EDU 6120: Module 8

“What I Learned”” Reflection on the EDU 6120 Module 8

“What Knowledge is of Most Worth” Lecture given by Arthur K. Ellis

In reading the lecture transcript entitled, What Knowledge is of Most Worth, I learned of Herbert Spencer’s primary idea described in his work published in 1859, “the knowledge that is of the most worth is that which prepares people for complete living…. activities that lead to self-preservation and the preservation of the human race.” Specifically, Ellis (p.5) states, “Spencer came to the conclusion that the knowledge that is of the most worth is science”.

Also, 1859 marks the death and birth of two significant and influential American educators—Horace Mann and John Dewey, respectively.  Mann, “considered today to be the father of American education” (Ellis, p.6), is also known for six fundamental ideas that have laid the foundation for the profession of education.  In addition to the numerous contributions of Dewey, Ellis states that, “We have the dawning in Dewey’s time of the Progressive era which is an interesting mix of Romanticism, pragmatism and the scientific method (Ellis, p.9).

In continuing to read the transcript of Ellis’ lecture, I learned of the connections between the ideas presented within Spencer’s essay and ideas contained within Charles Darwin’s book “The Origin of the Species” (also published in the year, 1859). Many of these thoughts lead to the addition of science into school curriculum. Additionally, the Seven Cardinal Principles, via the National Education Association in 1918, as well as the introduction of vocational classes, served to further develop into what is known today as a comprehensive high school curriculum.

The primary question I have, as I consider the course offerings in my high school today with its emphasis on preparing all students to be “college ready” is, how do we find the “balance” that is required to address the needs of a wide variety of students?  My observation is that the many students who are required to retake the required Algebra I (along with a math support class) are the very students who would benefit most from taking hands-on electives. Unfortunately, some of these students feel quite unsuccessful, become discouraged, and even drop out of school–because they do not have room in their schedule to take what will “feed their soul”.


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