPPLEMENT to academic classes, where integration should be championed.

Bad: Giving students the choice to take vocational classes INSTEAD OF academic classes, where there is little or no integration.

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Good: Giving students the choice to take vocational classes IN SUPPLEMENT to academic classes, where integration should be championed.
I agree with this. However, there is only so much time in a school day. Every vocational class offered means one has to get rid of an academic class. I would favor leaving vocational education for after school until, at the least, late high school.

Bad: Giving students the choice to take vocational classes INSTEAD OF academic classes, where there is little or no integration.

Andrew Lui claimed that it makes no difference whether the classes are academic or vocational, so long as they are taught properly.

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Andrew Lui claimed that it makes no difference whether the classes are academic or vocational, so long as they are taught properly.

I firmly agree with your statements regarding the primacy of integrated academic subjects over vocational classes.

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Andrew Lui claimed that it makes no difference whether the classes are academic or vocational, so long as they are taught properly.

Can you elaborate on his position?

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I agree with you danielshrugged, but as far as I can tell, the majority of students and teachers don't. In every school I've attended all over the US, the one recurring complaint I hear from students is: How is this relevant to our lives? Of course, typically the teachers blank-out and some mumble on to change the subject. Most students are unable to see how language & literature, history, higher mathematics and the natural sciences relate to their lives and thus they all believe that it's just a waste of time. It doesn't help, of course, the the way those subjects are taught are usually incoherent, irrational and unintegrated. Sometimes I wish I could just make them understand, but that's an impossible wishful thinking. :)

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Can you elaborate on his position?

He sent me some more comments, after I elaborated more on my position. At this point, I don't think he and I disagree much. Apparently, he just didn't believe that schools actually are dominated by electives at the elementary and middle levels, so he was defending electives at the high school level. I agree with him that some electives might be okay at the high school level, so my article was arguing against a problem that he refused to believe existed.

So he is refusing to publish my article, and I am probably going to cancel plans to distribute TNI at St. John's this time around. No big deal.

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What 'vocational' education are schools providing to 1st thru 6th graders? And what 'academic' education are they having to forgo to provide this education?

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What 'vocational' education are schools providing to 1st thru 6th graders?  And what 'academic' education are they having to forgo to provide this education?

I'll use personal examples here (not limited to vocational, but to all non-academics):

- most of kindergarten was spent drawing or sewing or hunting for easter eggs

- every year from 1st through 5th grade, we had career days, in which we spent all day learning about careers

- every year, from 1st through 5th grade, we had field days, in which we spent all day having physical competitions

- every year, until 9th grade, physical education was required

- every year, in elementary school, about one hour of one day each week was spent on spanish

- every year, in elementary school, about one hour of one day each week was spent on art

- in 3rd or 4th grade, my class spent a whole day cooking lasagna

- in 6th grade, students were required to take a certain number of electives; I took band, health, computers, and physical education.

- a lot of time in elementary school was spent on sex education

- a lot of time in elementary school was spent on self-esteem, peer pressure, drugs, and those types of issues

- every other minute of elementary school was spent on some artistic activity that had no academic relevance

- the first week of my 6th grade social studies class was spent on cutting out from newspapers adjectives that we thought described ourselves

- my 6th grade english class spent a few weeks learning about methods of advertising

- several times during elementary school a whole day was used to go outside and sift through dirt for fool's gold

- in 4th grade, we spent a whole day at the sun sentinel learning about the physical production of newspapers

- every year of elementary school, beginning in 2nd grade or so, we spent tons of time on computers, either playing games or just learning how they work

- every year of elementary school, about one hour each week was spent on music

- we took dozens of full-day field trips in elementary school that had nothing to do with academics

- in 6th grade, a whole day was spent at disney world

There's more, but I'll leave it there. When you add up all this time, it becomes VERY significant. And that's stopping at 6th grade...it becomes even worse in 7th and 8th.

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I assume because you included all these "non-academic" activities in your list, you are including them as the 'electives' to which you object.

I'll ignore the kindergarten reference because it is not part of the 'organized' schooling of children. Some are prep for education. Some are just glorified day care. As such, that is a question of what is proper, not of pragmatism.

- every year from 1st through 5th grade, we had career days, in which we spent all day learning about careers

This is a problem? Giving children information on what careers are avaliable to them is an indicator of Pragmatism?

- every year, from 1st through 5th grade, we had field days, in which we spent all day having physical competitions

- every year, until 9th grade, physical education was required

Learning how to keep the body in shape and practicing that education is NON-academic and an indicator of Pragmatism?

every year, in elementary school, about one hour of one day each week was spent on spanish

Learning more than one language is NON-ACADEMIC??? Learning more than one language is an indicator of Pragmatism?!?

- every year, in elementary school, about one hour of one day each week was spent on art

And this is non-academic WHY? Because it doesn't teach someone about Math or English or Science? I guess the concepts of perspective etc (which I learned in 3rd grade art classes) dont qualify as 'academic' knowledge? Good thing I became an artist, then. Otherwise, all those hours might have been wasted. (But of course that is the 'Pragmatic' argument, isn't it. :) )

Seriously - THIS is what you are concerned about in relation to Pragmatism? I am sorry, but so far you have not made a case for your position with these examples.

in 3rd or 4th grade, my class spent a whole day cooking lasagna

If there was no context to this activity, then it did not serve an 'academic' end. Of course, if it was in the context of something like "Home Economics" (like the field days being in the context of phys ed), then I dont see the problem.

- in 6th grade, students were required to take a certain number of electives; I took band, health, computers, and physical education.

