"A number of years ago I helped found George Wythe College, and one of my first responsibilities was researching just how Wythe mentored Jefferson. From that intensive research, and years of additional reading and studying, I found Seven Keys of Great Teaching which form the core of great mentoring." A Thomas Jefferson Education, p. 39Below are those Seven Keys and why I think they are wrong:
1. Classics, Not Textbooks.
It's not the classics I have a problem with, but rather the exclusion of textbooks. Textbooks are like a long tutorial, a course for helping the student gain mastery in a particular field or body of knowledge. Good textbooks build on concepts one after another in progression. They help the thinking process. Classics usually are not methodical or focus on one body of knowledge. They are broader than that. Both Textbooks and classics serve their different purposes. Just as textbooks should not be used in place of classics, neither should classics be used in place of textbooks.
"Virtually every subject is most effectively learned directly from the greatest thinkers, historians, artists, philosophers, scientists, prophets and their original works." Leadership Education, p.34Why isn't it true that the most effective way to learn is from the greatest teacher, the one that can explain the concept the best? Newton may have been the first to write about calculus, but that doesn't mean he is the best person to learn it from. We've had hundred of years to reflect on what Newton wrote and to refine our ways to explain it. We have lots of methods and approaches to choose from, and there's no reason to think that reading Newton is the best way to learn calculus.
Also, isn't the knowledge what we want to learn? If calculus is just "true," does it matter how you learn it? If the laws of chemistry just "are" then it doesn't really matter which book you read on it, or who taught you, or really even how you learned it, as long as you learned it. Someone who masters chemistry through Cliffs Notes I think is better off than someone who reads a chemistry "classic" and ends up learn very little chemistry. It's interesting and perhaps inspiring to read the pioneers of their fields to see how they made discovers and developed theories, but that does not mean they explain them in the best way.
I think you should use both: classics for great ideas and inspiration, textbooks for mastering bodies of knowledge.
2. Mentors, Not Professors.
Most leaders in history did not have mentors for the great things they did (see previous post). This is a little bit of a quandary. The great men and women were not mentored to become great. They did not follow other people's footsteps. They blazed their own trails, went against the current, and did what they believed they should do. How do you foster that? How do you "mentor" independence and greatness? You may be able to instruct and train the individual in different aspects, but then the individual will be responsible for synergizing everything he has learned and do something great with it all. Maybe you can set the example of trying your best, believing in yourself, etc., but still the individual must go their own way, without a mentor.
Mentoring cannot take the mentee all the way he needs to go. It can only take him as far as the mentor has gone. And looking at history, the great leaders seem to all have gone way beyond any mentoring they had, if any. So I would actually not emphasize mentoring but actually foster independence, skills and knowledge that the individual could then draw on to make their own path. This is where professors help. They are experts in specific fields. They offer their expertise, and like textbooks, present the information in the optimal way in their estimation so that they can convey that expertise to the student.
I would rather encourage my student to rely on his own internal compass and go his own way, while I provide for him knowledge, skills, and experience with the help of experts in their fields. I would provide examples and exposure to great people, but I would not encourage too much mentoring.
3. Inspire, Not Require.
I've been to Basic Training. There's not a lot of "inspiring" that goes on in Basic Training. When you first get there, there are several large, angry, yelling men ordering you what to do and how to do it. When you do it wrong (and they purposefully create contradictions so that there is no way you can do it right), then they punish you. This has got to be nearly the exact opposite of the TJEd approach as there could be, and probably is not what most people would recommend for teaching children, which I would tend to agree with. But, aside from my two-year-mission, this was probably the greatest experience of my life. Let me explain.
