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Updated 06 Feb 2007

If the last few years have taught anything, they have taught that not enough of us know enough about enough things, liberal arts and history in particular. There are of course two issues, what to teach and how to teach it; both are vital.

The goal consistent with findings developed on this site, would be to rear each new citizen to be self actualized with an inner Locus of Control apposed to an external one that is subject to directions by others, or worse, by extremism. A result of such teaching is that finding and analyzing information for one's self becomes second nature.

This seems to be one reasonable means to avoid most or all the radicalizing events in education that lead to extremism. Equally important, an inner Locus of Control arms the individual against later radicalization.


Through about the eighth grade, reading, writing and spelling skills are paramount. There is no substitute for drill and more drill. Social studies and history must be taught in a similar way, but with one big difference. For example, instead of memorizing dates, names, events and places, history can be taught from several points of view critical to peace:

  • cultural developments that serve one society well while overwhelming less competitive societies.
  • the upsides and downsides of empire building.
  • impact of technology.
  • origins of human nature.
  • origins of the human genome.

Instead of classifying history by topic such as American, African, science, biblical, Western, Eastern, and so on, address the issues that create history in the first place. 'What are the forces that drive individualism as opposed to collectivism in politics?', for example. How these forces persist to create and repeat history, using actual histories for examples, would be memorable stuff. The fundamentals of logos and mythos as creators of history would do wonders for the societal insights of students.

Study of the scientific method could well begin in grade school--how to question, how to deduce and use logic. How to challenge or affirm an intuitive guess could follow. This is how an internal Locus of Control can develop.

A citizen who knows how to think with insight is a probable result for most cases. Even disadvantaged kids from inner city schools would benefit.


Just as we differ genetically and opportunity-wise, we differ in our ability to do classroom work and achieve results intended thereby. So, does it make sense to standardize? The gifted are penalized by boredom while the less-than-average must struggle mightily with the same material. This may be a fair procedure for the average student. But what of the others? And what of society? It may also not be fair even for the average student if learning how to think is left out of the teaching experience. Society suffers in all such events.

One-size-fits-all is not the answer. Answers, there will surely be more than one, will not be simplistic. Longitudinal study will be required with psychological and motivational components controlled as well as intellectual and economic ones. Research is needed, with findings followed up. The University of Oregon is a leader in this area. See University of Oregon -- Education.

Meanwhile, it looks like three tracks are needed to accommodate the handicapped as well as the gifted. Our national laws and our system must be changed to recognize this reality. Even that will not be perfect, for how are the lines to be drawn? But when you look at it, our system has examples of just this approach now. There are many private schools for the gifted. So, also, for the handicapped. The catch of course is that they are nearly all private and not generally affordable. Many universities offer honors courses that move faster and deeper than their standard counterparts.

In other words, make fast tracks available to the gifted and special assistance for those who need it. One size does not fit all in education.

Content for Peace Awareness

After completing grade 12, very American, preferably every world citizen as well, would take two years of full time study of history, government, psychology, sociology, economics, and natural history at government expense for a citizenship certificate equivalent to an associate's degree that qualifies a person to vote wisely at the nominal age of 20.

For those wanting further education, add two years of full-time study including 6 semester credits in each of anthropology, archeology, paleontology, math, history of religion / philosophy, sociology, political science, and 18 units in a major as preparation for grad school if desired for a standard BA at age 22.

Then let the grad schools do the specialized stuff--in two-year increments up to 6 years total. On top of any of those levels require a 2-year residency for all professions to certify competence.

Teaching Style

This one varies. The early challenge is mostly to learn reading, writing and simple arithmetic by rote. Then the challenge becomes how to find information, how to think, and how to put those two together. These skills are critical in modern times. Only by keeping up as individuals, can society keep up.

The challenge is that different young folks must be motivated in different ways, and of course there is need for tracks discussed above.

A complete and responsible person will know how to think, how to find insight--see Developing Insight. This can be achieved if teachers encourage students how to do research and to look for insight in all grades through 16.

For example, a teacher could approach each course as a research project to make learning and discovery interesting, something eagerly approached. Small teams could be organized for finding and presenting solutions which could represent half of each person's grade. The other half would come from a final exam graded for the degrees of knowledge and insight shown.