So you do not consider learning about music, nor musical instruments, nor the discipline involved in practice etc to be 'academic'. You do not consider the knowledge learned about the operations of the human body and how to mantain it on a daily basis to be 'academic'. You do not consider knowledge about any one particular technology to be 'academic'. And I already asked you about Phys Ed.

All of these are examples, to you, of Pragmatism as applied to education??

a lot of time in elementary school was spent on sex education

When, in math class?

- a lot of time in elementary school was spent on self-esteem, peer pressure, drugs, and those types of issues

Again, when?

- every other minute of elementary school was spent on some artistic activity that had no academic relevance

Hyperbole and such a generalization, I have no means of rational response.

- the first week of my 6th grade social studies class was spent on cutting out from newspapers adjectives that we thought described ourselves

Sounds like an IMPROPER means of teaching a proper academic class. In other words, Andrew was correct when he claimed that position.

my 6th grade english class spent a few weeks learning about methods of advertising

Same as the above, though one could conceivably make the argument that this was used to demonstrate techniques of persuasive writing, as well as how logic and fallacies are used. In other words, the study of propaganda is not something that is either non-academic nor pragmatic in nature.

- several times during elementary school a whole day was used to go outside and sift through dirt for fool's gold

Now I admit, without any more context than you have given this sounds absurd. But then again, you dont even provide a PRAGMATIC reason it would be pursued. So I am not certain how this supports your argument, so much as it supports Andrew's argument.

- in 4th grade, we spent a whole day at the sun sentinel learning about the physical production of newspapers

So you learned how mass production worked on a local scale. Pretty good economic education if you ask me. Seeing what you have only read about in your social studies classes doesn't seem too 'NON-academic' or pragmatic to me. In other words, concrete HAND IN HAND with the abstract is a GOOD thing. Abstract alone is just as bad as concrete alone - and for the exact same reason.

every year of elementary school, beginning in 2nd grade or so, we spent tons of time on computers, either playing games or just learning how they work

Gameplaying = school as babysitter. Again, not sure where Pragmatism comes into THAT picture. However, learning how to use a tool of communication and productivity that is non-industry specific, certainly doesn't qualify as 'non-academic' - any more than learning to use a pencil, pen, calculator, watch, slide rule, etc is and was 'non-academic'.

- every year of elementary school, about one hour each week was spent on music

I am really getting the idea that you consider ANYTHING which is not READING (english only), WRITING (but not on a computer or in any other language), and 'RITHMATIC is NOT academic and somehow indicative of Pragmatism. I would REALLY check those premises if that is the case.

- we took dozens of full-day field trips in elementary school that had nothing to do with academics

I have to ask at this point - what is your definition of academics? It sounds like the study of ONLY abstract principles and ONLY in certain VERY SPECIFIC subjects meets your criteria. If it is at all concrete, then it is 'pragmatic'.

Again, if that is the case, I would have to disagree with your premises

- in 6th grade, a whole day was spent at disney world

WooHoo! A day off! Not sure how this is an example of pragmatism though.

--

I will note now that you named quite a few things which you thought were "vocational" or at least "non-academic" as you reinterpreted my question. However, you did not provide any indication of what might have been left out of your education (since we are using anecdotal information here) BECAUSE these other things were done (which was part of your argument).

--

All in all, I have to say Andrew was correct in rejecting your essay. The examples you provide really throw your premises into question. Given the fact that such questions do arise (whether because of erroneous premises or simply because correct premises have not been presented in a clear manner), it would be irresponsible for an editor to publish such an article. For you to turn around and not distrubute a paper BECAUSE it acts in a responsible manner, however, I find a bit troublesome.

As it currently stands, you may want to reconsider both your argument AND your actions.

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RadCap, if you weren't serious, I'd be laughing right now. This seems so simple that I shouldn't need to make this post, but perhaps that's just because I've spent so much time studying education.

Let me explain in general terms how Pragmatism determines what is taught in schools (this is excerpted from the rough draft of my article):

Dewey justified the academic curriculum on Pragmatic grounds. If an academic subject has practical value, leave it in the curriculum. This does not sound like such a horrible idea. After all, if education is not practical, what is the point of it?

The problems emerge when one asks one simple question: How does one know whether something will work? Something works when it satisfies human purposes. How does one validate those purposes? How does one know those purposes are good? No answer, except that they feel right. Thus, pragmatism is a form of subjectivism.

Even if one grants that the good is that which fulfills subjective human purposes, how does one determine whether something will satisfy those purposes? Once again, no answer, except that it seems like it will. Pragmatism offers no guidance at all.

Since both the purpose and the means to that purpose are determined by what feels right, the Pragmatist can justify anything. One Pragmatist might say: A chess curriculum works, for chess is fun, and students need to know how to have fun. And another might say: A chess curriculum does not work, for chess merely wastes time in idleness, while students should be preparing for a world that requires action. Teaching students how to have fun feels like a good purpose to one, while preparing them for action feels like a good purpose to the other. Chess feels like a good means to the end of the one, while it feels like a poor means to the end of the other.

Thus, although some Pragmatists such as Dewey had some sympathy for the academic curriculum, his philosophy allowed others to do away with it. While Dewey thought history could teach students to appreciate social life, others either rejected his means or his purpose. Some would go on to accept his purpose, but claim that the means was to allow students to socialize all day. Others would go on to reject his purpose and offer their own opinions.

-------------------------------------

Now keep that in mind as I comment on your objections:

I'll ignore the kindergarten reference because it is not part of the 'organized' schooling of children.  Some are prep for education.  Some are just glorified day care.

