The Great Conversation (I’m looking for a pupil!)

I am looking for a school-age student who has the time and inclination to read a Great Book with me online via Skype. Please leave a comment or email me if of interest.

The idea is expanded in this link, which begins as follows…

“The Good Books are food for a wholesome imagination. They are well-written. They introduce young people to characters they will never forget. They soar beyond easy cynicism or nihilism. They soar beyond the sweaty halls of politics. They may well have villains in them, there may be warfare, but there will not be the creepy relish for bloodshed—no itch for the base, the sick, the bizarre, the filthy, the evil. We know where to find these Good Books. They are everywhere, or they used to be. It almost does not matter in what order the children read them, and many of them can be read again and again, and are as satisfying for grownups as they are for the wide-eyed little ones.”

Professor Anthony Esolen

 

Certain books are as pertinent to our day as they were to the day in which they were written. They are so significant that their influence continues to be felt in our writing, thought and conversation today. Reading these books brings great joy and wisdom, but being part of this “great conversation through the ages” also gives a tremendous cultural leg-up. And for one of the first times in history… most of these books are free!

Inspired by the work of  E D Hirsch, which shows not only the great cultural benefit of the knowledge contained in such works but also the cultural deficit suffered by those who remain ignorant of them, we feel there is an opportunity to bring these books to children – especially to those who might not otherwise encounter them – in a considered sequence. We have chosen 56 books – an achievable 4 per year for children from the ages of 5 – 18 – and arranged them in a rough age order below. A link to a free version of the book is also included.

Such selections are necessarily arbitrary and are further compromised by their inevitable Western and English-language bias. It is important to note that, for the reasons noted above, they have been chosen for their cultural, more than their literary, significance. They can be read independently or – especially with the younger ages in mind – with the aid of a tutor, teacher or parent.

Read the selection here.

Tutoring: A fresh debate

I’ve just finished an article on tuition, and am boldly looking for a publisher!

I thought I’d share it here:

Tutoring: a fresh debate.

Private tuition has entered the national conversation. For long a rather mysterious operation, the media has woken up to its rapid growth – especially after the Sutton Trust showed that 43% of children nationally had received private tuition. This openness in the media is both symptom and cause of a similar openness amongst parents. No longer a whispered secret, recommendations and warnings about certain tutors and agencies are now regularly swapped outside the school gates.

Regrettably, this openness has led to very little debate on the merits and demerits of tuition – or much analysis as to why parents are seeking it in such droves. Some commentators have seen in tuition a desire to recapture the cosy world of governesses and nurseries. Others have reached, inevitably, for the recession as a possible explanation – either that a place in a good school is even more essential in the long march to the furiously-competitive job market, or that tuition is parents’ compensation for choosing state education. Where are the considerations of its impact on learning, or the larger questions posed by its rise?

So: do children (or some children) learn better as a result of a one-on-one tutoring? What sort of learning goes on one-on-one? The answer is that you can regulate the learning in a very specific way: whether you’re looking for focused troubleshooting (fractions, decimals) – or a deeper exploration (“why do we have cases in Latin?”), the form is flexible to the content. The former is the most popular, and areas of misunderstanding (sometimes layered up over years of confusion) can be quickly unblocked with a good tutor. For some subjects and topics in particular, such as Maths and Languages, this creates something of a delicious learning environment. There’s no hiding in tuition, no slouching at the back of the class hoping that you wont be asked a question. Many parents talk about the benefits tuition delivers for self-esteem. It is not difficult to see why, when students are given the opportunity to learn in an environment where questions can be unlimited – and where it is okay to be wrong.

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