Astrology and Education

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Ralph Maltese

Astrology and Education

From my history, I seem to remember that Copernicus was an astrologer attempting to find a more accurate prediction of the orbits of the heavenly bodies.  Astrology was the science of the day, and the more precise the descriptions of the orbits, the more street cred awarded the astrologer.  Of course, Copernicus and colleagues had a bad initial premise since they used a geocentric model of the universe with the earth at the center instead of the more accurate heliocentric prototype with the sun at the center of the solar system.  In China, anyone, save for the emperor’s court astrologers, who practiced the craft, would face death as a punishment.

One might think that we have come a long way since the days of dependence on the “scientific” attributes of astrology, but I think we still have legacies from what most educated people today would term a discredited science.  We still refer to giants of the stage and screen as “stars.”  More importantly, we still make important decisions based on the orbits of heavenly, and perhaps not so heavenly, bodies---namely,  the bodies of human beings.  Of course, gravity holds the human body to the earth which actually does the orbiting, but the result is the same.  When a young person’s body has orbited the sun 16 times, in some states that person is ready to learn to drive.   The voting age in all states is predicated on the number of times a person’s body has circled the sun, and the collective wisdom of the populace of many states is that when a person’s person made 21 complete orbits of the sun, he or she is mature enough to imbibe alcohol, as if the completion of so many trips around our closest star contributes to our wisdom and judgment.

This dependence on counting the revolutions of our bodies around the sun as integral to our decision making process is no more evident than in education.  When a child has circled Mr. Sun 6 times, he is school ready.  Fourteen revolutions and we can expect the student to tackle geometry.  Sixteen orbits and we can roll out the chemistry lab equipment as well as introduce the student to a foreign language.  Most of our expectations of what a child can learn and can do are based on, if we think about it, rather arbitrary standards.

I wonder what schools would look like if we took the “counting revolutions of the body” out of the equation?  Would there be grades?  For the sake of reference, I will use the old measurements (number of orbits a student completes around the sun.)  Suppose a student seems ready to be challenged by developing geometric theorems when she is 8 rather than 12.  Can we accommodate her?  And suppose the same student is not reading at “grade level” (whatever that means---orbits again).  Can we accommodate that growth or lack thereof as well?  Could we have a sliding scale?

And what about social promotion?  If a student still does not demonstrate the ability to multiply, do we keep him in the same class forever?  Could we possibly have a student whose body orbited the sun nineteen times sitting in a math class populated by students most of whom have only circled the sun ten times?   If we rebuild curricula so that it is predicated on skill sets rather than content, would our picture look radically different?

The problem, as I see it, is that the current model of schools is still the factory model, and students progress along an assembly line whose benchmarks remain arbitrarily designed.  We not only continue to lose students who are not quite ready for those arbitrary standards, but we also cast aside whole generations of students who are ready for a great deal more.  My son once asked me, “Dad, why do I have to do 100 problems of the same type for homework when I know how to do it after 10 problems? “  My answer was, “Because the teacher assigned it.”  But that answer is about encouraging my son to play at the game of school rather than about learning.

I wish I had the answers to all this.  I expect that since my body has orbited the sun over 60 times, I would have developed a modicum of wisdom, but in this area, I still seem to be not ready.

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 January 2012 18:01

 

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