I had a desire to serve my country. I signed up to do so knowing full well what I was getting myself into. I had talked to several people about what to expect at Basic Training. I was going on my own volition with sufficient understanding. That's important. I was not forced. I had been inspired, now I was going to be seriously required. You cannot fully appreciate many things without experiencing them yourself. Knowing something intellectually is just not the same as knowing it emotionally, or experiencing it yourself. We constantly ran to places, constantly were doing push-ups for several minutes continuously, constantly having to stand at attention and not move (sometimes for hours), marching in formation, and getting only a few hours of sleep every night. Basic Training lasted about 9 weeks and by about the end of week 2, any kind of fun being "in the Army" was over. We were convinced that they only treated us this way in the beginning, and that now that we kind of "get it," they will back off. We didn't really expect that we could last 7 more more weeks of this daily, non-stop abuse.
Well, that's not how Basic Training works. They never did let up on us. I believe that there are two main reasons why the Army treats recruits so harshly for so long, and they both have to do with ensuring the men are prepared to be effective soldiers:
1) They need to show you your weaknesses and limits. People can control their emotions and hide deficiencies if they are able to avoid having to face them. Ever know anyone who was a jerk or ignorant but because he had enough money he didn't care or maybe even acknowledge that he had any shortcomings? Well, what would happen if he lost all his money? His buffer to hide behind his faults would disappear and he would be faced with his true self, and all his shortcomings would affect him much more than before. This is one reason why they don't let you sleep in Basic Training, why they put you in such hard situations that cause you to fail, and why they make you do push ups until you hurt, bad. At that breaking point, that point where your buffer is gone, where you can't do it no matter what you try, that's when you have to decide what you are made of. You can't read that in a book. That's not someone else's experience. It's yours. And you don't know for sure what you'll do, until you are at that point. You don't know what it feels like, until you feel it. The Army brings you to that point, repeatedly, and you understand what your deficiencies are, and you know yourself much better.
2) The other main reason I think is that the Drill Sergeant needs to give you new boundaries and expectations. Whenever you go anywhere in Basic Training, you march, or run in formation. Before you march you have to form up. The men will not form up correctly, or fast enough, so the Drill Sergeant will require them to do push-ups, or some other equally difficult physical exercise, in cadence, with the proper vocalization from all participants, in the proper manner, or else you get in deeper trouble and have to do it for longer or in a more difficult way. This is constant for everything in Basic Training. It gets really old when you haven't slept in days and the Drill Sergeant won't let you go to the Mess Hall because all 60 men formed up in 20 seconds instead of 19 seconds, and one guy was a half-inch out of line (this is really how it is). You are constantly "getting smoked." Terrible, right? Mean Drill Sergeants, right? Let me describe a turning point for me and the other guys in Basic Training.
Periodically you have physical fitness testing in Basic Training which for us was push-ups, sit-ups and a 2-mile run. Most athletes probably would say that you shouldn't over-exert yourself too soon before your race or meet or whatever. Not so in Basic Training. About 2/3 of the way through Basic Training, we were in the barracks and the Drill Sergeant came bursting in yelling and telling us how we'd screwed up something. We knew what was going to happen. We were going to have to stand at attention by our bunks and then we were going to get "smoked." and this was the night before a big physical fitness test. The Drill Sergeant had often said, "I want to see the walls sweat," and that usually meant we were going to get smoked for awhile.
But a remarkable thing happened. The Drill Sergeant made us do push-ups, then sit-ups, then jumping-jacks "in cadence" over and over and over, like usual. But this time we were keeping up with him. As it went on we got louder and louder, did more and more push-ups, etc. We started chanting "you can't smoke a rock." This went on so long that the Drill Sergeant got tired and stopped barking commands and we did them ourselves, to ourselves. He left and went into his office and we just kept on going doing push-ups, and sit-ups, in the cadence that had been going on. We did this for 3 hours with no break. Near the end the Drill Sergeant came back out of his office and told us to look at the walls. They were wet and dripping with condensation from the heat of our bodies. The walls were sweating. We had always thought this was some colorful and exaggerated expression that Drill Sergeants liked to use for emphasis about how hard they were going to smoke us. But it actually happened. He ordered us to stop and go to bed, and we all cheered in defiance that we didn't want to. But we did comply and we went to bed. The next day at the physical fitness test, we were all bursting with confidence. It was noticed by other Drill Sergeants and trainees. I don't remember the scores, but I think they were pretty good.