I don't know what you're talking about. Kindergarten was part of elementary school. I started kindergarten at age 6; I should have been learning phonics, at the very least.

- every year from 1st through 5th grade, we had career days, in which we spent all day learning about careers

This is a problem?  Giving children information on what careers are avaliable to them is an indicator of Pragmatism?

Yes, it is, because it takes time away from academic learning. There is a finite amount of time in the school day. One hour given to teaching about careers is one hour taken away from an academic course. And schools need not waste a whole day to explain career options. They either come up naturally during academic courses (for example, the student would learn something about doctors when he studies biology) or the student hears about them outside of school.

every year, from 1st through 5th grade, we had field days, in which we spent all day having physical competitions

- every year, until 9th grade, physical education was required

Learning how to keep the body in shape and practicing that education is NON-academic and an indicator of Pragmatism?

Yes. I'm all for young people having relay races and playing basketball. But those are for after school and are certainly not academic.

every year, in elementary school, about one hour of one day each week was spent on spanish

Learning more than one language is NON-ACADEMIC???  Learning more than one language is an indicator of Pragmatism?!?

Let me take this opportunity to say how much I hate it when people repeat what I say, add a question mark, and act as if that represents a valid objection. I'm not completely against learning other languages in elementary school, though I think Spanish is the wrong choice. This particular example is debateable, so I'll leave it alone.

- every year, in elementary school, about one hour of one day each week was spent on art

And this is non-academic WHY?  Because it doesn't teach someone about Math or English or Science?  I guess the concepts of perspective etc (which I learned in 3rd grade art classes) dont qualify as 'academic' knowledge?  Good thing I became an artist, then.  Otherwise, all those hours might have been wasted. (But of course that is the 'Pragmatic' argument, isn't it. :)  )

Drawing is non-academic. That's a simple fact. It is a very particular skill with no wider application.

in 3rd or 4th grade, my class spent a whole day cooking lasagna

If there was no context to this activity, then it did not serve an 'academic' end.  Of course, if it was in the context of something like "Home Economics" (like the field days being in the context of phys ed), then I dont see the problem.

There was no context to that activity. However, even if it were in the context of home economics, I think it would be wrong. Cooking lasagna is an extremely particular skill that, so far in my life, I have had absolutely no use for.

a lot of time in elementary school was spent on sex education

When, in math class? 

-a lot of time in elementary school was spent on self-esteem, peer pressure, drugs, and those types of issues

Again, when?

There was no "when". Classes didn't have rigid times, so teachers could just talk about whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Sex ed, peer pressure, drugs, etc. were not taught as part of a class.

- the first week of my 6th grade social studies class was spent on cutting out from newspapers adjectives that we thought described ourselves

Sounds like an IMPROPER means of teaching a proper academic class.  In other words, Andrew was correct when he claimed that position.

It was taught in a proper academic class. But we watched movies in my calculus class. Does that mean that when we watched those movies, we were learning calculus, but by the improper means? Consider both WHAT was taught and HOW it was taught. The WHAT, I maintain in this instance, is: cutting words out of newspapers and magazines, NOT social studies; just as in my calculus class the WHAT was watching movies, and not calculus.

my 6th grade english class spent a few weeks learning about methods of advertising

Same as the above, though one could conceivably make the argument that this was used to demonstrate techniques of persuasive writing, as well as how logic and fallacies are used.  In other words, the study of propaganda is not something that is either non-academic nor pragmatic in nature.

True enough.

Now I admit, without any more context than you have given this sounds absurd. But then again, you dont even provide a PRAGMATIC reason it would be pursued. So I am not certain how this supports your argument, so much as it supports Andrew's argument.

Believe me, there was no context. See the beginning of this post for how Pragmatism could justify such a thing.

So you learned how mass production worked on a local scale. Pretty good economic education if you ask me. Seeing what you have only read about in your social studies classes doesn't seem too 'NON-academic' or pragmatic to me. In other words, concrete HAND IN HAND with the abstract is a GOOD thing. Abstract alone is just as bad as concrete alone - and for the exact same reason.

I find this argument conceivable, though I disagree. I'll just note that the trip was not part of any social studies...once again, it had no context.

Gameplaying = school as babysitter. Again, not sure where Pragmatism comes into THAT picture. However, learning how to use a tool of communication and productivity that is non-industry specific, certainly doesn't qualify as 'non-academic' - any more than learning to use a pencil, pen, calculator, watch, slide rule, etc is and was 'non-academic'.

Gameplaying - to see how Pragmatism comes in, see the beginning of this post. The rest of what you say I find conceivable; however, just as we only spent a few hours learning how to read a clock, I think a computer didn't require as much time as we spent on it.

I am really getting the idea that you consider ANYTHING which is not READING (english only), WRITING (but not on a computer or in any other language), and 'RITHMATIC is NOT academic and somehow indicative of Pragmatism. I would REALLY check those premises if that is the case.

I consider as academic: languages, literature, writing, math, science, history. They are subjects which have broad applications in ordinary life. Being able to play a musical instrument is NOT important in ordinary life. I do not deny that music good to learn, but it is a particular skill that should be learned after school.

"in 6th grade, a whole day was spent at disney world"

"WooHoo! A day off! Not sure how this is an example of pragmatism though."

Once again, see the beginning of this post for that.

"you did not provide any indication of what might have been left out of your education (since we are using anecdotal information here) BECAUSE these other things were done (which was part of your argument). "

What was left out? History, science, math, literature. Every minute spent on the above meant less time for these.

"For you to turn around and not distrubute a paper BECAUSE it acts in a responsible manner, however, I find a bit troublesome."