    "We all know that the real reason universities have students is to educate the professors. But, in order to be educated by the students, one has to put good questions to them. You try out your questions on the students. If there are questions that the students get interested in, then they start to tell you new things and keep you asking more new questions. Pretty soon you have learned a great deal." John Wheeler, colleague of Bohr and Einstein.

Following this tradition, Montessori schools have been successful in several ways:

  • Sophisticated sentence structure,
  • creativity,
  • positive social strategies,
  • sense of school as community.

In these four ways, the Montessori method appears to produce superior individuals. The Montessori method relies on peer teaching and modeling. It is often said that one's education is not really complete unless that person learns to teach another person his/her insights. For more on the Montessori methods, see Lillard and Quest in the 29 Sept issue of Science.

Special Ed

Smartness is distributed as a bell curve, a few very bright, a few not at all bright at the other end of the curve. Most of us bunch up in the middle. Each end of the distribution needs special handling. One is easily bored and perhaps disruptive. Another can't get it and requires extra drill and attention and may also be disruptive. Then there are the learning disabled, dyslexics, for example, people with a reading disability who are otherwise normally bright. These three problem types require very different teaching approaches. Teaching for effect, recognizes this and provides the necessary skills.


The latest trend in California, the trend setter among states, is showing the way in this area. Kids at the age of four can benefit in lasting ways from being exposed to learning-rich environments. They later hold better jobs, get in legal trouble less, and otherwise behave as better citizens than did control groups used for comparison. The financial return over time more than pays for the extra talented teachers involved. The quirky citizens in California approved budgets for preschool half-day education for 4 year olds. Not quirky by a long shot in our opinion. Rob Reiner has been a prime driver in this movement and deserves all the support he can get. Yes, Rob is Meathead of "Archie Bunker" fame. We say "is" because the reruns are still running. At the same time, Reiner has run into politics and politicians who see things differently. While we agree that public education is one of the keystones to peaceful society, we acknowledge that parents should also have influence, and Reiner certainly agrees. In fact he advocates that parents learn more about child development, a subject to little taught prospective parents.

[Ed. NOTE] Since this page was originally posted, Reiner has come under strong political attack. While there are two sides to that issue, we urge interested readers to research this one for themselves. For what it it may be worth, Reiner resigned from the school board.

To excerpt an article from the LA Times:

    Reiner's role in California government began when he led the 1998 campaign for Proposition 10, a state ballot initiative calling for a 50-cent tax on tobacco products to be used to help preschool children. The measure passed, and soon he found himself appointed to the commission charged with overseeing the money. Since then, the director of "The Princess Bride," "When Harry Met Sally," "Misery" and "The American President" has stepped behind the camera only to produce educational videos for new parents. "Movies may affect people's lives," the 54-year-old director says, explaining the new priorities in his life. "But they don't have the long-lasting, profound effect of a home-visit program."

    Reiner's interest in a child's early development dates back more than 20 years to when his sister, Annie, a psychoanalyst, encouraged him to examine his formative years in analysis. After completing therapy, he wondered about the upbringing of kids who turned up on the 11 o'clock news as criminals. "You always see the same report," he says. " 'He was a nice kid, so polite, I can't believe he would . . . .' I thought, 'Something's missing here.' " But it would be several more years before his interest led to action. In 1994, he asked his assistant to call the office of Tipper Gore, wife of then Vice President Al Gore. "I called her out of the blue, I had no idea what I was doing," says Reiner, sitting in the Beverly Hills offices of Castle Rock Entertainment, the production company he co-founded 14 years "They ask me, 'What is it regarding?' "

    Tipper Gore knew Reiner as a celebrity and reliable contributor to the Democratic Party, but she knew nothing of his interest in early childhood development. The two met, and soon Reiner was in touch with a network of experts. He also read the Carnegie Corp.'s "Starting Points" report, which summarized new findings about how an inadequate environment between birth and age 3 can compromise a child's brain development, and about the costs to society of ignoring that truth.

    The report, however, had drawn little attention. "It occurred to me: all this great information and nobody knows about it," Reiner says. "OK, there's my role: I'm a communicator." Inspired, he and his wife, Michele, a photographer, started the I Am Your Child foundation to spread the word. (Michele Reiner has joked that they had their daughter, now 4, to apply what they had learned. The couple's sons are 10 and 8.) Reiner produced a TV special on brain development and successfully lobbied the White House for a conference on the topic.

For more information see: CTA


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