So Kieran Egan
, a renowned professor of education, is invited to deliver a seminar in Israel, and a funny thing happened as he learns that it's "hard not to feel that [in North America] one is on the sidelines of history, whereas in Jerusalem history continues close up against your face."
The history of Israel is full of vividness, but the school is such a determining institution that, faced with the task of telling children about David, Saul, Absalom, Absalom, oh my son Absalom, the creation of the world, and all that, teachers have to organize the knowledge into a form that will make it comprehensible to 30 or more children at once. This has tended to lead to industrial procedures in teaching. Teachers are taught to first consider their objectives for the lesson or lessons, then line up the content they want to convey, then consider the methods that they will use, then design the means of evaluation that will allow them to know how successful or otherwise they have been. The result of these planning procedures, derived from assembly line systems of building refrigerators, tends to be, unsurprisingly, dullness in presentation and little learning as a result. My talk was to suggest that the teachers might think of the content to be taught more as a good story to be told than as a set of objectives to be attained.