October Links: An Assortment of Articles on Education Topics

Educational topics fascinate me. I never tire of reading about how kids learn whether they are in a homeschool setting or a traditional classroom, whether they are preschoolers or college students. Here are some thought-provoking articles I've recently run across on issues of interest to educators. It's kind of a random collection, but hopefully you'll find one or two that might be helpful!

1. Handwriting: does it still matter in the age of computers? Along with dyslexia, many of my sons would likely be diagnosed with dysgraphia. (Truth be told - my handwriting isn't all that great.) Nonetheless, we keep working at this skill. Here's a New York Times article on "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades."

2. Over the past several decades we've homeschooled, we've frequently joined with other families for an educational co-op. These weekly meetings help meet us to our learning goals, especially in areas that work best with groups such as public speaking, intensive projects, and book discussions.  Karen at Living Unabridged has some good advice about How to Get the Most out of a Homeschool Co-op.

3. Wonder why American students fare so poorly when compared to students internationally? Here are some thoughts from "Exchange Students on What's Wrong with US Schools." 

4. STEM vs. Liberal Arts. This has become another hot-button topic among educators.  My family tends towards the STEM end of things, especially in college, probably largely because most of us are just more math-oriented than word-oriented. And while one daughter has a classics degree and another is currently studying interior design, those degrees were/are being earned at Purdue, a university with a decided STEM emphasis, which ends up affecting just how the arts are taught. Here's an interesting article from The Federalist on how liberals have killed the liberal arts. Liberal Arts Are Dead - Long Live STEM.

5. How PowerPoint is Killing Critical Thought
Powerpoint has become the go-to tool for university lecturers. Students are often able to download the lecture notes and go from there. Terrific, right? Not necessarily! Do students miss something by not having to synthesize material as it is presented? Here's a teaser from this article:
"Through PowerPoint, everything has a tendency to resemble a pitch rather than a discussion: information is 'storyboarded', as for a movie –"

6. Tiger moms or free-range parenting? The debate rages about how children should be raised! Life for the typical middle-class kid is certainly very different today than when I was growing up in the '60s. Back then a child might take piano lessons or play Little League, but still had vast swaths of time, especially during summers, for outdoor exploration, free play, and pleasure reading. But what are the effects on children's brains of these changes? The University of Colorado has come out with some research showing that unstructured time helps kids develop executive function. In "Kids Whose Time is Less Structured are Better Able to Meet Their Own Goals," you can read about these results. 

“Executive function is extremely important for children,” said CU-Boulder psychology and neuroscience Professor Yuko Munakata, senior author of the new study. “It helps them in all kinds of ways throughout their daily lives, from flexibly switching between different activities rather than getting stuck on one thing, to stopping themselves from yelling when angry, to delaying gratification. Executive function during childhood also predicts important outcomes, like academic performance, health, wealth and criminality, years and even decades later.” 

Well, that's all for this time! What have you found of interest lately on the web?


Kara said…
As the wife of a professor of science at a liberal arts university, I think the premise of the STEM article in the Federalist is misguided. If nothing else, half of STEM (science & math) are themselves liberal arts disciplines. It didn't help that the author was dripping with the arrogance of engineering majors, which was the most annoying part of Purdue :-). But I agree that the liberal arts need to be taught well like they has been in past generations, and still are at many Christian universities (and by individual professors at secular ones.)
Kara said…
Collin offers the additional fact that the highest scores on the GRE are always from a liberal arts/humanities major... Philosophy. =)
Anne said…
It'd been quite a while since I first read this article, so I had to go back and see why I found it interesting. I'm more in agreement with the author's first point than his second. The way liberal arts are often taught these days is not the way they were taught in previous times. In a book by a Yale law professor I just finished, Stephen Carter said that "Americans across the political spectrum cannot bear dissent, because we lack the courage to meet it squarely." Too often students are not encouraged to really have dissenting opinions these days, but to tow a particular line, one that is not in line with what the Bible teaches.

Yes, I do agree about the arrogance of the author and arrogance among engineering students (and I'd guess grown-up engineers) is disgusting. Unfortunately, pride isn't limited to any particular discipline. Pretty much everyone thinks their specialty is more important than everything else. Engineering students feel superior to business majors, business students think they are more worthy than music majors, and chemistry majors are sure they are smarter than them all. Yuck!

Your dad and I do want our children to have a strong background in liberal arts - especially in their pre-college education. We want them to be able to read and interact deeply with what they have read. We want them to be able to argue and reason well. But I suppose I have grown more skeptical about just how liberal arts are taught at many universities these days, and I want students to study them with their eyes open. OK, really we want our kids to have their eyes open about everything they study!
Kara said…
I totally agree. And I'm not downplaying the importance of engineering/technology fields, just saying that the world would be a much grayer place without artists and writers, and an even more foolish one without theologians, historians, and philosophers. But the humanities are the first to be corrupted when we reject God as the source of knowledge, so a Christian does have to go into those fields/classes with their eyes even more open (whether at a Christian school or a secular one), and their minds trained for filtering all they learn through the Bible. Which was something you and Dad prepared us well for!

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