Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Quote of the week archive

I’ve had fun running the little sidebar titled, “Quote of the Week” – though I’ve used the term “week” very loosely – and have been meaning to create a post that would serve as an archive for the quotes that have appeared there. This post will now officially serve that purpose; I’ll update it each time I change the quote, and I’ll put a link to it in the sidebar.

Conscious that the internet overflows with spurious quotes, I make a genuine effort to source these quotes and link to the source whenever possible.

One of the first quotes I ran here was from fellow Iowa Citian Marilynne Robinson, a great defender of humane values in education. Her most recent book came out last month, and it led me to collect several new quotations from her recent essays. As much as I like the quotes, though, I don’t really want to turn the sidebar over to Robinson for a full two months. So I’m going to kick off the quote archive by running a new Robinson quote each day this week (though I may be using the word “day” loosely).

For the full quote archive, click on the “Read More” link.

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them . . . .” – Frederick Douglass

“Because the music that they constantly play / It says nothing to me about my life”―The Smiths

“It is very nearly impossible, after all, to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.”―James Baldwin

“The notion that the ‘essentials’ of elementary education are the three R’s mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials needed for realization of democratic ideals. Unconsciously it assumes that these ideals are unrealizable.” —John Dewey

“[T]rue leaders are those who recognize that the quality of an idea doesn’t justify an attempt to shove it down people’s throats.” — Alfie Kohn

“[T]he absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child.” — A.S. Neill

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” — A.A. Milne

“[K]nowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. . . . [D]o not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; that will better enable you to find out the natural bent.” – Plato

“No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given.” – Adam Smith

“You’ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body’s sermon on how to behave.” — Billie Holiday

“[T]he worst trick [school] played on me was to pretend that it was the world in miniature. For it hindered me from discovering how lovely and delightful and kind the world can be, and how much of it is intelligible.” – E.M. Forster

“We teach thoughtless conformity to school rules and call the conforming child ‘responsible.’” – William Glasser

“Beware of billionaires bearing educational breakthroughs.” – Rick Salutin

“But let us not forget that knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life.” — Albert Einstein

“The phrase ‘think for one’s self” is a pleonasm. Unless one does it for one’s self, it isn’t thinking.’ — John Dewey

“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.” ― from Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

“I don’t think it would have all got me quite so down if just once in a while—just once in a while—there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn’t, it’s just a disgusting waste of time! But there never is! You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge. You hardly ever even hear the word ‘wisdom’ mentioned!” – from Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

“The best education consists in immunizing people against systematic attempts at education.” – Paul Feyerabend

“Obama is, in effect, giving George W. Bush a third term in education.” – Diane Ravitch

“Respect is tendered with pleasure only where it is not exacted.” – Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot,

“I think that misbehavior is very strongly correlated with and responsible for creative thought.” – Steve Wozniak

“But if I had to make a general rule for living and working with children, it might be this: be wary of saying or doing anything to a child that you would not do to another adult, whose good opinion and affection you valued.” – John Holt

“This idea that children won’t learn without outside rewards and penalties, or in the debased jargon of the behaviorists, ‘positive and negative reinforcements,’ usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we treat children long enough as if that were true, they will come to believe it is true. So many people have said to me, ‘If we didn’t make children do things, they wouldn’t do anything.’ Even worse, they say, ‘If I weren’t made to do things, I wouldn’t do anything.’ It is the creed of a slave.” – John Holt

“We must be careful not to discourage our twelve-year-olds by making them waste the best years of their lives preparing for examinations.” – Freeman Dyson

“If you’ve never at some point stayed up all night talking to your new boyfriend about the meaning of life instead of preparing for the test, then you’re not really an intellectual.” – Alison Gopnik

“If we were to retain humane learning and lose a little edge in relative productivity, I would say we had chosen the better part. Since we need not choose between one and the other, I think we ought to reconsider the pressure, amounting sometimes to hostility, that has lately been brought to bear on our educational culture at every level, particularly in the humanities and the arts.” – Marilynne Robinson

“There are huge, groaning burdens of what looks like scholarship lying around. These are things that people typically don’t have time to be skeptical of. But the accumulation of misinformation addles the mind, restricts the imagination.” – Marilynne Robinson

“Lately we have been told and told again that our educators are not preparing American youth to be efficient workers. Workers. That language is so common among us now that an extraterrestrial might think we had actually lost the Cold War.” – Marilynne Robinson

“The idea that built the universities, which is that simply knowing is wonderful, seems to have all but disappeared. . . . This is not the life of the mind. This is not what Thomas Jefferson hoped for.” – Marilynne Robinson

“Something we tend to forget is that these institutions exist because they fill human needs. Educational institutions . . . are ancient. And often the feeling, at least in institutions, is that they are supervisors in a negative sense of the word, that their function is more to control than to assist. To the extent that thinking tends in that direction, it creates an adversarial environment that does not conduce to anyone’s happiness or good functioning.” – Marilynne Robinson

“Think very hard about the meaningfulness of anything you are told, especially if it involves percentages or statistics. What I am really saying is, look very carefully at anything that would in any way disable the confidence you will need to make a full use of your judgment and your conscience.” – Marilynne Robinson

“So much data, so little wisdom.” – Paul Douglas

“The value of a book about dealing with children is inversely proportional to the number of times it contains the word behavior.” – Alfie Kohn

“The more laws and orders are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be.” – Lao Tzu

“Boredom will always remain the greatest enemy of school discipline. If we remember that children are bored, not only when they don’t happen to be interested in the subject or when the teacher doesn’t make it interesting, but also when certain working conditions are out of focus with their basic needs, then we can realize what a great contributor to discipline problems boredom really is.” – Fritz Redl