I'm not sure exactly why Andrew rejected my article. I do know that my article is the kind of article I want distrubuted, and I'm not going to distribute a paper that rejects the kind of argument I think needs to be spread.

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I have to agree with RadCap after reading his arguments. Concrete applications of the abstract material that one is learning in the "academic" classes is EXTREMELY important to one's education.

It is very important to learn about the abstract, but in order to properly integrate one's actions and be able to act on all that one has learned, one must engage in concrete applications as well.

Now, I believe that many modern educators have attempted to justify these "elective" courses by pragmatic means, and I think, Daniel, that is what you are arguing against. However, the justification for such courses is wrong, not the courses themselves. Perhaps the frequency of the courses should be decreased, but certainly children should not sit in a classroom 7 hours a day being taught abstract ideas with no concrete applications, teaching them how to apply what they are learning to their lives.

The major consequence of failing to integrate the abstract with the concrete is the typical whining of a person in algebra class, "what the hell does this have to do with real life?"

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Of course I agree that one needs concrete applications, concrete applications OF academic subjects. But I don't think lasagna should be taught as a concrete application of cooking. I do think word problems should be taught as concrete applications of math. There's a huge difference.

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That being the case, then the argument does come down to what qualifies as proper (and then taught properly), not whether they are 'pragmatic' - which goes right back to Andrew's position in the first place.

Now one here will ever say the govt has created rational cirriculum nor that it is following rational principles. But that is a far cry from banning art, music, phys ed, and the host of other things you seek to eliminate from the education of 6-12 yr olds.

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"I do know that my article is the kind of article I want distrubuted, and I'm not going to distribute a paper that rejects the kind of argument I think needs to be spread."

I have never read this paper. Apparently you previously thought it worth distributing. However, because you have a disagreement with the editor (as you have with at least two of us here), you now believe whatever articles it DOES publish are not worth passing along to others. Does this mean, because we disagree with you here, you will no longer frequent the site, nor recommend it to anyone else? For that would seem to be the principle you are following.

In other words, do you not allow for honest disagreement (especially when you admit you do not know the reason for the rejection of your argument)?

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I thought abstract thoughts are created by observing the world around us? Don't they have to start with concretes in order to be valid? I think you have this backwards. The abstract ideas learned in academics do not validate the concretes that you may find in vocation. The concretes of vocation validate the abstract ideas in academics. It is important to learn some concretes before going on to academic ideas or abstract thought.

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That being the case, then the argument does come down to what qualifies as proper (and then taught properly), not whether they are 'pragmatic' - which goes right back to Andrew's position in the first place.
I'm not sure why you say this. The argument comes down to both what is taught and how it is taught. My article focused on what is taught. In American education, electives have dominated as a result of Pragmatism. Just read the progressive reformers who first advocated more vocational education and more non-academic courses. They did use Pragmatism, explicitly, as their justification. If I am to argue against their ideas, I must argue against their foundations.

But that is a far cry from banning art, music, phys ed, and the host of other things you seek to eliminate from the education of 6-12 yr olds.

I am a strong supporter of all of those after school. But to include those in the curriculum is to exclude time that could be spent on history, math, science, language, writing, and literature. Strecthing, running a mile, and playing basketball every day did nothing for my conceptual faculty, and I hold that the purpose of education is to train the conceptual faculty.

I have never read this paper.  Apparently you previously thought it worth distributing.  However, because you have a disagreement with the editor (as you have with at least two of us here), you now believe whatever articles it DOES publish are not worth passing along to others.
I wouldn't say I have a disagreement with the editor. I'm not sure, at this point, whether his rejection of my article was caused by an actual disagreement or some confusion he had over differences between Canadian and American education.

Education is a very important subject to me, and I want MY ideas of education out there. If the paper is going to exclude such ideas (and potentially include the opposing ideas), I have no reason to distribute the paper.

Does this mean, because we disagree with you here, you will no longer frequent the site, nor recommend it to anyone else?  For that would seem to be the principle you are following.

No. The principle I am following is: I will not work to spread ideas with which I disagree. This is the same reason I wouldn't distribute copies of Virtue of Selfishness to people if they happened to have a John Dewey essay in the middle (that claimed to represent Objectivism just as much as the other essays). I don't think I violate that principle by frequenting this site.

In other words, do you not allow for honest disagreement (especially when you admit you do not know the reason for the rejection of your argument)?
I'm sure Andrew was honest. I don't know how that's relevant. If ideas are wrong, it doesn't matter whether the person who reached them was honest. The fact remains that the ideas are wrong and I will not work to spread them.

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I thought abstract thoughts are created by observing the world around us? Don't they have to start with concretes in order to be valid? I think you have this backwards. The abstract ideas learned in academics do not validate the concretes that you may find in vocation. The concretes of vocation validate the abstract ideas in academics. It is important to learn some concretes before going on to academic ideas or abstract thought.

How does lasagna in 4th grade serve as a concrete from which one reaches abstract ideas?

In history, the concretes are the particular events. In literature, the concretes are in the reading. In science, the concretes are such things as pushing balls (that belongs in kindergarten at the latest) and dropping things from the roof. In math, the concretes are various items that the student can count in various ways. I don't know where running a mile, cooking lasagna, sifting through dirt, going to Disney world, listening to a policeman talk for an hour about his job, or making my own bookmark come into any of that.

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'A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition. By organizing his perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts, man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge, a knowledge extending beyond the immediate concretes of any given, immediate moment.'

