28 mars 2012

"Mere facts" (Critical Guide, E.D. Hirsch Jr)

  The phrase "rote memorization of mere facts" may be the most vigorous denunciation of "traditional" education to be found in the progressive armory. The phrase describes an activity that compounds deadly pedagogy (i.e., rote memorization) with deadly content (i.e., mere facts).  

    In Romantic progressivism, facts are dead, but hands-on, lived experience is alive; facts are inert and disconnected, but understanding is vital and integrated. The nineteenth-century romantic William Wordsworth once said that we "dwindle as we pore" over facts "in disconnection, dead and spiritless," and he urged us to see facts imaginatively. For his American successors, mere facts are always disconnected, dead, and spiritless. Their "mereness" implies their inherent disconnection and artificiality. As soon as real "understanding" occurs, however, mere facts are transcended. 

   There is some validity in this conception, as there usually is in most views that are long and widely held. Understanding does mean connecting facts; isolated facts are meaningless. 
   Where the progressive-Romantic indictment of facts falls short is in the exaggerated idea that facts which are not directly and immediately connected with one's life are inherently fragmented and dead. That blanket accusation amounts to an antiverbal, anti-intellectual distortion. Facts are absolutely necessary to understanding. Whether they are dead and fragmented depends upon teachers and students, not upon the facts themselves, which are not only required for understanding but are sometimes immensely vital and interesting in their own right.

Antipathy to subject-matter content  

"banking theory of schooling" 
"culturally-biased curriculum" 
"outcomes-based education" 
"research has shown"

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This was an excerpt from Hirsch's great book on education :
The Schools We Need 
 and Why We Don't Have Them.
Recension by Richard Askey :  

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