“Then one day you wake up and realize that you have a child who is being made miserable by all this intervention, and that you, too, are not enjoying parenting because you have been taught to feel that your role is to squeeze every ounce of potential out of this child.” – Commenter Doris

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” – Albert Einstein

“It is indeed probable that more harm and misery have been caused by men determined to use coercion to stamp out a moral evil than by men intent on doing evil.” – Friedrich A. von Hayek

“In the frank expression of conflicting opinion lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action.” – Louis D. Brandeis

“Isn’t a cafeteria aide blowing a loud whistle while little schoolchildren are trying to socialize and eat lunch the biggest bully in the room?” – Commenter LAB

“Getting through another year of AYP successfully is like passing a ridiculously large and hard stool. You do it because you have to, there’s a modicum of relief when it’s done, and you pray you haven’t done too much damage when passing it.” – Michael Doyle, on the annual gauntlet of standardized testing to meet No Child Left Behind’s “adequate yearly progress” requirements

“What if our children and young people learn to read and write but don’t like to and don’t?” – Vito Perrone, Sr.

“You wish him to be docile when he is little; that is to wish that he will be gullible and easily duped when he grows up.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“So many educators, when given foolish and destructive mandates, speak up … to ask for guidance on how best to carry them out.” – Alfie Kohn

“It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” – Albert Einstein

“I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude, often directed solely to the practical and factual, in our education, has led directly to the impairment of ethical values.” – Albert Einstein

“Fearlessness is the foundation of all education, the beginning and not the end. If you do not build on that foundation, the edifice of all your education will topple over.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“This business of being out for a walk, coming across something of fascinating interest and then being dragged away from it by a yell from the master, like a dog being jerked onwards by the leash, is an important feature of school life, and helps to build up the conviction, so strong in many children, that the things you most want to do are always unattainable.” – George Orwell

“Put twenty or more children of roughly the same age in a little room, confine them to desks, make them wait in lines, make them behave. It is as if a secret commission, now lost to history, had made a study of children and, having figured out what the greatest number were least disposed to do, declared that all of them should do it.” – Tracy Kidder

“I think my deepest criticism of the educational system . . . is that it’s all based upon a distrust of the student. Don’t trust him to follow his own leads; guide him; tell him what to do; tell him what he should think; tell him what he should learn. Consequently at the very age when he should be developing adult characteristics of choice and decision making, when he should be trusted on some of those things, trusted to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes, he is, instead, regimented and shoved into a curriculum, whether it fits him or not.” – Carl Rogers

“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.” – Anne Sullivan, tutor to Helen Keller

“[W]e do in fact unmistakably descry a tendency toward standardization and uniformity: a tendency which is the correlative and opposite of the tendency toward differentiation and diversity which we have found to be the mark of the growth stage of civilizations.” – Arnold Toynbee, on the decline of civilizations

“Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of the fire.” – Origin uncertain

“Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction.” – Anne Sullivan, tutor to Helen Keller

“The kids will never become who you want them to be. They will become who you are.” – Paul Bogush

“One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting. And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in. They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.” – Barack Obama

“America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief, it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.” – Louis D. Brandeis

“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” – Stanley Milgram (and he should know)

“Boredom, after all, is a form of criticism.” – attributed to William Phillips

“To say that behavior is aberrant is much more powerfully coercive among us than to say an action is wrong. . . .

Antebellum doctors described an illness typical of enslaved people sold away from their families, which anyone can recognize as rage and grief. By medicalizing their condition, the culture was able to refuse the meaning of their suffering. I am afraid we are also forgetting that emotions signify, that they are much fuller of meaning than language, that they interpret the world to us and us to other people. Perhaps the reality we have made fills certain of us, and of our children, with rage and grief -- the tedium and meagerness of it, the meanness of it, the stain of fearfulness it leaves everywhere. It may be necessary to offer ourselves palliatives, but it is drastically wrong to offer or to accept a palliative as if it were a cure.” – Marilynne Robinson

“It is as if we took morphine to help us sleep on a bed of nails. Another generation would have looked for another solution.” – Marilynne Robinson

“First, do no harm.” – Origin uncertain

“When test scores go up, we should worry, because of how poor a measure they are of what matters, and what you typically sacrifice in a desperate effort to raise scores.” – Alfie Kohn

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” – Clay Shirky

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein

“It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” – Albert Einstein

“One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.” – Albert Einstein

“I am opposed to examinations -- they only deter from the interest in studying. No more than two exams should be given throughout a student’s [college] career. I would hold seminars, and if the young people are interested and listen, I would give them a diploma.” – Albert Einstein

“It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening with too much and too varied subjects . . . . Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality.” – Albert Einstein

“[T]he gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“Save as the efforts of the educator connect with some activity which the child is carrying on of his own initiative independent of the educator, education becomes reduced to a pressure from without. It may, indeed, give certain external results but cannot truly be called educative.” – John Dewey

“We tend to think, now, of the ideal family as a little hatchery for future contributors to the Social Security system, non-criminals who will enhance national productivity while lowering the cost per capita of preventable illness. We have forgotten that old American nonsense about alabaster cities, about building the stately mansions of the soul. We have lowered our hopes abysmally, for no reason obvious to me, without a murmur I have ever heard. To fulfill or fall short of such minor aspirations as we have now is the selfsame misery.” – Marilynne Robinson. (Robinson attributes that lowering of hopes to “a new upsurge of that famous Western rationalism, old enemy of reasonableness, always so right at the time, always so shocking in retrospect.”)

“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” – John Dewey

“I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of Education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. It is chosen and foreordained, and he only holds the key to his own secret. By your tampering and thwarting and too much governing he may be hindered from his end and kept out of his own. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of Nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


paul bogush said... have my quote in amongst some giants is incredible. Thanks!

Chris said...

Paul -- Not at all! Greatness strikes where it pleases.