Essay on Paideia and Modern Educational Policy

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Paideia and Modern Educational Policy

ABSTRACT: The lofty ideals of the classical notion of paideia, and the restatement of those principles in 1982 by Mortimer Adler and the 'paideia group' remain an unfulfilled promise in terms of the actualities of public education in the United States. The notion of an educational system for all students built upon a rigorous curriculum manifesting a framework of values to be acted out in the public and democratic forum continues to have great attraction for educators. Indeed, the notion of paideia continues to carry a sense of urgency as it should. However, the actual task of creating systems devoted to these ideals has run headlong into a political labyrinth generated by the conflict between
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The passion for testing (oftentimes observed as soundbites serving political ends ) runs counter to a farmboy's common knowledge that you don't put weight on a hog by weighing it. This paper will attempt a dialectic exploring the models generating this tension and suggesting an alternative view of a modern paideia.

That original tension is illustrated in the Greek paideia, which not only contemplated the process of development of the human subject toward the good, but also venerated the influence of the object of learning; i.e., first the poetry of Homer, then the literature of Greece, then the total fine arts of the Greek culture. "If we regard education as a process of shaping or forming, the object of learning plays the part of the mold by which the subject is shaped. The formative mold of early Greek paideia was Homer, and as time went on that role was expanded to Greek poetry at large. In the end, the word paideia meant Greek literature as a whole." (Jaeger 1961:91).

Early Christians, hellenized and conversant in the use and didactic angularities of the Greek marketplace of education and dialogue, adopted the definition and implementation of paideia. As with Plato, Gregory of Nyssa, a pivotal figure in the early church, adopted as given that all human will and effort by nature was directed to achieve "the