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Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning Paperback – May 15, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
In these 15 essays and articles, eminent cultural historian Barzun gives a straightforward message: mechanization and gimmicks are no substitute for the hard work of learning and the art of teaching. Trenchant and challenging, this primer holds valuable lessons for educators.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
This book gathers the various writings and comments of outspoken educator Barzun ( The American University , LJ 10/1/68), regarding the ailing American educational system. These freshly edited articles and essays offer a way out of a decaying system through teaching and learning in an old-fashioned way, rather than through the "radical innovations" of the so-called educational reformers. Some of the topics Barzun addresses include the inadequate ways in which reading is taught; the demeaning methods of teacher training; the counterfeit "social studies" programs which are the offshoot of combined geography and history curriculums; the benefits of reading the classics; and the effects of television on learning. In this collection one will find what schools and colleges should and could be if reforms are to "begin here." This is a practical, positive approach to developing better schools and colleges.
- Samuel T. Huang, Northern Illinois Univ. Libs., DeKalb
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
According to Barzun, the advent of making research profitable (through grants, the publish-or-perish mentality, etc.) has fatally wounded universities. Before this, teachers were teachers first. Research was conducted on a teacher's own time, and important works were often published at the end of a teacher's long career of teaching, reading, and thinking about a subject.
In contrast, teachers today resent students because students take time away from research. The publish-or-perish doctrine has resulted in a wash of triviality. Information that was once a footnote is now the subject of an article. What was once an article is now a book.
Barzun also disapproves of the politicization of universities. Teachers, he says, should concern themselves with providing the tools needed to get along in the world: reading, writing, counting, and thinking. The result of those tools should be of no interest of the teacher - because it isn't any of their business.
Primary education is little better than the universities. Educators fall under the spell of their own rhetoric. No one can teach creativity, self-esteem, etc., and teachers should stop claiming that they do. Instead, teachers should teach those subjects that are teachable: reading, writing, thinking, and counting.
"The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning" is mainly a collection of articles Barzun had written over the years. It has a message that I would like everyone involved in education to get: teaching and learning is a personal affair, one not handled well by bureaucracies filled with people who are willing to function as factory workers. Unfortunately, those people will never read a book like this.
My hope, then, is this; that curious, intelligent American readers will read his books and carry his message to members of the educational establishment in their local communities. I hope also that they will be prompted to support and give thanks to those teachers (and possibly an occasional administrator) who already understand this. Love, care and respect for the subjects and the people involved must have something to do with it.
Barzun, the near-ancient Columbia scholar, argues simple truths rather than attempting to glorify the fads in today's educational system. He advocates the value of effort in achieving results in schools--and the results themselves are to be simple to account for ("rudiments," such as reading, writing, or drawing) instead of touting abstract and platitudinous "goals," "objectives," or "doctrines."
As a college student, I found his musings about the state of higher education even more inspiring. In line with the full title of the book, he writes of the forgotten conditions of teaching and learning in the face of over-politicisation and drive to "re-search" of modern colleges. He also stresses the deliberate detachment of academic institutions from the mundane goings-on in the rest of the society for the sole purpose of pursuing knowledge. Instead, the modern establishment of higher learning (?) feels incomplete without an array of "social justice" undertakings in place both in its curriculum and interaction with the world outside.
I think every thinking person who believes in common sense would enjoy Barzun's writings.
Begin Here (sorry--don't know how to italicize on the 'net) is a series of articles and essays written over the years on the subject of education. I have tremendous respect for Barzun as a man of letters and as a writer; if I ever possess half his range of knowledge and gift of expression, I will be very fortunate. His ability to identify underlying principles and their results is astounding, and the essays in this book are so filled with wisdom that I want to stand up and cheer at the end of each one! I sorely regret that either he is not younger or I am not older--those who had the privilege of having him teach one or more of their courses have been abundantly blessed indeed.
The bottom line: If you want to sit around and wring your hands helplessly while bewailing America's educational problems, you'd best keep shopping. But if you want to cut the political nonsense and demand results, not excuses, this book is indeed the place to begin.