The Drill Sergeants were not allowed to physically touch us. Everything they required us to do was through non-physically-forced means. They always said the quickest way out of Basic Training was to graduate, because if you wanted to quit, they would just send you over to the "Quitter's Barracks" to await out-processing, which of course took months, longer than Basic Training itself, and you spent your time doing nearly the same thing as you did before you quit, or else you got thrown into a hard-labor military prison. So, we were all highly-motivated to get through it all. There really was no other way out. So all those push-ups, and all those times we got "smoked" they never touched us. In fact, I think the only physical contact I had with my Drill Sergeant was when I shook his hand when I got my completion certificate at graduation. And you can imagine what it felt like for him and me to shake hands at this moment. He didn't care about any of our whining and he totally ignored our views on what we thought our limits were. So I thank my Drill Sergeant for inspiring me and molding me. All he did was require me to do things. But through being compressed and put through the refiners fire, I came out a much better man. Lots of trainees wanted to be Drill Sergeants after this experience, myself included.
How far should these lessons from Basic Training be carried over to education? Children are not at the same level of maturity or emotional stability as recruits so definitely a Basic Training atmosphere would be in appropriate for children. We were of age, had been checked by doctors and cleared to participate in Basic Training, and we all volunteered. However, I think there's still something to be said of the benefit of requiring students to perform and achieve at certain levels. This requires judgment and wisdom of course, as every child and situation is different, but that's not a refutation of the principle of requiring, just that you need to be wise in doing it. I gained huge amounts of inspiration to push myself and achieve from the requirements of Basic Training that still affect me today. Doing your best, then blowing through that and excelling even farther is exhilarating. Often a person cannot simply inspire themselves to get to that point. They need help from outside. That's what coaches do. They observe the athlete and require them to perform better.
I think you need to both inspire and require the student. Inspire them to be required by you to achieve, in wisdom and being sensitive to the specific attributes of the child. I didn't like my Drill Sergeant initially, but quickly I began to trust him. I trusted that he would never make me do anything dangerous and I trusted him that he knew how to train me to become and effective soldier. I think this is important for children. They need to trust that you know what you are doing in requiring them to do things. If they believe that it will result in success or achievement, they will do it. And after a few times of this pattern with you (you require, they do it and observe the progress), they will be much more likely to accept requirements from you in the future. If you say, "now if you do this course, you will be able to do this other thing" and they try it and see that you were right, they will be inspired to have you give them requirements to do things, in wisdom and not going overboard of course.
We are required to do lots of things in life, aren't we? I'm required to make money for my family. I am required to do some boring, non-inspiring things as part of that. We are required to clean up after ourselves. We are required to get along with others. We have obligations. I think there is some value in knowing how to deal with being required to do things, including things you don't want to do. Like anything else this can be taken to the extreme, but on both ends: of always requiring the child to do things, and never requiring the child to do things.
One last point on this. Doesn't Heavenly Father require things of His children? Has He not set requirements for being able to return and live with Him? There are requirements to be baptized and certain conditions must be met before you can do that. There are requirements for a young man to be able to bless and pass the sacrament, and for members to partake of the sacrament. There are requirements that have to be met before you go to the temple. All commandments could be seen as requirements. But the Lord's pattern seems to be to an establish standards and requirements, but not force us to do them, yet we are blessed by complying, We have to work out our own salvation which includes satisfying those requirements and being obedient. It's up to us, yet the Lord doesn't leave us alone to figure it out. He provides scriptures and inspiration and revelation, teachers, programs, and leaders. He establishes the requirements, explains them to us, doesn't force us to comply, and provides all sorts of help along the way. I think this is a model to emulate when it comes to requiring our children to do things.
