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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radical teaching methods
This is the American philosopher Mortimer Adler's attempt to apply his philosophy to real-world problems. His biggest concern was the inability of the educational system to teach children to think (as opposed to memorizing a string of mind-numbing facts). To accomplish this goal he, along with education professionals, developed a program based on the Socratic method of...
Published on October 21, 2003 by Avid Reader

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47 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Ideas...In Theory (A Teacher's Review)
Mortimer Adler's "Paideia Proposal," ("paideia" means "education" in Greek) is a book which intends to offer a stern antidote to many "progressive" ideas in education. One might call Adler an educational conservative - an "essentialist" who believes that education is of value in itself (and should not be justified by its utilitarian value). Adler also believes in the...
Published on March 8, 2009 by Kevin Currie-Knight


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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Radical teaching methods, October 21, 2003
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This is the American philosopher Mortimer Adler's attempt to apply his philosophy to real-world problems. His biggest concern was the inability of the educational system to teach children to think (as opposed to memorizing a string of mind-numbing facts). To accomplish this goal he, along with education professionals, developed a program based on the Socratic method of teaching.
For example, one exercise might consist of the following instructions from the teacher:
"Today I am going to show an object to you and I want you to just look at it for one minute in absolute silence, At the end of that time, please write what you saw first and what question you have about the object. Remember, no talking, because once someone talks it disrupts and alters the others' thinking."
This is a book with ideas that will challenge the way you have always thought about education. Indeed, it will make you question what our educational system is doing. If the purpose of an education is the creation of a well-rounded individual who questions and reasons and analyzes, then one will have to conclude that it has been an abject failure. Indeed, our society is increasingly split along two lines - a well-educated, erudite group that has developed a mocking attitude toward traditional conventions and manners and a non-educated group that carries a growing anti-intellectual bias.
For further information about the Paidea Proposal, you can visit the Radical Academy Site. As a father who has seen his son prosper under such a program, I would recommend that any parent seriously interested in obtaining a true education for their child explore the possibilites presented in this book.
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47 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Ideas...In Theory (A Teacher's Review), March 8, 2009
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This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Kindle Edition)
Mortimer Adler's "Paideia Proposal," ("paideia" means "education" in Greek) is a book which intends to offer a stern antidote to many "progressive" ideas in education. One might call Adler an educational conservative - an "essentialist" who believes that education is of value in itself (and should not be justified by its utilitarian value). Adler also believes in the value of a liberal arts education for all, the role of order and discipline in education, and the value of cultivating the intellect as the primary goal of k-12 education.

Adler's Paideia proposal "breaks" education into three types which students should receive in equal measure:

(a) knowledge acquisition: this is where direct teacher/student instruction goes on, and where the student learns to store and recall facts.

(b) developing of intellectual skill: this is where the student "learns by doing," and practices the skill under the teacher's facilitation.

(c) increase in understanding and insight: this is where students learn to evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and create ideas from ideas. Students engage in teacher-led discussion and reflections while learning "higher order thinking" skills.

I agree with these goals, but disagree much with Adler's approach. A key criticism I have of Adler's writing is that, like many philosophers of education, he speaks of students as they exist in theory rather than in practice, and tends to see them as a big monolithic group (while he says he doesn't).

Put differently and bluntly, if I had a child, I might be tempted to send it to a Paidiea school, but would be hesitant to suggest that every child should be forced into this model.

What makes the Paideia project unworkable in practice is Adler's insistence that "one size" of education "fits all." Alder does not believe in tracking of any kind, dismissing it as very undemocratic (by which he really means unegalitarian). He writes as if things like differences in intelligence (by the measure of IQ) do not exist. He repeats frequently the idea that "all children are educable," but turns it cleverly into "all children are capable of learning and absorbing the same stuff as all others." (He does bring this up as a possible criticism but dismisses the problem with high-sounding rhetoric, intimating that naysayers simply don't believe in equality.)

As a special educator, I think this idea of a "one size fits all" education is a pleasant sounding disaster. As one of my colleagues put it, "It is not a God-given right to comprehend Algebra II," by which he means that some simply learn slower, and are more limited than others. (I think Alder would realize his mistake when he put a child with Downs Syndrome, mental retardation, or autism into his Paidiea school.) Alder's point that we should challenge all students is well taken, but he doesn't seem to take seriously the FACT that students differ not only in "learning style" but in innate ability. To subject each child - regardless of ability - to the same curriculum is as unfair as hasty and strict tracking.

