Learning and Thinking Honorably

7 08 2007

Like the bumper sticker says — are you the parent of an honors student? Not the grades and gold stars earned, mind you, but how honors-worthy their actual thinking and learning is, how high up the thinking skills ladder they like to climb for their mental gymnastics. . .just something to be mindful of this time of year.

Favorite Daughter is gearing up for the new college term, organizing calendars and materials etc, and we just came (back) across her honors program description.

This isn’t rhetoric, it’s true — this IS how the classes work and this critical thinking approach really DOES work here.

And of course the students aren’t forced to be there nor paid to be there: the same things that make home education — and online collaboration among Thinking Parents like us — honorable too. 🙂

Honors Program

The Honors Program consists of separate sections in [the college’s] general education curriculum. The goal of Honors classes is to promote critical thinking. We offer over a dozen Honors classes in the fall and spring semesters each year. Honors classes are usually limited to 20 students, which provides for more student-faculty interaction and collaborative learning.

Honors classes are different from regular classes in the way they are presented. With smaller classes, honors faculty can rely more on teaching strategies such as debates, group work, class presentations and class discussions.

These strategies are known to facilitate the development of critical thinking. Students are evaluated on their knowledge of the subject matter and on their ability to analyze, apply and synthesize the material.



3 responses

8 08 2007

The traditional collegial “Honor Code” is about honesty — against lying, cheating, stealing and tolerating anyone who’s not against same.

But this idea expressed as the “Honors Code” would be more highly evolved and cover almost everything. The true “reason” for intellectual hon-or and hon-esty surely is “reason” itself, sharply hon-ed thinking we usually call discipline (but then dishonorably confuse with punishment.)

“Parenting Beyond Belief” discusses the levels of thought and reason that help kids learn hon-orably:

Jean Mercer lays out Kohlberg’s six-stage model of moral development. Fear of punishment is the first and lowest stage. If something an infant does is followed by some kind of nasty consequence, it’s bad. If not, it’s good. Soon we add stage two, hope of reward.

Stage three is social approval and disapproval – the one that hits my kids hardest at the moment.

Fourth is the recognition of laws or rules as valuable in themselves. The Ten Commandments crowd is big on this one.

Stage five is the social contract level, in which laws or rules are seen as desirable but made by consensus and potentially changeable as the consensus changes. (Religious commentators typically scream “Moral relativism!” at this point and swallow their tongues.)

The sixth and highest level of moral development is reached when a person thinks in terms of universal ethical principles and is occasionally willing to defend such principles at the risk of punishment, disapproval, or even death. Sitting at this particular moral pinnacle are such religious figures as Thomas More, Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ, and such freethinkers as Michael Servetus, Galileo Galilei, and Thomas Paine.

But there’s another model Mercer presents that really goes to the heart of things, an “essential set of skills” called Theory of Mind. . .

It’s a rather thrilling evolutionary explanation of “mirror neurons” as universal human Honor Code, hardwiring our species for survival not merely at school but on the planet. 🙂

8 08 2007

HONOR: A holding or group of holdings, forming a large estate, such as the land held by an Earl.

I was just looking for the root “hon-” thinking it would be something about telling the truth as in honesty, but unexpectedly came across this medieval definition and started playing with it.

So a useful view might be that one’s “honor” is not a single virtue or habit of mind, but your human “whole” — all that you control and for which you’re responsible, taken together as the “holdings” of your personal human estate.

I remember my dad telling me that my education was my family’s legacy and the one thing I’d never lose, that it would be mine forever no matter what else happened. Maybe this is what he meant?

If success is defined not by law or riches, rule or school, but by who you become, and how you pass THAT on to your children — then how could any lawyer or bureaucrat possibly belong between you and your child in that process?

A student’s or citizen’s “honor” then, would be viewed as whatever fruit and wealth (or drain of community resources) result from all his beliefs and principles and mode of living and working with others. Honor defined as thinking and feeling and spirit generating actions that impact society?

p.s. In the card game of bridge (my parents’ main social outlet my whole life) the word “honor” refers to “any Ace, King, Queen, Jack or Ten.” Higher ranked cards have more impact and thus more responsibility for what happens. That fits — I think anyone with large and involved intellectual holdings has commensurate responsibility to use that estate benevolently; like The Good Book of Google commands: don’t be evil!”

p.p.s. Hmmm, maybe this is the power of story behind “honor thy father and mother” then? They have “honor” by rank like the higher cards, because they control a large estate of complex holdings. Their body of belief and understanding (thus responsbility) is much greater than the child’s AND rank comes with the obligation to use the family’s holdings wisely and well, sort of noblesse oblige?

20 08 2008
Pro-Patriarchal Militant Piety Isn’t Pro-Life — Much Less Presidential « Cocking A Snook!

[…] or are McCain’s complaints to corporate media honchos about bias calculated to keep his own honor and integrity out of the fray, rendering his words bulletproof no matter what lies they […]

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