4. Structure Time, Not Content.
I think the exact reverse is the way to go. Don't public schools just structure the day with bells every hour, where you have to be in class regardless of whether you are learning anything? What if it took you 3 days to learn your times tables? Do it, master it, move on or take a break. I think it's better to explain to the child what things she should read or learn and then set a goal of when she will have it done. Then let her figure out when to do it. And if she finishes early, then she can play around for awhile. (The next time, though, shorten the goal time). This will not quash any curiosity to learn. By structuring content, you are not saying that this is all there is to learn, just that this thing is required. Leave unstructured time for her to explore and think about things, tinker and experiment with things, but make sure she has some things that she needs to learn. If this is coupled with what I describe in the "Require" section above, she will trust you when she sees improvement and progress.
I think it's helpful to have a sort of roadmap of the body of knowledge being learned. For example, for math, go over the different topics, like fractions, and graphs, and equations. Expose her to the things she will be learning and explain how she needs to master certain concepts before she can do those later exercises. Help her see where she is on the map, where she's been and where she's going. Haven't you ever looked at a university course catalog and thought, "that class looks, great. What are the prerequisites?" And then you consider taking the prerequisites so that you can take that great class? That's the same kind of idea I am describing for showing kinds a roadmap of things to learn within a certain body of knowledge.
This is easier to do for some topics, like math, but harder for others, like history or literature. I think it's not a bad idea to make up a roadmap with your child and for your child for the year or longer. Wanna to learn about Chaos Theory? Gotta get that Newtonian Physics down first. Wanna learn to paint life-like scenes? Gotta learn some color theory first, and perspective, and shading. In fact, just the other day I told my kids that if they finish a certain piano book to the satisfaction of their mother, then they can play whatever other instrument they want and I'll get them the instrument and the lessons. That's is not to say they would never be allowed play another instrument unless they finish that book. Just that if they did finish that book it would demonstrate a level of proficiency of reading music and playing the piano so I would be convinced that they would be ready to try something else. And they can do this whenever and as early as they want. It's a standing offer. I'd love my five-year-old to tell me she finished the book and wants to try the flute or whatever. (One exception: the harp is out of the picture. Daddy doesn't make that much money). So in a sense I structured the content by requiring things to must be learned in order to be on the fasttrack to do something else, and they are working towards it. But note that I am not requiring them to finish the piano book, but if they do, they automatically get to try another instrument, whereas they might have to wait longer otherwise. I don't think that's harsh or a punishment at all, but in fact motivating.
5. Quality, Not Conformity.
DeMille only give two levels of evaluation of work by the student:
"When Scholars do an assignment, either say 'great work' or 'do it again.'... "For homeschoolers, don't give them grades. Just 'great work' or 'do it again.' A Thomas Jefferson Education, p.46
And DeMille is not being figurative, he really means you either give a "GW" or "DA." I don't think this gives enough feedback or measurable evaluation. One thing a teacher or mentor does for the student is help give perspective on how well the student did on the assignment. I think it's good to have some sort of grading scheme that is known to the student so that they can really gauge how well they did. This will help both with the students tracking his own improvement over time, and with comparing his work to the work of others. I am not saying that the point is to compare his work to others, but there is benefit in knowing how well it compares. That's what happens in the real world, isn't it? People's works are evaluated and compared and usually the one with the highest rating wins.
I'm not a big fan of competition, but I do recognize that the Olympic athletes probably would not excel as much as they do if they didn't know that the guy in Lane 4 runs it in under 52, or the tall girl from Sweden can clear 6 foot (or whatever). The focus for the child is not competing against others, but a measure of excellency and improvement. People say you can't improve if you don't measure and track performance over time, and you can't measure very well with a "GW" or "DA." I think every parent should figure out what measure is appropriate for their child, but I do think there should be some form of grading and measurement.
6. Simplicity, Not Complexity.
I agree that there should be simplicity in curriculum and schedule, but some topics are complex. Since DeMille just uses terms in the "Seven Keys" and not statements, it's hard to comment on this because it is vague. There's not really an assertion here. I guess my only comment is that this only refers to the structure around the schooling of the child, not what the child is actually learning.
