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MORTIMER ADLER. THE PAIDEA EDUCATIONAL REFORMS Paidea History. Dr. Rafael Cartagena. What is the history of Paidea?.

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mortimer adler



Paidea History

Dr. Rafael Cartagena

what is the history of paidea
What is the history of Paidea?

Paideia is a Greek word meaning the upbringing of a child. There are many different pronunciations, but the one we use is pie-day-ah. Paideia has long been used as a term for education projects. One particular use developed into a major program centered around basis principles and regular use of Socratic seminars for all students.

Between 1979 and 1985 a group of educators met with Mortimer Adler, then Chairman of the Board of Editors for Encyclopedia Britannica, to discuss education reform.  They referred to themselves as the Paideia Group. Some of their concerns were the high use of lecture by teachers (85% of teacher time) as reported by John Goodland in A Place Called School, excessive stress on coverage of material, lack of equal opportunity to education in the schools, and poor conditions for learning within the school environment created by such elements as large class size numbers.
The Paideia Group published three books: Paideia Proposal (1982), Paideia Problems and Possibilities (1983), and the Paideia Program (1984). These books sparked public interest across the country. By 1994 the Paideia Proposal was translated into 6 different languages.  In response to many requests for training, Dr. Adler formed the Paideia Associates in 1985.
The Paideia Associates designed and conducted the early training and implementation programs.  The Paideia Associates formulated the Paideia Principles (below) summarizing major points in the Paideia concept of education. PGI is a national not-for-profit organization with national and international members. Mortimer Adler is the Honorary Chairman. Its purpose is to monitor and guide Paideia development, foster networking and sharing of information. In 1992, PGI instituted the stages of development and the essential elements for a Paideia school. In 1993, the board issued the certification process for trainers.  PGI conducts regional workshops, an annual national conference and on site Paideia training programs.
paidea principles
Paidea Principles
  • That all children can learn;
  • That, therefore, they all deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity;
  • That the quality of schooling to which they are entitled is what the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education for the best being the best education for all;
That schooling at its best is preparation for becoming generally educated in the course of a whole lifetime, and that   schools should be judged on how well they provide such preparation;
  • That the three callings for which schooling should prepare all Americans are (a) to earn a decent livelihood, (b) to be a good  citizen of the nation and the world, and (c) to make a good life for oneself;
  • That the primary cause of genuine learning is the activity of  the learner's own mind, sometimes with the help of a teacher functioning as a secondary and cooperative cause;
That the three kinds of teaching that should occur in our schools are didactic teaching of subject matter, coaching that  produces the skills of learning, and Socratic questioning in seminar discussion;
  • That the results of these three kinds of teaching should be (a)  the acquisition of organized knowledge, (b) the formation of  habits of skill in the use of language and mathematics, and (c) the growth of the mind's understanding of basic ideas and issues;
That each student's achievement of these results should be evaluated in terms of that student's capacities and not solely  related to the achievements of other students;
  • That the principal of a school should never be a mere administrator, but also a leading teacher who should cooperate with  the faculty in planning, reforming, and reorganizing the school as an educational community;
That the principal and faculty of a school should themselves be actively engaged in learning; and,
  • That the desire to continue their own learning should be the prime motivation of those who dedicate their lives to the profession of teaching.

Paideia Goals - The goals are to prepare students to: earn a living; be a good citizen; be a lifelong learner.

The Paidea Curricular Framework

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3

Goals An Acquisition Development of Enlarged

organized intellectual skills- understanding of

knowledge skills of learning ideas and values

(knowing that) (knowing how) (knowing why)

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3

Means by means of by means of by means of

Didactic Coaching, Socratic

instruction, exercises, questioning

lectures and supervised participation

responses, practice

textbooks and

other aids

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3

Areas, Language, Reading, writing Discussion of

Literature, and speaking, listening books (not

the Fine Arts textbook) and

other works of

Mathematics and Calculating, art and Natural Sciences problem solving, involvement in

observing, artistic activities,

measuring, e.g., music,

History, estimating drama, visual arts

Geography, and

Social Studies Exercising critical


the three types of learning promoted by paidea
The Three Types of Learning Promoted by Paidea

Paideia stress three types of teaching and learning: 

1. Socratic teaching in seminars with primary sources (e.g., documents, essays, speeches, stories, art and math and science experiments) for understanding;

Coaching sessions for developments of specific skills (e.g., reading, writing, listening, analyzing, computing, and problem-solving);
  • Didactic instruction for recall of important facts and information.
the great ideas mortimer adler
The Great Ideas- Mortimer Adler

The following 102 topics are the called the Great Ideas, and represent the index of the Syntopicon. Invented by Dr. Mortimer J. Adler, the Syntopicon is a topical index of Britannica's Great Books.

Comprising the first two volumes of the Great Books set, the Syntopicon allows readers to locate within the set any text that addresses that particular idea.  Each Idea is accompanied by an introductory essay, and an outline which breaks down the main issues regarding the Idea that have been discussed and debated throughout history.
The development of the Syntopicon was a monumental task that took Dr. Adler and a staff of 90 ten years to complete. With the Syntopicon, the Great Books set becomes the single greatest reference set of the greatest body of knowledge in history.
1    Angel 2    Animal3    Aristocracy

4    Art5    Astronomy and      Cosmology6    Beauty7    Being8    Cause9    Chance10   Change11   Citizen12   Constitution

13   Courage14   Custom and      Convention

15   Definition16   Democracy17   Desire18   Dialectic19   Duty20   Education21   Element22   Emotion23   Eternity24   Evolution25   Experience

26   Family 27   Fate28   Form

29   God30   Good and Evil31   Government32   Habit33   Happiness 34   History35   Honor36   Hypothesis37   Idea38   Immortality

39   Induction40   Infinity41   Judgment

42   Justice43   Knowledge44   Labor45   Language46   Law47   Liberty48   Life and Death49   Logic50   Love51   Man52   Mathematics and Science

53   Matter 54   Mechanics55   Medicine

56   Memory and        Imagination57   Metaphysics58   Mind59   Monarchy60   Nature61   Necessity &      Contingency62   Oligarchy 63   One and Many

64   Opinion65   Opposition66   Philosophy

67   Physics68   Pleasure and Pain 69   Poetry70   Principle71   Progress72   Prophecy73   Prudence74   Punishment75   Quality76   Quantity77   Reasoning

78   Relation 79   Religion80   Revolution

81   Rhetoric82   Same and Other83   Science84   Sense85   Sign and Symbol86   Sin87   Slavery88   Soul89   Space90   State

91   Temperance92   Theology93   Time

94   Truth95   Tyranny and      Despotism96   Universal and      Particular97   Virtue and Vice98   War and Peace99   Wealth100  Will101  Wisdom 102  World