'Concepts are not and cannot be formed in a vacuum; they are formed in a context; the process of conceptualization consists of observing the differences and similarities of the existents within the field of one's awareness (and organizing them into concepts accordingly).'

'An education systematically trains the conceptual faculty (the ability/capacity to conceptualize) of the young by means of supplying in essentials both its content and method.'

On what basis do you claim that the subjects art, music, physical education, etc IF properly taught, do NOT train the conceptual faculty, and thus must be excluded from the concept 'education'?

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"I am a strong supporter of all of those after school."

WHY are you a strong supporter of all those things?

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"But to include those in the curriculum is to exclude time that could be spent on history, math, science, language, writing, and literature."

You exclude some fields of study and include others based upon the limits of time. Apparently you believe there is a specific amount of time in which the 'educational' subjects should be taught.

Where exactly is that line drawn? At what point in time is the conceptual faculty being 'cheated' out of training? How many hours MUST a child be educated in a day? Five hours? Six hours? Six and a half hours? Eight hours? Eight hours and seven minutes?

How many days in the week MUST be used for the training of the conceptual faculty? Four? Five? Six? All seven?

And how many weeks of the year MUST be devoted to your specific content and method? Half the year? Three-fourths of a year? The entire year save two in July?

Oh - and what if someone disagrees with the specific amount of time you claim must be devoted to this training? MUST they be wrong? Or could you BOTH be right?

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"They did use Pragmatism, explicitly, as their justification. If I am to argue against their ideas, I must argue against their foundations."

IF you were just attacking 'electives' (your so-called 'non-academic' classes and activities) because of their Pragmatic roots, and sought to establish a rational foundation for such 'electives', your statement would be correct. However, since you condemn 'electives' AS SUCH, then whether or not they are of the pragmatist school of thought is irrelevant. You would still condemn them because they take time away from the training of the conceptual faculty.

The issue IS therefore one of what is PROPER to teach and how to properly teach it. (Which is what Andrew focused upon).

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You say: "The principle I am following is: I will not work to spread ideas with which I disagree."

Really? What ideas are they publishing with which you disagree? Did you disagree with what they published BEFORE they rejected your article?

More to the point, what you say now is NOT the situation you presented NOR the principle you are following. The situation you presented was one where someone refused (for an UNSPECIFIED reason) to publish something you submitted to them. And the principle you are following is: REGARDLESS of whether the ideas they DO publish are correct or not, you refuse to spread those ideas because they won't spread YOUR idea.

Considering the fact that you were willing to spread their ideas BEFORE they rejected your article - and thus indicates you agreed with the ideas they ACTUALLY published - I find your position to be troublesome.

(I'll get to something you blank out when it comes to the concept of 'honest disagreement' in this context, but I await these answers first.)

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I will not continue this discussion if you continue your accusatory tone. You even use the words "blank out" in relation to something I said. That is a serious charge. To "blank out" means to refuse to comprehend, and is thus the most immoral thing a person can do. I hope you don't mean it that way.

On what basis do you claim that the subjects art, music, physical education, etc IF properly taught, do NOT train the conceptual faculty, and thus must be excluded from the concept 'education'?
I'd like to ask exactly what it would mean to teach physical education properly. I hold that the best thing one can do to teach proper fitness is to teach academics, since only academics will enable students to understand its importance. The specifics of fitness are so simple that the repetition of running mile after mile and shooting basket after basket becomes a waste of time.

Some subjects have wider applications than others. History provides the data students need to understand ethics, and thus is useful throughout life. Math provides students with logical rigor and certain thought-processes, which are necessary for all thought. Science provides certain data students need to understand metaphysics, and also provides a model of proper thought. Reading is necessary throughout life. So is writing.

What does learning how to draw teach? How do hundreds of hours of practicing drawing help one in the average life? Perhaps a few hours spent drawing can serve as a concrete in a discussion of perspective or something similar...but to have it as a class and spend hundreds of hours practicing?

"I am a strong supporter of all of those after school."

WHY are you a strong supporter of all those things?

Because they are fun. Because exercise is important. Because some people might want to make careers out of them. Because the details of music or drawing, while not necessary, can enable one to make further integrations with the essentials of music and art if and when one studies them.

You exclude some fields of study and include others based upon the limits of time.  Apparently you believe there is a specific amount of time in which the 'educational' subjects should be taught. 
No, there is obviously room for options. Perhaps five hours is best, perhaps eight hours. But if five, then the student should go home early and do what he is most interested in.

Please note that sarcasm is not an argument.

Oh - and what if someone disagrees with the specific amount of time you claim must be devoted to this training?  MUST they be wrong?  Or could you BOTH be right?

I hold that no time at all should be spent on electives during elementary and middle school, and I hold that anyone who favors one minute of elective time, outside of the context of any academic class, is wrong. (I leave aside the question of specialized schools for exceptional students with particular interests.) Let the student decide what his interests are and pursue them after school.

However, since you condemn 'electives' AS SUCH, then whether or not they are of the pragmatist school of thought is irrelevant.  You would still condemn them because they take time away from the training of the conceptual faculty.
I think that if I am to offer a persuasive argument against electives, I have to address the arguments that have been offered in favor of them.

Really?  What ideas are they publishing with which you disagree?  Did you disagree with what they published BEFORE they rejected your article?

I disagree with their ideas about the subject of education. I was not aware of and had no reason to suspect this disagreement until they rejected my article. (Once again, I'm not sure there's a disagreeement, and it might only be an issue of context. But even if it's only context, then I need a paper for my audience's context.)

