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News & Views - Nov, 1990 Issue 

Education Reform
Adler, Mortimer J.
REFORMING EDUCATION: The Opening of the American Mind.
NY:MacMillan Pub. Co., 1988

This is an update of a previous book by Adler and is his most recent publication supporting the Paideia Project. He promotes the argument that the Liberal Arts must be the basis of education if we are to have a truly educated and responsible citizenry. Adler sees training in the Liberal Arts as the indispensable way to develop the thinking skills which he breaks down into "the skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, calculating, and measuring." Once a student has mastered these skills, Adler asserts, then and only then is the student prepared to master any field's subject matter.

The author approaches it from another way in seeing the goal of education as helping students become better human beings, and this is done by helping them learn good virtues (habits). He emphasizes the intellectual and academic, but he might well look at Special Purpose schools as another model of how these skills can be taught. Special Purpose schools have found a another way to teach basic thinking skills within the context of helping young people with emotional/behavior problems.

As a rule, Special Purpose schools and programs are very verbal schools, and communication is a major tool. Talking, listening, and observing the actions of others is practiced all the time by the students as a way to get in touch with the emotional pain causing self-destructive and anti-social behavior. When a student spends countless hours learning to express his or her real feelings and thoughts to the critical audience of peers and no-nonsense faculty, the student's speaking skills improve dramatically. At the same time, this can only happen when the student develops the ability to listen carefully to the feedback of others. It has also been noticed that as a student's verbal facility increases, his or her writing facility increases, which has a positive impact on their reading ability. So when Special Purpose schools help the student learn success values such as honesty, trust, accountability, and responsibility (moral values), the schools are also teaching intellectual values (speaking, listening, writing, reading). Thinking skills are, of course, further developed in their more traditional academic curriculum. As a consequence, Special Purpose schools meet many of the goals Adler calls for. Educators would do well to learn how these schools are accomplishing this since much could be imported into more traditional schools.

Copyright 1990, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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