Education | 4 Minutes

Dumbing Down?

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
Dumbing Down?
A little known fact about Laurie, my wife, is that she was a state champion runner in high school and a Division 1 college runner at Vanderbilt. I don’t like to run. So I’d been wondering what to do about that dislike. It became fairly clear … I’d run less. Instead of going five miles, I’d go two or three. Instead of spending an hour on the treadmill, I’d just spend 20 minutes. And it worked! I don’t mind the exercise as much. And of course I got the same benefit with less effort, too. I’m guessing I didn’t fool you, either. I didn’t get the same benefit. Malcolm Gladwell is an insightful writer. In his book Outliers he includes a chapter called the 10,000 Hour Rule. It has gotten considerable attention. He notes that developing extraordinary talent generally includes an investment of 10,000+ hours of real dedication to the skill. Bill Gates and The Beatles are two examples he cites. Intuitively, they would not be the first examples I’d list. Yet, his research tells of unique access to computers and extended periods of time to use it that Mr. Gates had to develop his programming skills. Also, interestingly, The Beatles played as a group in a club that required very long sets, and they kept doing the work for a very long time. They both came by their success honestly. It wasn’t a lucky break. I’m not thinking that everyone should spend 10,000 hours doing something to develop his gifts. However, I am suggesting that cutting corners will have an effect—and it won’t be good. When the Omnibus curriculum, our Great Books program, was released a headmaster of a well-established classical Christian school approached me. He was concerned that we were giving three credits for work that didn’t seem worthy of three credits. He didn’t have all the information, and when he learned it, he was satisfied. We designed the program to be three credits in two courses. In schools, that meant five classes of primary books per week and three classes of secondary books per week. Reading time was additional. The classes were intended to be longer—75 minutes instead of the typical one-hour class, which is actually typically 50 minutes. You may not care about the credits, but I expect you care about the learning—and you should. Today we see schools—online schools as well as bricks and mortar institutions—trying to have their students do less work and still get the same benefit. It won’t. It can’t. That’s not the way God made things to work. We reap what we sow. Awarding 2½ or even 3 credits for a single Omnibus course is not only contrary to the design of the program, it communicates a message we don’t support. We’ve also seen this in other courses. As you look for ways to get more done in the same or less time, don’t be fooled. Even math is affected where we see corners being cut. I raised my four boys to be men. We had fun with them as they grew up, and they got into their share of trouble because of it—the kind of trouble that taught valuable lessons. It was equally important that they learn the value of hard work. And I am thankful they learned that, too. Your children should have fun with you. They should also learn the value of hard work and that we reap what we sow. Don’t let them fall prey to the modern mindset that we can get the same benefit with less effort. As we’ve developed our online offerings for our live classes and our self-paced classes, we’ve had to make adjustments. Live classes only meet for three hours per week. However, the work students need to do outside class makes up for it—much like what happens in a college setting. The self-paced classes require the same rigor. We want to come alongside you and develop the gifts and abilities of your children, not according to the 10,000 Hour Rule, but certainly according to a reasonable standard that cannot be called anything other than hard work. We hope you’ll join us, and we hope you’ll encourage others to do the same. Registration is open. Click HERE to see what we offer.  

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