7. You, Not Them.
This is totally backwards. No, it is all about them. DeMille says to "set the example." Well of course, but that's way different then only focusing on yourself. Those of you unfamiliar with TJEd will probably be surprised to find to what extent DeMille argues this point. He really means that you should not spend time actively helping your child to learn. You only focus on your own education. He argues that what will happen is that the child will observe you studying and then will want to study himself at which point you can converse with the child on what he has read. It is absolutely passive in the extreme, and the child decides what, when, and how he wants to study, if at anything, because you should not make the child study if he doesn't want to.
"In fact, education is very, very simple. Teachers set the example by reading, pondering, writing about and discussion classics, and sharing their loves, interests and ideas with students. And students get inspired, go to work, find the study difficult, and go back to the teacher for encouragement. When they get it, they return to the difficult process of learning. Learning is difficult, but the process is not complex." A Thomas Jefferson Education, p. 72This is way different that "don't push the kid too far" or "don't ignore your own education" or even "the child will be more likely to want to study if you like to study." This pendulum has swung far to the other side. You are the adult. You are the parent. You are in charge of the curriculum for your child. Of course you don't want to impose some terrible, arbitrary course of study and make your child hate you and schoolwork. But the answer is not to abandon it completely. With DeMille's approach, somehow the child will just be inspired to study by seeing you study (especially in the afternoon, when you cleverly read a bestseller in eyesight). Somehow this is supposed to be an "individualized" approach for the child, but it really just leaves the education up to the child entirely. The child will somehow have the ability to judge all the things that are important for him to learn now, how he should learn them, and at what pace. I think that is the job of the parent or teacher.
"If you are wondering how to get students to read Newton, you are asking the wrong question. The question is: Have you read Newton? If you haven’t, you’ve got some homework.” A Thomas Jefferson Education, p.85
"Focus on your education, and invite them along for the ride." Leadership Education, p.37 (emphasis original)
"Afternoons are for setting the example...When fingers get too cold from the snow or pants too fund of sand, little feet trudge back into the house to find Mom reading a current bestseller or with a worn classic in her lap, following up on family duties, studying Hebrew or French, researching current events online or corresponding with one of her many friends, or on the phone arranging a service opportunity. In such examples, lessons are taught." Leadership Education, p.84 ,85
"Teachers are to educate themselves, and to inspire others. This is what teaching means; it is what teaching is. When teachers inspire, students study." Leadership Education, p. 85-86
"If you don’t read math classics, how can inspire him to read them? You can’t? The answer to the question, “How do I actually do it?” is that you get started. You don’t have to be an expert to teach well, you don’t have to have a degree or years of experience teaching the subject, but you do have to read the classics, get excited about them, and pass your enthusiasm and new knowledge to the student.” A Thomas Jefferson Education, p.73
"Don’t permit the student to attempt to write about something that doesn’t interest her. This is a dead end of frustration and bad habits." A Thomas Jefferson Education, p.79
"Plutarch, Gibbon, Toynbee, Durant. Have you heard of these authors? Have you read them? If not, they are a great start to your study of history. You must study if you plan to teach.” A Thomas Jefferson Education, p8.2
"In a seminar, right about now I would likely be hearing the question again: "But how do I actually do this?" Almost every time people ask this specific question, they are either happy with the process and just want to improve, or they are struggling with the process because they aren’t personally reading the classics. Consider a typical dialogue: "
"But how do I actually do it?"
"How are you doing it now?"
"Well, he reads lots of books, many of them classics."
"Do you read them too?"
"Well, some of them."
"Okay, which ones have you read this month?"
The question is usually followed by a nervous silence, then:
"Okay, I know the classics thing. But how do we really make this work?"
"You read the classic. Your student reads the classic. You discuss it. He writes a report on it and you discuss it together. He gives an oral report to the class or family and you discuss that. You get other classmates or family members to read it and you meet for a group discussion. But of course none or this works unless you read it."
"But what about things like math?"
"Exactly the same. I assume you are asking me because a student of yours is struggling with math, right?"
