Observations from Lilian Katz

During her 31 years at the University of Illinois, Lilian G. Katz taught a graduate course titled Early Childhood Curriculum Trends and Issues. The topics included selected aspects of child development, the role of play in learning, parent-teacher relationships, curriculum models and teaching methods, and examination of research related to all of these matters She writes:

At the last class of every semester, I also evaluated the semester in terms of what was accomplished or omitted, and provided some reflections on the main points. During the first few years, the list of main points for the last class meeting was about a half-dozen. But over the years, the list grew to its present length. The list includes some professional, pedagogical as well as philosophical, principles that I hoped students would carry with them as they returned to their work.

I have taken excerpts from her article:

  1. Take care not to confuse what is exciting, amusing, and fun with what is educative. Excitement is appropriate for entertainment and special occasions; it is short-lived pleasure—easy come, easy go. But what is educative requires sustained effort and involvement, often includes many routine elements, and offers long-term deep satisfaction rather than momentary fun and excitement.
  2. Remember that meaningful relationships have to have content. Relationships cannot develop in a vacuum; people have to relate to each other about something that matters to the members of the relationship.
  3. The goal of education is not enjoyment; that is the goal of entertainment. The goal of education is to engage the mind of the learners so that their understandings of significant phenomena and events become deeper, clearer, and more accurate. When we succeed at engaging their minds, the learners find it enjoyable. But enjoyment cannot be our goal; it is more likely a side effect of good teaching.
  4. Respect your adversaries and resist the temptation to be defensive. Remember, whenever you respond defensively, it is partly because you believe the attack, or believe part of the attack; and when you are defensive, you are responding by the attacker’s rules!
  5. Never take someone else’s views or opinions of you or your work more seriously than you take your own! Take others’ views seriously—there may be much to learn from them—but not more seriously than you take your own; for that is the essence of selfrespect, and I believe that children benefit from being around self-respecting adults.
  6. Identify as clearly as you can what your own assignment is, and what is yours to do, and do  it as well and as wholeheartedly as you can. Don’t waste time blaming history, tradition, politicians, administrators, parents, or any other category. In other words, avoid being caught in the “blame drain.” We are with the children for such a short time and at such an important time in their lives. Make that time count by giving it all you have.
  7. The definition of education provided by the British philosopher R. S. Peters: To be educated is not to have arrived at a destination; it is to travel with a different view. What is required is not feverish preparation for something that lies ahead, but to work with a  precision, passion, and taste at worthwhile things that lie at hand. Read more…
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