Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What is an educated person?

I'm preparing to facilitate an online workshop about the PYP curriculum model and came across an article by Ernest L. Boyer entitled The Educated Person.  Boyer suggests that being educated means developing one's aptitudes and interests and discovering the diversity that makes us each unique - but at the same time it also involves discovering the interconnectedness of things.  Boyer suggests that a curriculum should be organized around what he terms "core commonalities" that are shared by all cultures.  These include:
  • The Life Cycle - which also covers health, nutrition and all aspects of wellness - basically this is the knowledge, habits and attitudes that equip us for a healthy life so that we can make good choices and so that we respect different life forms.
  • Language - which includes proficiency in both written and spoken language, symbols (maths and signs), and the aesthetic expressions of the arts.  This curriculum area also covers the ethics of communication.
  • The Arts - every child has the urge and capacity to be expressive
  • Time and Space - Boyer writes that we explore our place through geography and astronomy and we explore our sense of time through history.  In this area students should discover their own roots as well as become informed about the culture around them and the traditions of other cultures.
  • Groups and Institutions - how societies organize themselves.  Students need to think about the groups they belong to, how they are shaped by these groups and how the groups shape them. They need to know that life in groups varies from one culture to another.
  • Work - the understanding that all people produce and consume.  Students need to be prepared for the world of work by studying simple economics, different money systems and be involved in vocational studies and career planning.
  • The Natural World - an understanding of how we are all connected to the earth and an understanding of the principles of science, technology and how to respect and protect the earth.
  • The Search for Meaning - a sense of purpose and of being connected.  Students who are involved in service projects learn values.
As I read over this list I started to think about how the PYP curriculum framework, with its 6 transdisciplinary themes, builds upon these 8 core commonalities.  It's not an exact fit, but it does seem to match fairly well, and this implies that the PYP framework will certainly promote becoming an educated person:
  • Who We Are - the life cycle, the search for meaning
  • Where We Are in Place and Time - time and space
  • How We Organize Ourselves - groups and institutions, work
  • How We Express Ourselves - language, the arts
  • How the World Works - science, technology from the natural world
  • Sharing the Planet - the natural world
Boyer sums up his views on what it means to be an educated person in the following way:
It means respecting the miracle of life, being empowered in the use of language, and responding sensitively to the aesthetic.  Being truly educated means putting learning in historical perspective, understanding groups and institutions, having reverence for the natural world, and affirming the dignity of work.  And, above all, being an educated person means being guided by values and beliefs and connecting the lessons of the classroom to the realities of life.
What do you think of Boyer's core commonalities and the PYP transdisciplinary themes?  How do these compare to the curriculum of your schools?  Is there anything you would take out or add?

Photo Credit: Ezra.Wolfe via Compfight cc

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