In 1982, Paideia’s original thinker, philosopher Mortimer Adler, joined with a diverse cadre of educators and intellectuals to write The Paideia Proposal. Its members charged themselves with the task of defining a list of “Paideia Principles” as a summary of ideas introduced by Adler in his seminal work on American education.
These principles continue to shape our efforts to improve teaching and learning in schools and classrooms.
Declaration of Paideia Principles
We, the members of the Paideia Group, hold these truths to be the principles of the Paideia Program:
• that all children can learn;
• that, therefore, they all deserve the same quality of schooling, not just the same quantity;
• that the quality of schooling to which they are entitled is what the wisest parents would wish for their own children, the best education for the best being the best education for all;
• that schooling at its best is preparation for becoming generally educated in the course of a whole lifetime, and that schools should be judged on how well they provide such preparation;
• that the three callings for which schooling should prepare all Americans are, (a) to earn a decent livelihood, (b) to be a good citizen of the nation and the world, and (c) to make a good life for one’s self;
• that the primary cause of genuine learning is the activity of the learner’s own mind, sometimes with the help of a teacher functioning as a secondary and cooperative cause;
• that the three types of teaching that should occur in our schools are didactic teaching of subject matter, coaching that produces the skills of learning, and Socratic questioning in seminar discussion;
• that the results of these three types of teaching should be (a) the acquisition of organized knowledge, (b) the formation of habits of skill in the use of language and mathematics, and (c) the growth of the mind’s understanding of basic ideas and issues;
• that each student’s achievement of these results would be evaluated in terms if that student’s competencies and not solely related to the achievements of other students;
• that the principal of the school should never be a mere administrator, but always a leading teacher who should be cooperatively engaged with the school’s teaching staff in planning, reforming, and reorganizing the school as an educational community;
• that the principal and faculty of a school should themselves be actively engaged in learning;
• that the desire to continue their own learning should be the prime motivation of those who dedicate their lives to the profession of teaching.
—The Paideia Group
As part of The Paideia Proposal, the Paideia Group outlined a comprehensive course of study that incorporates three complementary instructional techniques or columns.