The other disaster in Adler's proposal is the idea that all K-12 education should be non-specialized and non-vocational. Under Adler's proposal, electives are essentially abolished and, as he says, we should "eliminate all the non-essentials from the school day." If it doesn't have to do with cultivating the intellect, we don't want it.

This would not only make school a positively dreary place for kids to be (eliminating any classes that might appeal to those not budding philosophers) but it would also lead the non-college-bound out in the cold. Alder suggests several times that all vocational training should take place post-high-school, meaning that school would no longer prepare students for a vocation at all, and those who can't afford to put off work after high school to receive additional training would be ill-prepared to start a career.

Like many schemes philosophers make about how to reform education, the Paidiea Proposal would make for some very interesting private schools. Like the Montessori method, this system might work for some or even half, but certainly not for all. Many students - those who might go into blue collar vocations - would likely do poorly in Paidiea schools. Adler might suggest that I am being pessimistic and "undemocratic," but I would charge him with utopianism and...being a theoretician rather than a statistician.

As long as differences in ability exist (and the fact is unfortunate), the Paidiea proposal, by expecting different abilities to access the same curricula, runs the risk of being as unfair as those he charges with excessive differentiation.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Elements of Teaching and Learning, May 2, 2009
This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Paperback)
When Mortimer Adler wrote this book, he was Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. His purpose was to encourage a transformation in public education.

As a lifelong learner and a teacher, what I found most valuable in Adler's book is his concept of the three elements of learning: (a) the acquisition of knowledge, (b) the ability to apply it, and (c) the capacity to use it to deepen understanding.

In simple, straightforward language, Alder describes (a) why we need to teach all of the students in the first twelve years of schooling to do all three (i.e., acquire, apply, and deepen), not just the first and second as is most often the case, and (b) how to do it.

This simple but profound book helped me to become a better teacher and lifelong learner. It can do the same for you.

Robert E. Levasseur, Ph.D., president of MindFire Press ([...]
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adler is excellent., February 4, 2005
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Paperback)
I have no clue as to whether the author of this book is alive or not in 2005 but this book is from the 80's but he comments in it that all kids need to get a good education in order to make it in life. It may sound simple but he talks about kids being placed in vocational programs which he believes only limits their growth and their salaries once they grow up. The idea behind this literature is that all kids are suited for a four year curriculum, learning topics such as philosophy and biology for example and not just being thrown into vocational programs just because of the way one may look, or from the social economic circle one may hail from. Recommended literature to all parents, home school parents, private and public school educators. It is a fast read, because i checked out this book from my public library but the information is really rare to find now a days. Get it!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most influential book on my teaching career, April 16, 2014
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This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Paperback)
In this book, Adler (of Encyclopedia Brittanica and the Great Book series fame) lays out his vision for a Liberal Arts basic schooling program. He argues that basic schooling should teach students how to learn for themselves through the study of a program of core courses and that the same course of study should be taken by all. Only in this way can we as individuals and as a free and democratic society have the means and the wisdom to manage our own destiny.

Of particular benefit is his concept of the three different categories of education, that of content knowledge, intellectual skill, and enlarged understanding of ideas and values. Each one is essential for a complete education, and each one requires a different type of mode to instruct properly. One cannot teach intellectual skill in the same manner that one teaches content knowledge. This section has revolutionized and dramatically improved my ability to teach high school math and physics, and it is applicable to all disciplines.

I buy these books 5-10 at a time and give them as gifts to fellow teachers. A good companion to this book is Robert Hutchins' The Great Conversation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Learning to be citizens, September 13, 2014
By 
Paul Vitols (North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Paperback)
This short manifesto gives a cogent overview of what public schooling should be setting out to achieve, the rationale for doing so, and how to get started.

In doing some research on education in the ancient world, I made a search of the word paideia on Amazon, and this was one of the books that came up. I’ve been a fan of Mortimer J. Adler for a few years now, and I was reminded of how I’d already intended to read this book sometime. So I bought a copy.

