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The Proposal for George Wythe University
A Renaissance in Education
In 2006 an internal George Wythe Foundation white paper outlined the case for George Wythe University. This document is being published in its entirety in The Statesman over the course of several months. What follows is Part VI. Click here for Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.
The George Wythe University Proposal - Continued
Pedagogy, Mentors & Parents
The foundation of building statesmen is a set of educational principles known as “Thomas Jefferson Education.” These principles are divided into three categories as follows:
Seven Keys of Great Teaching
|Five Environments of Education
Four Phases of Learning
The masterful application of these principles is what we refer to as the Art of Teaching. Mortimer Adler wrote an excellent essay on this concept in which he contrasts Productive Arts with Cooperative Arts. As he put it,
All the arts so far mentioned, whether liberal or servile in the ancient sense of those terms, and whether useful or fine in the modern sense, are productive arts. The artist in all these instances has the skill of producing something that would not come into existence without his effort to use his mind productively. Without skilled human beings at work, the things produced would not exist. Natural causes or forces, without human intervention, would not produce them.
Thus, for example, caves that can be used as shelters for human beings are purely natural things. So, too, are the calluses that form on the soles of the feet and serve, as do shoes, the process of walking. But shoes are artificial, not natural; and so, too, is the simplest hut or house that serves, as does the natural cave, the purpose of sheltering.
In short, the materials out of which useful things are made, left to themselves, would not naturally tend to produce these things. Useful products emerge only when human artists intervene to fashion, shape, or transform raw materials into the desired products.
Now consider such things as the fruits and grains we eat, the health we possess, and the knowledge or understanding we acquire. We might call these things, respectively, the products of agriculture, of medicine, and of education.
In the case of the fruits and grains, as well as edible animal organisms, prehistoric people were hunters and gatherers. This means that the edibles they consumed were all products of nature, which they merely picked or killed in order to consume them. Farming began when human beings acquired the skill of working with nature to facilitate the production of fruits and grains and also edible animal organisms. Farming thus became the first of the cooperative arts.
Long before the art of medicine came into existence, human beings possessed health as a result of natural causes. They also recovered from illness and regained health as the operation of natural causes. Medicine or the art of healing emerged when humans acquired the skill of co-operating with these natural processes to preserve health or to facilitate its recovery after a bout with illness.
Hippocrates, whom we in the West regard as the father of medicine, wrote treatises setting forth the rules of healing as a cooperative art. They were rules for controlling the regimen of the patient, the food he ate, the air he breathed, his hours of waking and sleeping, the water he drank, the exercise he engaged in, and so forth.
Administering drugs, introducing foreign substances into the body, Hippocrates regarded as the least cooperative of all medical treatments. Surgery he regarded as a drastic measure to be resorted to only when all cooperative methods failed; it was, strictly speaking, an operative rather than a cooperative procedure.
Finally, we come to teaching, and here it is Socrates who first depicted teaching as a cooperative art. He did so by comparing his own style of teaching with the work of a midwife. It is the mother, not the midwife, who goes through the pains of childbirth to deliver the child. The mid-wife merely cooperates with the process, helping the mother in her efforts, and making childbirth a little easier and a little more hygienic.
Another way of saying this is to point out that teachers, like midwives, are always dispensable. Children can be born without midwives. Knowledge and understanding can be acquired without teachers, through the purely natural operations of the human mind. If any art at all is involved in this process, it is the intellectual skill of the learner, not the art of the teacher.
Teachers who regard themselves as the principal, even the sole cause of learning that occurs in their students, simply do not understand teaching as a cooperative art. They think of themselves as producing knowledge or understanding in the minds of their students as shoemakers produce shoes out of pliable or plastic materials.
Only when teachers realize that the principle cause of learning that occurs in a student is the activity of the student's own mind do they assume the role of cooperative artists. While the activity of the learner's mind is the principle cause of all learning, it is not the sole cause. Here the teacher steps in as a secondary and cooperative cause.
Just as, in the view of Hippocrates, surgery is a departure from healing as a cooperative art, so, in the view of Socrates, didactic teaching, or teaching by lecturing or telling rather than teaching by questioning and discussion, is a departure from teaching as a cooperative art.
Anyone acquainted with the present deplorable state of education in our schools and colleges will . . . realize how far teaching has departed from its mission as a cooperative art . . . We face a need for profound educational reform that will affect generations to come and the whole fabric of our society.
The ideal educational structure for statesmanship approaches faculty in an innovative manner. In addition to the twenty-two Professors who give traditional lectures, faculty are hired as full-time mentors. Mentors are professionals recruited from the top schools and companies in the nation and abroad. Faculty are chosen on the basis of three criteria:
1) Practical experience and wisdom
2) Knowledge base
3) The ability to teach and inspire
Along with outstanding academic and/or real life experience backgrounds, faculty members are chosen for their proven ability to exemplify courage and excellence under fire in real life experiences. A university of statesmanship must know the value of worthy role models and assemble its faculty accordingly. Gifted teaching ability (the skill of inspiring students) is the most important characteristic of all.
Because the GWC methodology is non-traditional, and in order to perpetuate it, at least half of all mentors will always be George Wythe College graduates—and each mentor needs to be skilled at leading the student through the discovery process.
For learning requires a mentor—an Athena, a Virgil, a Beatrice—to lead and teach, guide and instruct . . . showing their charges how to learn, stepping back when the pupil begins to see and to understand on his own.
Parents play a critical role in the student’s preparation to attend George Wythe University. But it may be during attendance that parents provide the greatest service to their student and the nation. The statesmanship process is difficult; it will push any student beyond all preconceived limits and really stretch her capacity in ways never before imagined. Consider the young Christian missionary writing home and complaining of the difficulty of the work and being homesick. His father replied that the family missed him and were anxious for the day of his return, but that his best advice was to “forget himself and go to work.” May we offer the suggestion that parents give the same advice to their study weary students.
Next month's installment will discuss the proposal for a permanent campus.
The Proposal for George Wythe University was written in 2006 by Shanon D. Brooks, then CEO of George Wythe College, based on ideals and plans formulated by Oliver DeMille during the 1990's. The Proposal was presented to the George Wythe Foundation board of trustees and the American Academy for Liberal Education at the time of GWC's application for accreditation.PrintShare this article with a Friend