The situation you presented was one where someone refused (for an UNSPECIFIED reason)
That's nonsense! The editor has sent me page upon page of comments on my article. The reason I'm unsure why he rejected it is because he seems to have given contradictory and confused reasons (for instance, he claims elementary schools don't actually teach electives...and he says other things like that which lead me to believe a difference between Canadian and American schools led to a difference in context which led to confusion about the article).

And the principle you are following is:  REGARDLESS of whether the ideas they DO publish are correct or not, you refuse to spread those ideas because they won't spread YOUR idea.

No. First of all, I have no way to know whether the ideas they publish will be correct. That they rejected my article indicates there is potential that they will publish an article with the opposing ideas. But even if I was able to see this issue of the paper and approved of everything in it, I would still not distribute it. That is because I think my article is what most urgently needs to be said about the subject of education, and if such an article is omitted from a paper whose theme for this issue is education, I think the paper is putting forth the wrong ideas by implication, as a result of failing to mention what the right ideas are. It is the same issue as when someone publishes an argument in favor of capitalism but omits the moral argument. What they say is true, but the choice to exclude the moral argument implies to the reader that the author cares about practicality and not about morality. Replace the word capitalism with education, the word moral with content, and the word pracitcality with method, and you have my situation.

And while that is my primary reason for my decision, it is not the only one. Another is that I don't think the paper will succeed at St. John's if it is just some paper from the University of Toronto. I think it needs an article by a St. John's student in order for people to pick it up and read it. And yet another reason is that the paper isn't free; it costs money, which we don't have much of, in order to get the paper.

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I would like to share a personal experience about an "elective" course.

The band program that I was a part of was the best thing that ever happened for my conceptual faculty in my entire field of education.

There are so many advantages to playing a musical instrument for the cultivation of the conceptual faculty. One is taught certain fundamental principles about the instrument and must learn to apply them to concrete situations as one increases their ability to play the instrument. Once you are to play the instrument well enough to be in a band, a whole new list of fundamental principles are learned (such as knowing your instrument's place in the overall and, melody, rhythm, tone, pitch, volume, etc.), which must be applied to a large number of concrete situations (all of the various musical pieces which are played in the band).

By having this extremely challenging course, I was better able to understand the process of applying the principles that I've learned to concrete applications.

Not only did I benefit in this way, but I greatly benefitted by the guidance that I had under the direction of the three band directors that I had. Through the concert band program (which was duing the school day) and all of the other bands I was in (marching band, jazz ensemble, brass ensemble, private lessons, solo performances, etc.) I learned about such virtues as independence, pride, productiveness, integrity, honesty, and many more.

The band program that I was a part of is considered to be the best in NJ. Our band director started the statewide concert band festival, which we have won (fairly) for the past 7 years, we performed with such greats as Fred Mills (one of the founding trumpet players of Canadian Brass and one of the best trumpet players in the world), we performed in Lincoln Center in NYC, and so much more.

I can not fully demonstrate to you the profound positive impact that this band program had on my life.

Daniel, I believe that your problem is a failure to recognize that a human being is not a floating conceptual faculty, but rather the integration of mind and body. I believe that elective courses such as band, art, computer skills, etc., primarily supplement one's ability to use their conceptual faculty correctly and make it grow (and as a secondary consequence, provide potential practical job skills).

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I don't deny that elective courses, if taught properly, can encourage proper thinking methods. But the knowledge and skills gained are so particular as to be of little value to the average person. The purpose of a class is not only to teach how to think, it is to teach the content the student needs in ordinary life.

I can not fully demonstrate to you the profound positive impact that this band program had on my life. 
Whatever impact it had could have been achieved equally well or better in a program outside of or after school. There's no sense making students who have no interest in a particular skill learn that skill.

Daniel, I believe that your problem is a failure to recognize that a human being is not a floating conceptual faculty, but rather the integration of mind and body.  I believe that elective courses such as band, art, computer skills, etc., primarily supplement one's ability to use their conceptual faculty correctly and make it grow (and as a secondary consequence, provide potential practical job skills).

If academic courses are taught properly, they will teach one how to live in this world. The actual living in this world occurs after school.

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"To "blank out" means to refuse to comprehend, and is thus the most immoral thing a person can do."

No - it means you have ignored or otherwise overlooked an aspect to your argument (or provide no answer to a question implicit or explicit in an argument). It does NOT indicate moral deficiency. So calm down.

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So your answer to why art, music, phys ed, etc., must be excluded from the concept of 'education' is that they have narrower "applications" than history, etc.. Practicing drawing (quite a narrower study than "art" - ie quite a switch from MY proposition) "doesn't help one in the average life." Sounds like an argument based on pragmatism, not reason.

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You use the term 'necessary' when justifying some fields and not others. The context here is training the conceptual faculty. By what standard do you judge what is 'necessary' for conceptualization training? "Wide application"? Wide application does not "train" the conceptual faculty. Application refers to the area the conceptual faculty may be USED. Whether the area is 'wide' OR 'narrow' doesn't change the fact that it is still being used. The only question then, is the METHOD employed in the training PROPER. For instance, in art - is the child being taught perspective properly? Is the concept perspective linked to distance, depth, height, volume, etc? Are they being integrated with the concept of circles, curves, straight lines, parallel lines, etc etc. How do these artistic concepts relate to the mathematical concepts (and vis versa)? How does art relate to science? For instance, how does light visually define shape? How does that relate to color? What is the difference between creating color with light and creating color with pigment? How does the body (proportions etc) relate as well? Are there scientific connections which relate to the mathematical connections, which relate to the biological ones? What has been the history of art and how has that history influenced and been influenced by literature, language, other parts of history, new mathematical concepts, etc?