I’m glad I did. This crisp little print-on-demand paperback makes a powerful and impassioned case for the urgent need of reform in the American public-school system (the book was published in 1982). The argument is presented in four parts:

the role of education in a democracy
what form public schooling should take
what are the best ways to learn and to teach
what form postsecondary education should take
First of all: why paideia? What is it? This definition appears on the book’s dedication page:
PAIDEIA, from the Greek pais, paidos: the upbringing of a child. In an extended sense, the equivalent of the Latin humanitas (from which “the humanities”), signifying the general learning that should be the possession of all human beings.
Yes, this book argues for a return to providing young people with the beginnings of a liberal education (the book distinguishes between education and schooling: the former is a lifelong activity that doesn’t begin in earnest until maturity, while the latter is preparation for the former). The school system should dispense with all electives, vocational courses, and other kinds of “multi-track” schooling in favor of a unified program that provides exactly the same—high-quality—schooling to all. And the reason it should be the same is because it is teaching children who are equals, and who will grow up to be equal citizens of a democracy.

This point is key. As Adler says near the top of chapter 1:
Not until this century have we undertaken to give twelve years of schooling to all our children. Not until this century have we conferred the high office of enfranchised citizenship on all our people, regardless of sex, race, or ethnic origin.
The two—universal suffrage and universal schooling—are inextricably bound together. The one without the other is a perilous delusion. Suffrage without schooling produces mobocracy, not democracy—not rule of law, not constitutional government by the people as well as for them.

But what about the great differences between children—the differences in their circumstances, backgrounds, and inborn abilities? Mustn’t schooling take account of these? Yes: but only in the sense of providing help to those who need it in order to get through the curriculum. The author is emphatic that no child is to be written off as unsuitable to have a life of learning. If the United States takes Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that “all men are created equal” seriously, then it is bound to set up its schools accordingly. As Adler puts it:
Here then are the three common callings to which all our children are destined: to earn a living in an intelligent and responsible fashion, to function as intelligent and responsible citizens, and to make both of these things serve the purpose of leading intelligent and responsible lives—to enjoy as fully as possible all the goods that make a human life as good as it can be.
As parents, do we not want these things for our children? Do we not want them for ourselves?

The book goes on to provide an overview of how this is to be achieved. The 12-year course of public schooling should be arranged in a sequence of three phases, each devoted to a different goal:

the acquisition of organized knowledge
the development of the skills of learning
an enlarged understanding of ideas and values
The boundaries between these are not hard and fast; there is more a shift of emphasis from the first through to the third goal as the student progresses.

These things are all discussed in more detail in the book—but not too much detail, for it is short. It is a manifesto, a call to action.

And will that action require a wholesale revolution of the education system? An endless battle in Congress with some compromised, watered-down version resulting after 10 years of wrangling? No. In 2 pages at the end of the book, the author provides 10 steps that can be taken by any school or any school district at any time to start walking the walk of liberal education. It can be achieved incrementally. But first of all it requires a change of attitude, a change of motivation.

As a (North American–I’m writing in Canada) society, we’ve become obsessed with wealth and celebrity as the only measures of success and achievement; they’ve become our proxies for happiness and fulfillment. Our political involvement as citizens has degenerated to culture wars; the life of the mind is taken over by reality TV and video games. In some sense, this is what we have schooled ourselves for. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Those who care enough about this will start taking action, and this book provides both a vision statement and a mission statement for revolution, as well as some practical steps.

The author and his Paideia Group care about whether we fully realize our human nature. The question is: do <i>we</i> care?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review, April 3, 2014
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This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Paperback)
This book was mentioned in a Master level class, so I was curious. This thought process goes against the theory that students should be challenged according to their ability. Gifted students would not do well in this pedagogical atmosphere where every student is treated the same. It echos the "No Child Left Behind" belief, but then the if we hold all students to the same standards, by the same token, "no child gets ahead". Education should not be an assembly line of knowledge; we are not building a society of robots. Just saying...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ordered it for a course, much cheaper than the school bookstore., November 21, 2012
By 
Matthew Barnes (West Chatham, MA, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Paideia Proposal (Paperback)
The book was required for a course I took, and I saved money by purchasing it here instead of the school bookstore. The book is a bit dated, and the ideas are not totally applicable, but it does contain food for thought.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, January 19, 2015
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Good Book
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paideia Proposal, May 10, 2010
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Great book, good condition and arrived on time for my class. Thank you for allowing me to review this purchase.
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Paideia Proposal
Paideia Proposal by Mortimer J. Adler (Paperback - October 1, 1998)
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