UTNE Reader/Journal Projects

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The following entries consist of UTNE Reader responses...

-- Anonymous, November 11, 1998


As I completed the article entitled "Learning in the Key of Life," I found myself reflecting upon my previous education requirements and experiences. Prior to my official release from the Education Program at Cornell College, I was required to student teach. Naturally, all education majors or "teachers to be" must embark upon this right of passage. The Professor that observed my teaching technique during this chaotic time period insisted that his students read the "Socratic Method of Teaching." I must say, I was a little surprised that philosophy was entering into a Social Studies curriculum. This excerpt examined the methods Socrates used when teaching his pupils. His methods encompassed the belief that all students inherently know information but must be questioned correctly in order to cognitively understand and learn new material. The Socratic method pertains to questioning a student with material designed for he/she to obtain an answer from their personal knowledge. Subsequently, this article addressed the fact that Socrates, "met and challenged his adult 'pupils' in the street, at dinner parties, after festivals, not at some Athenian Princeton" (Spayde, 47). Socrates did not teach exclusively at a college setting, but rather, he embodied the ancient Greek ideology that education, "came largely from firsthand experience, in the marketplace, in the Assembly, in the theater, and in the religious celebration; through what the Greek youth saw and heard" (Spayde, 47). In essence, daily living allows for education and constant learning. However, learning should include experiences that increase our knowledge about the world and ourselves. Throughout this article the concept of education and how we learn in today's society was analyzed. The author examined the idea that society is learning at a rapid pace and becomming involved with "fast knowledge" which ignores "all the richness and meaning slow knowledge adds to our lives. Indeed, slow knowledge is what's needed to save the planet from ecological disaster and other threats posed by technological, millennial society" (Spayde, 47). I find myself asking, are we learning to create new ideas or learning disconnected facts? I agree with the statement that learning and reading should be done "as long as we read what we read with love" (Spayde, 48). Education is a life long endeavor that is all around us in our schools, communities, daily routines, etc. Fortunately, I encountered an article that aroused my memories pertaining to education and learning. The concepts of "slow learning" and digesting information from your everyday surroundings is an intricate component to my education philosophy. I have to ask myself, would I feel this way and agree with the concepts in this article if I had not taken the time to read and ponder the Socratic Method and other philosophers? I must remember to thank some very important teachers that have impacted my life....

Answered by Catherine A. Nachbar (cnachbar@aol.com) on November 03, 1998.

-- Anonymous, November 11, 1998

A very interesting response. I have decided to read the article to which you refer. It has always been my own belief that we have strayed from the initial idea of education. When we look at the historical method of teaching at, say, Oxford, we find that students attached themselves to one professor. Through a period of time, they would walk and talk to him, using the Socratic method. After any given time, that teacher would pronounce you educated, and you would be granted a degree.There were no standardized tests, no specifically mandated curriculum. When your professor felt that you understood the necessary truths, you were pronounced a graduate. I wonder if our system today is really better, or just more quantifiable? Perhaps where we are today is a result of business-mandated education. It is imperative that we, as educators, realize, and promote the knowledge that education is an art form, not a quantifiable product-oriented business that can be pigeonholed by a balance sheet. In any case I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this article. John

-- Anonymous, November 13, 1998

Catherine: what a well-written, thought-provoking response! Your professor was truly enlightened, I think. So often I hear that liberal arts education is obsolete, only for the wealthy. What a comeback: Shorris telling his low-income adult education class on the humanities: "You've been cheated. Rich people learn the humanities; you didn't. The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reacting to whatever force is turned against you...Will the humanities make you rich? Absolutely. But not in terms of money. In terms of life." I work with so many people like the ones Shorris was dealing with; and so often I think we have education all backwards. Like your other responder said, it's quantifiable. But the excitement, the interesting stuff -- the slow knowledge -- is often missing, especially for the students with whom I so frequently work. Of course, like the Oberlin prof says, slow knowledge takes thoroughness and patience. Traits that perhaps our students are not willing to develop -- or am I short-changing them again? Anyway, I'll toss it all around -- the marvelous article, your professor's use of Socrates, your response -- maybe I will be able to come up with something new & better than I've done before.

Interesting to me, also, that Martha Nussbaum was the Baccalaureate speaker at my daughter's graduation from Williams College. In the article, Nussbaum says the ancients would writhe at the thought of a list of Great Books -- that the present culture also must inform our lives, as well as the classics. Makes me feel better that my Anthropology-degreed daughter's main preoccupations at the moment are editing a "what's happening now" journal, and(most importantly)her newly-formed rockband.I guess she listened that day in the chapel!

-- Anonymous, November 15, 1998

It is an inevitable life long journey to find pacification in death and what the afterlife may bring. Variations of heaven, purgatory, hell, absolute Nirvana, Maksha, and complete nothingness are among some of the theories that many individuals hold true to their hearts. Jeremiah Creedon examines some of these ideas in his article entitled "God With A Million Faces." According to Mr. Creedon, countless individuals are creating "new" religions by combing ancient beliefs found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. Observers of this phenomena have stated that this "religion a la carte involves combining various beliefs and practices from different sources, or even being a member of two or more distinct relations at the same time" (Creedon, 44). Naturally, various ethical questions arise from this phenomena such as, how can this occur? What side effects arise? And, What/who is being created? "New" religions are a part of ancient history. At one time Catholicism was considered a quaint Roman cult that was suspect to "drink blood" and pray for a man by the name of Jesus Christ. This religion eventually consumed the Roman empire and assisted Constantine with relocating to modern day Istanbul. This point is relevant to reflect upon because one of the World's most prominent religions started as a small group that was criticized by the masses and eventually blossomed into a world practice. Therefore, these groups that are currently combining beliefs may actually be the building blocks of tomorrow's world philosophies and religious theories. Subsequently, some would argue that I have just "stretched" the truth, but I would reply what did Mohammed, Jesus, and Sidartha do? Religion seems to be under constant reconstruction and criticism. According to Creedon, this drive to create new religions today could be attributed to new technological advances and a desire for people to find a belief that fits their needs. Another possible idea Jeremiah Creedon offers is that these new religions are a result of "demographic changes that have brought many face-to-face with formerly 'exotic' religious beliefs especially those of Asia. This era may have begun with the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated a long-standing bias against Asians and other people enforced through quotas based on national origin. The new immigrants included many spiritual teachers whose influence would eventually extend beyond their immediate followers into the popular culture" (Creedon 45). Due to the fact that the United States established a 'Gentleman's Agreement' with Asian countries that limited the amount of Asian immigrants, the Act of 1965 brought in new people and additional information that assisted with creating new interest in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. In addition to this, I agree with Creedon's point that we live in an information overload era. Countless books, journals, and responses can be downloaded in minutes from the internet providing information about different religious beliefs. Individuals have had time to come in contact with people from other countries and locate resources on the internet. Astonishingly, there are vast numbers of religious groups today. According to the Encyclopedia of American Religions there are over 2,100 "a figure that has almost doubled in 20 years" (Creedon 45). In fact, this same source states that "the United States is generally considered to be the most religious country in the Western industrial world." It is difficult to know where this phenomena to create a religious collage will take us. Possibly, the best idea is to allow people creative license to construct a religion that suites their needs. There will always be critics who will judge, pre-judge, and scrutinize individuals who create their own religion but judging is nothing new to history. Didn't the Romans judge Jesus and hang him for his actions? I find the historic actions of yesterday ringing loudly through this article. Maybe the key to understanding religion is first finding our true self. Just food for thought...

-- Anonymous, January 05, 1999

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