Remembering Rodin

Happy 180th Birthday to my favorite artist, Auguste Rodin!

When I was 23 years old, I went to Paris for the first time, by myself. I had been a Francophile since I was six years old and we had a French exchange student. I followed her around like a little puppy. I loved Isabel and I loved France, that beautiful, exotic place she would speak about.

On that first trip to Paris, I could not get enough of the art, the museums, the culture. I cried and gasped everyday at the beauty, the wonder, the history. I had bought a museum pass for the week so could get into many of the museums with it. Having been a fan of museums since my mom had brought me to them as a child, I was excited to spend a week all by myself in as many museums I could take in.

One day, after going to the Military museum and seeing Napoleon's tomb at Invalides, I went across the street to the Rodin Museum. I didn't know much about him, so I walked around slowly, soaking in all the beauty and wonder that the museum...

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Popular Culture as a Gateway to the Great Books

Do you find it challenging to get your child to read? Well, there are some great ways to use popular interpretations of the Great Books to get them reading.

 

Does your child like to read comic books, manga, or graphic novels? No problem. There are so many great adaptations of the classic novels in these forms. Just search on Amazon or your local bookstore for a title, such as Pride and Prejudice and the keywords "graphic novel." You might be surprised at how many have been done! Once your child has read the graphic version of the novel, you can then approach the idea of reading the original novel as a challenge. You can ask them how they liked it, maybe even spark their curiosity on how it is different from the original, perhaps ask them how they would have drawn the characters?

 

Another way to introduce the classics is through film and television versions. Again, there have been so many of these created over the years. A fun exercise is to watch two versions from two...

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Teaching History

History is often one of the subjects students and even adults either love or hate. And it is the latter that we find more often. But this does not have to be the case.

The way history is frequently taught in schools these days is by parceling out different time periods in different grades, without thought of how things actually unfold over time. We have seen as college history teachers that so many of our students may have taken one semester of American history, then switched to World history, only to focus in on a micro history of a particular sector of society, such as women's history.  There is no connection between these classes. Students are often just checking boxes of general education credits they need to graduate.

This is not isolated to college though, when you go thorough the levels of history that students take in primary and secondary schools, the historical timeline is also disjointed. So, on a conceptual level, this is not something that we as humans can...

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Homer’s The Iliad: Literature of Epic Proportions

The epic poem, The Iliad, began as part of Greek oral tradition when great storytellers regaled the people with tales of the Trojan War. When Homer, likely around 750 B.C., first put words to paper, he created what is believed to be one of the first works of Greek literature. While there were other epic poems shared and written down, The Iliad seems to be the one to survive and thrive. It inspires us even today as it is still assigned to countless students from middle school to college as well as being retold in film and television.

The Iliad focuses on the major events that occurred in the final weeks of the ten-year long Trojan War and the Greek siege of the city of Troy. There were certainly other works also steeped in this oral tradition that described earlier conflict and battles of the Trojan War, but The Iliad is the best known. With its gripping tale of bloody battles, political maneuverings, and incessant intervention of the gods, The Iliad is one of the most loved tales in...

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What are the Great Books?

When you hear the term “The Great Books,” what does that mean to you? It could mean something great on a personal level, like a story that elevates your soul beyond immediate concerns, or something filled with knowledge and ideas that change the way you see the world. But the Great Books is also a historical term, a name given to the very best works of Western Civilization, handed down throughout the generations as the most important examples of what it means to be a part of this culture.

But what makes them so great? As described by editors in "The Great Conversation," the first volume of the Britannica Great Books series, these works are based in the “spirit of inquiry” of Western Civilization. Unlike other civilizations, the West has a long-standing tradition of exchanging, questioning, and building upon ideas that have come before. It is in this spirit that we build all content for the Pisan Academy, from our student success courses to our reading...

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A Tale of Two Revolutions

Part of my daily routine is to look up what events happened that day, whether it be birthdays of great writers or interesting figures in history or days where these people died. When researching for September 5th this year, I noticed two remarkable things that happened less than 20 years apart, both dealing with Revolutions that were to come, including the First Continental Congress with 12 of the 13 original American colonies convening on this day in 1774. And, 19 years later, on the same day, the Reign of Terror begins in France. The contrast of these two events is startling, especially as we see events unfolding in the America of 2020.

The American colonies had been facing unjust regulations and taxation from Britain for years. Although there was some occasional violence, most of what the colonists did to rebel against the crown was through nonviolent economic boycott. The colonists stopped drinking tea, they stopped buying imported British goods, and they worked to peacefully...

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Who's in Your Family Tree?

With the advent of DNA testing added to various genealogy websites and programs, many people are discovering who is in their family tree. If you’ve done some research yourself, you likely want to know if you are descended from anyone famous (or maybe infamous). Are you descended from English royalty, a famous composer, or a US President? The possibilities are endless, as by the time we go back about 10 generations, we have hundreds of ancestors in our family tree.

So, what if you were already famous? Who would be in your family tree? Well, famed American author Nathaniel Hawthorne knew who some of his ancestors were – and he was none too pleased. He was born Nathaniel Hathorne (note the spelling) in 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. He lived in Massachusetts most of his life, working a variety of jobs in between writing and publishing his short stories and novels. In fact, his employment at the custom house in both Salem and Boston are reflected in The Scarlet...

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Follow Up to “Why Educate?” or, What About Student Centered Learning?

As a follow up to the blog, “Why Educate?”, we thought we would respond to a comment that asked us about Student Centered Learning. Like many terms in the education arena and even the modern world in general, Student Centered Learning has undergone a lot of iterations and meanings, and its history could fill up an entire book. So, in order to respond to the comment, let’s start by looking at the amount of history we have space for in a blog post, and define some terms in the process.

John Dewey

The idea of Student Centered Learning was introduced by John Dewey as a way to break away from rote memorization and what he saw as a cookie-cutter, standardized method of teaching. Dewey was influenced by 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s view of education. In Emile, Rousseau argued that things are good until they reach humans. Although he thought humans were inherently good, it is the social systems that humans live in that...

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Why Educate?

What is the purpose of education? If you were asked this question, you might answer “to acquire knowledge” or “to learn how to think.” For most of the history of the West, the answer has been one or the other, but this is really a chicken-and-the-egg situation. Knowledge without thought is meaningless, but you can’t think unless you’ve accumulated knowledge. Most arguments about education have been about which side is more fundamental, and the truth is that each is inextricably tied to the other. No matter which side you favor, however, the ultimate goal is for the student to acquire reason to some degree and to develop their own mind, whether explicitly or implicitly.

But what if I told you that inside the modern teachers’ colleges, where the very nature of education is debated, where the very best practices and state-of-the-art education is disseminated and distributed to the future teachers of the world, the argument is no longer about...

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Where Does Curiosity Come From?

Curiosity is a personality trait generally thought to lead to a happier, more optimistic life. A fascination with the world, and the hunger for knowledge, means that life will always be filled with rewards. Curiosity is often romanticized as something inherent in all children, until it is beaten out of them by life. If you’re a parent, and you want your child to have that happy, optimistic life, you might think that preserving that inherent curiosity needs to be your primary task.

But let’s take the example of two toddlers.

You’ve probably seen this story yourself. One toddler always seems to be in the middle of trouble: putting keys in electric sockets or removing the caps from child-proof bottles. They’re testing boundaries, performing little experiments on the world around them. In short, they’re curious.

By contrast, the other toddler is always hiding, shrinking from sudden noises, wailing at the slightest disturbance. They’re...

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