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SUSPENDED ANIMATION

This blog is in suspended animation. I’m caught with some intense research right now and blogging once every couple of weeks does not do good by those of you who’ve been coming here frequently.

Thanks a lot for reading and I hope to be back online sometime between 4-6 months from now.

teacher at a school 150 years ago

Last March, when I was interviewing a few teaching candidates, one told me that “Teaching was a Woman’s job” and that men “should find themselves something better.”

 

I have often wondered what some of the historical reasons for the predominance of women in our classrooms are. Last week, while researching American Education History, I came across an interesting fact that throws some light on this.

 

The Carnegie unit and the Graded classroom are typical of schools all over the world; so it is the case in America. But it has not always been so. Before Horace Mann, American Educator and Politician went across the pond, visited schools and came back with the idea of the graded school, American education and classrooms were vertically grouped.

 

What that meant was that students aged 5 to 20 were schooled together in the same class. Because of presence of older students, men were required to maintain order in the classrooms. As the graded classroom evolved and students of the same age started being schooled together to the exclusion of other ages, managing them because easier. This ushered in women into American classrooms.

 

The same is seen even today – the percentage of men teaching High School is significantly higher than the percentage teaching elementary school.

ONE FOR THE SOFTBOARD

I have been reading about Kurt Hahn. I have marked interest in his work and ideas. Doon, the school I attended, based many tenets of its constitution in his philosophy. The Outward Bound Schools also owe their vision to his dreams.

I wanted to share this fantastic quote by him:

A great teacher never sets himself above his students except in carrying responsibilities.”

This one is going onto my softboard.

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

It’s been a fantastic 2 weeks.

 

I’ve been in Cambridge (not the one in the UK) getting settled in before I start a chock full of courses in Education. Some interesting things I’ve noticed:

 

1. The Harvard Graduate School of Education has a Great Community Spirit. Everyone here wants to help in making sure you get settled in well, that you know who to turn to for anything and everything and that you make the most of the time that you have here. The Orientation last for 8 days- which is much longer than at most other schools at Harvard and possibly, at most schools around the world.

 

2. MIT is far more relaxed than Harvard. I went for a class over at the MIT Media Lab the other day and my classroom was more like a music studio. Lots of Computer Screens mounted on the walls (the large Plasma TV ones), music, leather sofas, a Lazy Boy and people sitting on desks (whatever few there were) etc. This was a real class. The Professor turned up in a Jacket and after making a statement about how that was important since ‘first impressions count’ – he proceeded to take it off and swore never to wear it again to class. Sure, grad school is very different from school but there is scope for considering a similar engagement in our schoolhouses- I definitely felt a lot at ease studying there.

 

3. Harvard is very complicated in the rubric and nomenclature across schools. One course means different things at different schools, and 30 hours of work (normally one credit at most schools) could be variously called 3 credits (Business School), 4 credits (Ed School) or 1 credit (School of Government) making it very difficult for people to fathom whether they are really meeting requirements for graduation. What makes it stranger is that all schools start at different times and even have different term-systems – terms at the Business School and just 3 at the Ed School every year, for example. But it seems that at the end of next year, after 350 years of existence, all the Harvard Schools are going to attempt to come to a uniform system. I’m sure that will be a huge relief to everyone concerned.

 

The most amazing thing I’ve learned, over at MIT of course, where everyone recounts it gleefully, is that Harvard once tried to buy MIT. This was a hundred years ago when MIT was not much more than an engineering school. Harvard didn’t have an engineering school so they thought it would behove them to take over their neighbours. As it turned out, all the faculty at MIT revolted and Harvard had to back off.

 

Now that I’m settled in and have got myself a new machine (from Apple- too bad they didn’t knock off $200 on their MacBooks like they did on the IPhone), I should be on the blog with the same frequency as before.

 

Giorgi, a colleague, enlightened me about the Bologna Convention today. I had never heard of the Bologna Convention before today and when he told me about it, I thought it was a great idea.

 

The process that kickstarted in 1998 with the Sorbonne Declaration is an attempt to get most of the European Higher Education system on the same page by 2010.

 

This would mean that across Europe (I am told that the US has shown interest in joining too) all schools would try and achieve equivalence of credits, curricula and calendars. This would make it easier for students to move between universities and seek jobs more easily within the EU.

 

Indirect benefits of this will be:

1. Greater diversity in classrooms across the EU.

2. Universities that have fallen behind in keeping with the pace of change would probably get their act together and come up to a common minimum standard acceptable to all.

3. Students would be able to cheery pick the best courses at the best faculties across all universities in the common area- this would again put pressure on universities to become more contemporary to remain competitive.

 

I am assuming that an important policy decision would be to strive for a common language of teaching across Europe as well. While universities would continue to teach in national language, English would have to be offered as a common language in order for this integration to be successful. It’s not much help allowing students to move from Sweden to Italy to study in classrooms where they don’t understand the language.

 

Read more about the Bologna convention and it’s timelines here.

 

I was supposed to be off the blog until I reached Boston.

Then I came across a nice story about behaviour modification in a six-year old. Homework goes Vroom, a must read, will tell you how a six-year-old was ‘gulled’ into loving spelling and giving up his precious train set.

(Post Rating: There is a little profanity, so if you think you’d be bothered by it, skip this, and head to our other posts here)

I’m going to be travelling to Boston this evening. I’m going via Amsterdam (where there is a three hour wait) – will arrive in Boston a good 19 hours after I leave India.

Once in Boston, it’s setting up the house that’s going to consume our energy.

I will try and blog regularly; do pardon me for any hiatus though.

Until I write from the other end of the world, Good Day!

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