Paideia Proposal in a Work Term Paper

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(p. 55-56)

The educational system up to this point, very likely to continue in the future, has swung back and forth between these two philosophies (individualist and essentialist) in a pendulum effect, as educators seek to engender interest for knowledge in the student. Interestingly the application of the core principles in the Paideia Proposal can be applied to both swings of the pendulum as it demands that the core subjects be taught and demonstrated in a manner that meet individuals greatest possible abilities through presentation hands on and demonstration of learning, that is essential to the proposal. Each student is demonstrating his or her learning through the creation of presentations and/or projects that require analysis outside the classroom. For this to be effective many essential elements must come into play. Educators, in a broader sense, must view and critique the works of students, parents must be actively involved in critiques and not just of their own child's work and students must hear such feedback so they can effectively guide the manner in which they produce the next big hands on project. (Roberts, 2004, 513-519)

The more individualist practitioners were initially dismayed by the Adler proposal as it seemed to be rooted in the old standard of civic education and continued curriculum standardization. "Paideia's founder the erudite Mortimer Adler, always looked to the past for greatness. For him, the classics were pretty much written b white, Western, and very dead men." (Ruenzel, 1997, p. 28) Yet, through a marriage of ideas and the application of the hands on principles and the project driven learning individualists today are as likely as the essentialists to express the importance of the principles within the work. To the uninformed reader the work could seem daunting and just another cry in the dark to universalize instruction through testing and standardized demands, set outside the classroom. Yet, as you look further the hands on learning approach comes closer than almost anything to reaching the goal of exciting students about learning and knowledge attainment and also backs up the work the teacher is doing in the classroom by demanding the highest possible skill demonstration by students, a goal which has shown to be very fruitful in the development of student interest applicability and skill. (pp.32,52)

The core example of the Paideia Proposal has served as an umbrella of ideas and concepts that demand attention, no matter the school of thought one subscribes two, on the opposite ends of the pendulum. The principles within the book have created a whole series of marketable programs and systems that attempt, even today to apply the standards set out by Adler. In a work by Ruenzel (1997, pp.27-31) a program with the emphasis on communication and seminar style learning as essential to the success of the program, though not expressly outlined in Adler's work demonstrative of a key concepts he espoused for art teaching (Adler, 1997, p.30) the concept of seminar learning where students embrace the idea of effective communication and input with regard to key curriculum and standards has become an increasingly important outgrowth of a Paideia system. The example given is a model program in North Carolina, where students commune and discuss issues, needs and programs that help them engage in the process of learning that is not found in many schools. Students engage in discussion that help them feel invested in programs and plans and also give them a sense of community, civic responsibility and ownership of systems. (Ruenzel, 1997, 27-31)

In yet another work by an active Paideia principle advocate, Terry Roberts, there is a demonstration of the current and active values addressed by the seed that Adler planted in a very conservative moment in time. In the article, Learn to Care, Care to Learn, Roberts overviews another Paideia program this time in Chicago. The article demonstrates again this foundation of group communication and the importance of allowing alternative style education to all individuals. Student driven seminars are stressed as the way that students engage in learning. "Students in any grade and at any level of academic achievement can benefit from Paideia's emphasis on seminar discussion and classroom dialogue." (Roberts, 2002, p.45) as the name of the article suggests the best way to engender the thirst for knowledge in children is to allow those children the opportunity to invest in the system and contribute to its making.

The Paideia Foundation has an active network on its webpage that stresses the new incarnation, or melding of the divergent philosophies of education. The website sights new research and many anecdotal demonstrations of the Paideia principles at work in alternative and public education in the nation. Though it remains to be seen how such practices will be implemented in the current pendulum swing toward high stakes testing, a very conservative movement that demands accountability through outcomes-based testing and deemphasizes alternative education in the process. Mr. Terry Roberts who is the director of the National Paideia Center in North Carolina. (

In general the feel of the book is one that could initially turn off the reader, if he or she has any antiestablishment tendencies, yet upon further development of the ideas there are some gems of knowledge that are foundational to a new incarnation of the principles at work. There is no doubt that the Paideia principles will continue to be expanded on by countless educators in the near future, especially in the wake of the problems and concerns that have been associated with the less rounded concepts associated with high stakes testing and the No Child Left Behind legislation that is emphasized by the current Bush administration.


Adler, M.J.(1998). The Paideia Proposal, New York, Touchstone.

Gutek, G.L. (2000) American Education 1945-2000. New York, Waveland Press Inc.

Roberts, T.. (2002) Learn to care, care to learn. Educational. Leadership, 60(1), 45-49.

Roberts, T. Trainor, a. (2004) Performing for Yourself and Others: The Paideia Coached Project. Phi Delta Kappan, 513-519.

Ruenzel, D. (1997) Look Who's Talking. Teacher Magazine 26-31.[continue]

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