I just started reading a book that’s been on my Shelfari “Plan to Read” shelf for about a year. It’s called Six Great Ideas by Mortimer J. Adler. As I started reading this book, I realized that it touches on both of my academic passions: literature and philosophy (more of the latter, to be sure). I also realized that I would want to respond to it. A lot.
Solution: Online Reader’s Journal. I plan on posting some key quotes and my responses to the text as I read through the book. Hopefully it’s not too tedious to read, especially since I’ll start it now.
o o o
Reader’s Journal, Six Great Ideas, chapters 1-2
“It cannot be too often repeated that philosophy is everybody’s business. To be a human being is to be endowed with the proclivity to philosophize. To some degree we all engage in philosophical thought in the course of our daily lives.
Acknowledging this is not enough. It is also necessary to understand why this is so and what philosophy’s business is.
The answer, in a word, is ideas. In two words, it is great ideas – the ideas basic and indispensable to understanding ourselves, our society, and the world in which we live.”
“Ideas, as objects of thought, do exist. The idea of truth or of justice does not cease to exist when I cease to think about it, for others can be thinking about it when I am not. However, unlike the chair I am sitting on or the book you are holding in your hand, which does not cease to exist as a perceptible object when no one is perceiving it, objects of thought do cease to exist as intelligible objects when no one at all is thinking about them…Ideas exist objectively, but not with the reality that belongs to physical things.”
Adler’s comments in the first lines of his book (Quote 1) line up very well with what I continue to believe – that everyone should “do” philosophy. Philosophy covers the most elemental aspects of what it means to be human, and requires developing strong thinking skills and good habits of mind – exactly why I’m trying to put together a course curriculum for a Philosophy class.
The 6 great ideas, which he mentions in the first chapter, are truth, goodness, and beauty (the ideas we judge by) and liberty, equality, and justice (those ideas we act on). These strike me as being very elemental ideas and very much worth studying/discussing in school
While I found Adler’s discussion of the nature of “ideas” and the two types of ideas (subjective ideas and objective ideas) interesting, I’m not sure a lot of people would feel the same way. The writing is definitely slanted towards those with a predisposition to philosophical thinking and reading
The final idea, though (Quote 2) is fascinating to me. What is an “idea”? Is it a “real” thing, or just something that doesn’t really exist? Adler makes an interesting argument – that there are two distinct kinds of ideas. The first, subjective ideas, are those thoughts that only I can have. The second, objective ideas, are those “big ideas” that everyone can think about (like truth, justice, etc.). I like this distinction, though again, it might seem boring and meaningless to the average reader.
So far, pretty interesting book.
I’ve been watching Ted Koppel’s The People’s Republic of Capitalism on the Discovery Channel – a program that has been both informative and very fascinating. I would highly recommend that anyone watch this series.
As I watched the second episode (on my DVR – something I’ll post about another time), Ted Koppel was interviewing a young man (who now goes by Alan) who spent most of his life in China, save for one year in Washington state as an exchange student. Listening to him talk seemed to shed a different light on an issue that is a really big deal on this side of the Pacific: education. Since “A Nation at Risk,” the motivation for increased standards and testing has typically been global competition. It’s not hard to find articles and statistics touting the superiority of the Chinese education system – just look at all the jobs that have been outsourced to China (which was the main subject of the first episode).
During his interview with Koppel, Alan seems to disagree with the contention that American education is failing. “Everything is developing and the focus now, here, is economic development…I sometimes just feel that my imagination, my mind, is blocked and I feel it’s very terrible – my mind is empty; I cannot create anything…I think it’s a result of the Chinese education because the Chinese education does not encourage students to create or imagine. They just tell you 1 is 1, 2 is 2 and don’t forget it. 1 and 1 is 2. Yeah, so, no imagination.”
Are we so sure that our students are failing? Are we really at risk? If we truly believe in what we call the 21st century skills – most notably creative and critical thinking – doesn’t Alan’s statement suggest that we’re on the right track?
I’ll have more observations from this series over the weekend, but until then, I’d recommend watching it – it’s worth your time.
Just finished up with the seminar portion of our first day.
In the first session, I attended a seminar on Creative Design – making documents more attractive and professional. It was a nice combination of the technology portion (different features in Word) and art/visual theory (where to locate important information on a page, for example). Very cool seminar that I’m already implementing in my documents for next year.
The second seminar I attended was on a fantastic program – Inspiration. I hadn’t really played with this program at all, though it’s been on my laptop since I got it in the fall. I have to say – it’s awesome. Essentially, it’s a tool for diagramming ideas – “making thinking visual” as the presenter said. It uses features that are just beautifully integrated – a visual/graphic organizer, an outline, various word processing tools, drawing tools, clip art, etc. As we were walking through the program, it was hard not to think of all the different potential uses in my classroom – outlining essays, constructing arguments, analyzing poetry, interpreting literature. Definitely a potentially exciting program.
Right now, we’re in perhaps the most exciting part of the conference – the collaborative planning time. Unfortunately, my department-mates aren’t here, so it’s pretty much my own implementation time. Even so, it’s paid (clock hours) time to work on putting our learning into action. I love this district.