The Book of the Week is “To Know A Fly” by Vincent G. Dethier, published in 1962. This thin, little paperback book discusses how scientists attempt to understand the behavior of a fly. Those who pull off the legs or wings of flies either come to a bad end or become biologists.
“The [required] college education not infrequently is as useful for acquiring proficiency in the game of Grantsmanship as it is for understanding biology. No self-respecting modern biologist can go to work without money for a secretary, a research associate, two laboratory assistants, permanent equipment…” a car, books, animals and their accompanying accessories, etc., and a vast quantity of money (called overhead) “to the university to pay for all the transcribers hired to handle all the papers and money transactions that so big a grant requires.”
There is much to be said for the fly as an experimental animal. The author describes in detail some clever experiments involving the fly’s eating habits and capacity to learn. “To know the fly is to share a bit in the sublimity of Knowledge.”
The Book of the Week is “The Heart is the Teacher” by Leonard Covello, published in 1958. The author came to the U.S. from Italy when he was nine. He became a passionate teacher, and later, principal of Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem, New York City.
Benjamin Franklin said about education, “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
Mr. Covello said about being a teacher, “I am the teacher. I am older, presumably wiser than you, the pupils. I am in possession of knowledge which you don’t have. It is my function to transfer this knowledge from my mind to yours… certain ground rules must be set up and adhered to. I talk. You listen. I give. You take. Yes, we will be friends, we will share, we will discuss, we will have open sessions for healthy disagreement– but only within the context of the relationship I have described, and the respect for my position as teacher which must go with it.”
The Book of the Week is “Silicon Snake Oil” by Clifford Stoll. This prescient book (published in 1996) presents evidence that the use of technology in certain areas of our lives, such as in education, is not necessarily a cure-all.
Here is an excerpt describing what happened when the author’s machine was malfunctioning: “…so I grovel before a technician or pay a long-distance fee to get lost in a thicket of automated help messages…”
Just a few problems in American schools include overcrowding, poor teaching, poor security and budget shortfalls. “Computers address none of these problems.” Just because technology might “make learning fun” does not mean students learn any better. It just makes curriculum suppliers richer.
This is a thought-provoking book.