All of us want what is best for our children, especially a good education. Unfortunately, some schools fall short for a variety of reasons. The preferred solution in many school districts is constantly begging for more funds. For many liberal politicians, the mantra is always "we need to spend more money for the children." Quality education is not dependent on the amount of money spent per pupil. There are other more important variables involved that we seldom take the time to examine in a thorough way. Things like teacher quality, curriculum, parental involvement and ultimately student motivation and discipline impact on the end product of the educational process much more than monies spent. I daresay that there is more learning going on in a dilapadated one room school house in Africa than in some of the more affluent school districts in the United States.
Are American schools producing the kind of educated citizen that our country needs so desperately? I think the answer is a resounding, NO. The failures of public and even private education are deep seated and endemic. As a parent I don't claim to have all the answers. I do know this however, kids need two very important things to succeed in society. One is a love of learning and the other is the ability to think critically. So the question all of us should be asking is how do we instill those two qualities in our children through the educational process. One approach is to reintroduce the benefits of Greek paidea to the classroom. To the ancient Greeks, Paideia
(παιδεία) was "the process of educating man into his true form. Since self-government was important to the Greeks, Paideia made a man good and made him capable as a citizen. Greek Paidea played a formative role in the education of our country's founding fathers. The American experiment is based in large part on the seminal influential role of a classical education on the thinking of educated Americans during the early history of our country.
Despite a concerted effort to dumb down American education to produce non-thinking automatons who are more concerned with political correctness and what they are wearing to school, there is reason for hope. The Examined Life program is a growing consortium of school districts aimed at strengthening Greek studies in the schools. The program’s goals include professional scholarship, development of curriculum materials, and a community outreach on the history, culture, and accomplishments of ancient and modern Greece. The program takes as its theme the Socratic call to the examined life. As we enter the 21st century it asks participants to explore what it means to be human through the lens of Greek antiquity.
The Greek Studies proposal rises from the recognition that Greece's central importance in the curriculum is being challenged and marginalized in the growing amalgam of recommended subjects. Although there has been a commitment in recent years to the topic “peoples of the ancient world,” the powerful legacy of Greece is at times taught superficially or from outdated texts and materials. In addition, scant attention is paid to modern Greece in the curriculum yet Greece’s legacy continues in the arts and humanities as well as in mathematics and the sciences.
The program supports groups of teachers and administrators (20 per year) called Greek Study Fellows to meet regularly with outside scholars in a series of seminars. The program encompasses seminars, workshops, and ongoing discussions of ways to integrate knowledge and teaching; it also includes a study tour of Greece; it insures, on the completion of the project period, the continuation of professional development activities in the realm of Greek antiquity. In conjunction with the program, the teachers create a pool of sources for the teaching of ancient Greece including websites, books, maps, slides, videotapes. After the project period, Greek Study Fellows make themselves available as leaders and mentors in school systems in New England and elsewhere.
Rooted in the pathfinding efforts of Barbara Harrison, Newton teacher, and a small corps of Newton educators and Brandeis University professors, the program has broadened from one school district to include a consortium of school districts. The program is gaining in visibility and momentum. The first cohort of Greek Study Fellows (1999-2000), completed its formal tenure in December, 2000.
Administered by the Newton Public Schools in cooperation with Brandeis University, the program is steeped in scholarship and academic fervor to enhance current teaching, curriculum, and outreach; but also in great passion for Greece and a desire to spread philhellenism in ever widening circles in the United States. Currently 120 Greek Study Fellows carry forth the glorious and indomitable Greek spirit--ancient and modern--to the public sector, to schools and school districts, to teachers and their students. In December 2006, at the end of Cycle 7, 140 teachers in 12 school districts will directly impact over 10,000 children, and thousands more indirectly.