THESE are integrations - a training and expansion of the conceptual faculty - you do NOT consider "necessary" for the "average life"?

I am sorry, but I must OBJECT to your position COMPLETELY.

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"No, there is obviously room for options. Perhaps five hours is best, perhaps eight hours."

Ah - so a school decides five hours is best, then it is not taking away time from your 'academics' to teach your 'electives'. Since the time involved is OPTIONAL, then a disagreement over HOW MUCH time to spend is not one where you would be right and the other person would be wrong. BOTH can be right.

"But if five, then the student should go home early and do what he is most interested in."

Excuse me, but WHY? Teaching art, music, phys ed, etc., can be done in the other 3 hours of an eight hour school day. They may be integrated into the systematic training of the child so that they help train the conceptual faculty. AND, because of the division of labor, they may be taught better and more effectively AT school than at home.

In other words, I see NO justification here for there to be a division between the two as you seek to establish. In fact, separating them will serve to remove focus FROM the integration of your 'academic' from your 'elective'. Facilitating such an integration serves the goal of education much better and much more efficiently.

"Please note that sarcasm is not an argument."

Reducto ad absurdum is one though. ;)

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"I hold that no time at all should be spent on electives during elementary and middle school, and I hold that anyone who favors one minute of elective time, outside of the context of any academic class, is wrong."

I guess the concept 'optional' simply doesn't apply here. Anyone who believes integration of your "academic" with "electives" has made a logical error somewhere. It is irrational to believe "electives" may logically be integrated with "academics" to provide a UNIFIED approach to abstractions and concretes in an interdiciplinary system which trains a child's conceptual abilities.

ONLY certain subjects can serve that purpose.

I am sorry, but for reasons I have indicated previously, I must disagree with this very narrow conception of what qualifies as a valid 'education'.

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"I think that if I am to offer a persuasive argument against electives, I have to address the arguments that have been offered in favor of them."

Yes, but the arguments used HERE (by myself and others) were that electives, while they CAN and have been justified by pragmatism, are NOT necessarily pragmatic. In other words, no one disagreed with you that the pragmatic approach (to your academic OR elective classes) is wrong. We disagreed with you that electives do not qualify as 'education' at all and as such, should be eliminated. You disputed that, moving the topic OFF pragmatism, and onto electives AS such. In other words, we (and Andrew) never believed pragmatism was proper. We reject pragmatism. But we also reject your argument against electives in general. And THAT is where the disagreement lies - not in the pragmatic, but the PROPER (as I have repeatedly stated).

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"I was not aware of and had no reason to suspect this disagreement until they rejected my article."

In other words, what they have actually PUBLISHED in the past has not disagreed with your views.

It sounds like the only reason you were going to distribute this paper is IF they did publish your article. It sounds as if that was the "context" you wanted - ie your purpose for wanting to distribute it in the first place. While that is fine (though a bit narrowly focused), you did not specify this at the begining. And since it is supposedly an Objectivist publication, and you are supposedly seeking to expand awareness of Objectivism to your fellow students, the paper seemed like it would be suitable to that task - whether or not it published your particular article.

Do you have another publication you are thinking of using to promote objectivism? Or are you trashing the idea altogether because of this one disagreement?

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"That's nonsense! The editor has sent me page upon page of comments on my article."

Since I can only go by what YOU say (ie the info you provide) and you said you didn't know why the article was rejected (as opposed to not COMPREHENDING the reasons GIVEN for the rejection, which is something QUITE different), the only 'nonsense' here is related to the clarity of your position.

Leaving out IMPORTANT context such as your desire to distribute a *particular* edition of the paper, as opposed to the paper as a whole - and that the particular edition is DEVOTED to education - are enourmous omissions on your part. They change the entire import of your quandry.

As such, I have to say the arguments dealing with why you should or shouldn't distribute the paper are just a jumble of miscommunication based on improper information.

IF the context is that of a single edition and the reason why you wanted to distribute it is because you believed it would address important educational issues, then I would not make your decision now at all. I would wait, and obtain a copy of it when it is published. Then, after seeing the ACTUAL content, you may make an informed decision. Who knows, you may find it has articles which address issues of equal or even greater importance.

In the end, if you decide they have not lived up to your expectations, then you are free to withhold the paper from distribution.

Simple really.

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"To "blank out" means to refuse to comprehend, and is thus the most immoral thing a person can do."
This IS the way Ayn Rand uses the phrase.

So your answer to why art, music, phys ed, etc., must be excluded from the concept of 'education' is that they have narrower "applications" than history, etc..  Practicing drawing (quite a narrower study than "art" - ie quite a switch from MY proposition) "doesn't help one in the average life."  Sounds like an argument based on pragmatism, not reason. 

Education SHOULD be useful in the average life. The difference between this and Pragmatism is that we know that the mind is man's means of living.

You use the term 'necessary' when justifying some fields and not others.  The context here is training the conceptual faculty.  By what standard do you judge what is 'necessary' for conceptualization training?  "Wide application"?  Wide application does not "train" the conceptual faculty.  Application refers to the area the conceptual faculty may be USED. Whether the area is 'wide' OR 'narrow' doesn't change the fact that it is still being used.  The only question then, is the METHOD employed in the training PROPER.
You didn't answer my question: how would one teach physical education properly? How do the hours upon hours of time spent running around a field do anything for the conceptual faculty?

There is more to the conceptual faculty than a method. All thinking is thinking about something. "Wide application" refers to the content of the conceptual faculty. Your argument, that only method matters, is a subjectivist one. There's a reality out there that people have to deal with, and that requires knowledge about what typical people have to deal with in reality.

then a disagreement over HOW MUCH time to spend is not one where you would be right and the other person would be wrong.  BOTH can be right.