"Right. He reads classics and lots of things but I can’t get him to read math classics."
"What was the last math classic or textbook that you read?"
Almost nobody has an answer for this. If you haven’t read math classics, it’s almost impossible to teach math through the classics." A Thomas Jefferson Education, p.72
There is a terrible side effect of this "You, Not Them" principle. It does often end up as ignoring the child's learning. I have observed this from people I know. DeMille even addresses this:
"The sad reason that people think Love of Learning [elementary school-age learning level] is "easy" is that they have been brainwashed by the conveyor belt [public education]. When they hear "Inspire, Not Require," their brains are so conditioned against combining "inspire" with "education" that they actually go home remembering something very much like "ignore, not require." Leadership Education, p. 86If you go look around at the internet discussion boards for TJEd (like here, here, here, and here) and look at the TJEd seminar classes, you will see that many parents doing TJEd are concerned that their kids just aren't doing anything. Often the time the advice they get is to just keep focusing on yourself and the child will eventually come around.
I think it is a shame that these little spirits come down from Heavenly Father to these loving homes that have the Gospel, and whose parents have the courage to teach them at home...and the parents don't do anything! What a waste! Can you imagine Joseph Smith staying with you for a month and he just reads the Book of Mormon in front of you? Wouldn't you want him to teach you at least some things he had learned? I don't know if I would know what to discuss with him. I would hope he would expound on some things I had never considered. I see parents in a similar way. You have grown up and gone through childhood, puberty, dating, marriage, possibly college, and child-rearing. You have so many more life experiences and you have seen what works and what doesn't, and you have opinions and ideas about the best way to do some things. Share them with your child, even if he doesn't ask you. He's a kid, and is trying to figure out the world. I don't think he needs to figure out his own education too, when he's only 9.
Your child is your opportunity to help them be better than you, to not make the same mistakes you did, to take those chances that you didn't take. This requires lots of active effort and instruction by you. You are not there just to inspire or wait for questions. You think about what you want your child to know, what is the best way to learn it (your best guess), what you can do to inspire the child to do the necessary work, and then you either give the instruction, or find someone or something else to provide the instruction. That's your obligation as a parent. If your child can do a lot of self-directed instruction than that's fine, but it's not a superior principle of education. When I want to learn something, sometimes I figured it out on my own, sometimes I buy a book on it, sometimes I take a course on it, sometimes I find someone to teach me. It's still self-directed by me. However, I've been around longer than my child, and I am in a much better position to make an evaluation of what to learn and how to learn it. Not only do I need to help my child to know what to learn, but also how to learn it. The child has say in all this of course, but I must offer and explain what I think will be the most beneficial and the most effective. I need to be continually evaluating what I am encouraging my child to learn and how he is learning. That is true mentoring, and parenting, to me.
Don't waste the opportunity to teach your child what you know. You can figure out how to keep alive the interest of learning without abandoning him to work it all out himself. Teach him what you know, and find ways for him to learn the things you don't know. Don't have him say in twenty years that you never taught him anything, or that he never knew you thought that way, or that he wishes you had taught him something earlier so he would have avoided repeating some mistake you had also made. It's all about him.
The burden of proof is on DeMille and George Wythe College
DeMille repeatedly makes the claim that these Seven Keys are what has fostered great leaders and what will foster great leaders. But there is no evidence that this is the case. I've read two books and several other publications from DeMille and George Wythe College on the Thomas Jefferson Education and they make no effort to actually show that these really are the Seven Keys of Education. It's an assumption that never is proved. All DeMille says is that he discovered these principles after "intensive research, and years of additional reading and studying." Well, let's see the research.
I am not arguing with history when I challenge the Seven Keys. History agrees with me. And I think people ought to first check out DeMille's claims that the Seven Keys are really even true, let alone used by Jefferson or anyone else in history. The burden is on them. Lots of ink has been spilled and speeches and classes given on all this, yet not even an attempt to convince, let alone prove. Just assertions.