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Topic: Why schools used to be better
Replies: 25   Last Post: Mar 9, 2013 1:05 AM

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Louis Talman

Posts: 4,620
Registered: 12/27/05
Re: Why schools used to be better
Posted: Mar 1, 2013 2:52 PM
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On Fri, 01 Mar 2013 08:43:47 -0700, GS Chandy <gs_chandy@yahoo.com> wrote:

> I personally believe that the 'quantitative techniques' (and
> tools/processes) are not really relevant or appropriate to apply to
> human beings and their problem-solving or learning processes.


Here I must disagree. Mathematics has been, is, and will remain, central
to human endeavor; it is one of only two effective tools we have for
manipulating ideas.

In his little monograph, "Liberal Education," Mark van Doren distinguishes
three families of arts. There are the Useful Arts, with which we
manipulate objects and there are the Fine Arts, with which we create. In
between these two are the Liberal Arts, with which we manipulate ideas.
According to van Doren, there are but two liberal arts (though he follows
the ancients in dividing them into seven disciplines divided into two
categories named the Trivium and the Quadrivium). They are language and
mathematics. Of these two, he says:

"'Language and mathematics are the mother tongues of our rational
selves'---that is, of the human race---and no student should be permitted
to be speechless in either tongue, whatever value he sets upon his special
gifts, and however sure he may be at sixteen or eighteen that he knows the
uses to which his mind will eventually be put. This would be like
amputating his left hand because he did not seem to be ambidextrous. The
languages of art and science are of twin importance. It is crippling to
be illiterate in either, and the natural curriculum does not choose
between them. They are two ways in which the student will have to express
himself; they are two ways in which the truth gets known."

In the paragraph just above, van Doren places the first sentence in
quotation marks, so he is quoting someone. He doesn't give a source, and
I've never been able to find the original. I think it was probably Scott
Buchanan, but I can't support that statement with anything more than a gut
feeling.

- --Lou Talman

Department of Mathematical & Computer Sciences
Metropolitan State University of Denver
<http://rowdy.msudenver.edu/~talmanl>



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