True enough, but the disagreement here is whether any optional time should be spent on electives, not whether there is any optional time.

They may be integrated into the systematic training of the child so that they help train the conceptual faculty.  AND, because of the division of labor, they may be taught better and more effectively AT school than at home.
I think when it comes to optional studies, the decision of what to study should be left to the student. This is not the case with electives in elementary school. I had no choice about whether to study art, music, lasagna, etc. What if I preferred to study chess? What if I preferred to become a historian? If there's optional time, let the students choose how to spend it. Perhaps it would be better and more effective if done through the school, but then I think students should be allowed to skip the electives if nothing that is offered interests them, so that they can go either to a tutor or to some other place of learning to study what interests them. The important thing is that the academics are studied thoroughly. I think the practice of teaching history as a sort of survey of only key points is partially responsible for my past rationalism, for instance. We didn't have time to go into detail about concretes, so I absorbed history as floating abstractions. That is why taking time away from academics is destructive.

In other words, I see NO justification here for there to be a division between the two as you seek to establish. In fact, separating them will serve to remove focus FROM the integration of your 'academic' from your 'elective'.  Facilitating such an integration serves the goal of education much better and much more efficiently.

I think that when electives are taught, they should be integrated with academics.

It is irrational to believe "electives" may logically be integrated with "academics" to provide a UNIFIED approach to abstractions and concretes in an interdiciplinary system which trains a child's conceptual abilities.
I am all for integration. However, electives are not the only source of concretes.

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Yes, but the arguments used HERE (by myself and others) were that electives, while they CAN and have been justified by pragmatism, are NOT necessarily pragmatic.  In other words, no one disagreed with you that the pragmatic approach (to your academic OR elective classes) is wrong.  We disagreed with you that electives do not qualify as 'education' at all and as such, should be eliminated.

I attacked Pragmatism in the article as the most common justification for electives. My article ALSO presents the positive case why only academics satisfy the purpose of education, although I did not post that part. I think, however, I have stated my case in these posts, probably even better than I did in the article. There are other possible justifications for electives, such as yours, but they are less common, and thus I didn't see any advantage to discussing them as I discussed Pragmatism.

It sounds like the only reason you were going to distribute this paper is IF they did publish your article.
That was a necessary condition, but not my only reason.

And since it is supposedly an Objectivist publication, and you are supposedly seeking to expand awareness of Objectivism to your fellow students, the paper seemed like it would be suitable to that task - whether or not it published your particular article.

It seemed at the time that it would be suitable, but I no longer think it would be, for reasons I have given.

Do you have another publication you are thinking of using to promote objectivism?  Or are you trashing the idea altogether because of this one disagreement?
Our club has many ways of promoting Objectivism. In relation to this, I will probably make a few changes to my article (I don't think every objection to it was wrong, but I do think the needed changes were minor enough to have been corrected during TNI's two week editing process), and publish the article in the St. John's weekly paper, using it as a sort of ad for Ayn Rand and our club. I have only chosen to scrap plans for TNI for THIS issue. If I have reason to believe that future issues meet my needs, the club will buy them and distribute them.

"That's nonsense! The editor has sent me page upon page of comments on my article." 

Since I can only go by what YOU say (ie the info you provide)

I didn't provide info about this, because I was only seeking input about the topic of my article, not my decision about what to do about the paper. However, now that it's a topic of discussion, I'm open to continuing it.

Leaving out IMPORTANT context such as your desire to distribute a *particular* edition of the paper
Let me just note that although the particular theme of this paper was what really got me interested, I intended to continue distributing future issues after this one.

I would wait, and obtain a copy of it when it is published.  Then, after seeing the ACTUAL content, you may make an informed decision.  Who knows, you may find it has articles which address issues of equal or even greater importance.

The other reasons for not distributing TNI remain: I doubt many people would read it if it had no St. John's connection (i.e., an article by a St. John's student), and thus it would just be a waste of money.

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Well, this is getting us nowhere. The same arguments are simply being repeated over and over again, while other points are ignored or dismissed. Thus I will simply reiterate that I disagree with your premises and applications - and leave it at that.

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Well, this is getting us nowhere.  The same arguments are simply being repeated over and over again, while other points are ignored or dismissed.  Thus I will simply reiterate that I disagree with your premises and applications - and leave it at that.

If that's what you want. I've gotten a lot out of this discussion so far, I think. I think I'm clearer about my case now. Whereas I had enough doubt before this discussion to come here and ask for arguments to the contrary, I am now certain of my case.

May I recommend that you listen to Dr. Peikoff's Philosophy of Education course when you get a chance? The first and fourth lectures of that course are relevant to this discussion, and I find them to be good material in favor of my position.

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I do not recall anything from those lectures which suggests the EXCLUSION of teaching art, music, etc from a child's education. I do not recall anything in them which suggested NOT integrating these fields of study in a systematic way with the others to produce more 'content' for broader conceptualizations. I do not recall anything in the tapes which said such classes could not be taught in the same location, nor even by the same individuals as those who would teach the core cirriculum. Nor do I recall any aspect of the tapes which said a child's exposure to, or pursuit of, art, music, physical ed, health, etc should be left to the whim of the 6-12 yr old.

I DO recall from those lectures that there are specific fields of study, without which a child will NOT receive proper training of his conceptual faculty. Of course, no one here debated this last position. We only debated the former ones.

And my disagreement with those former ones still stands.

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