Friday, August 11, 2017

the philosophy book: take a peek at Unit 1

I've been charged with creating a textbook on philosophy for elementary schoolers, so I've been creating the content, making design elements, and fashioning layout. Here's a link to a draft of Unit 1, which of course begins with the question, "What is philosophy?" Thus far, I've had near-total freedom to create the content and the look as I please, but Unit 1 is soon going to be reviewed by several teachers (Koreans, most likely) who will offer their input as to how easy or difficult the material is, and/or how appealing the design is. The boss is pretty sure that the teachers will think the material is a bit too difficult for their kids; I'm inclined to agree, so I'm already anticipating having to redo most or all of what you see. As for other critiques, the boss thinks that the "listening" dialogue on page 7 needs to be removed so the students can't read along. I agree: I placed the dialogue there more as a filler than as actual content for the students. In the final version, the dialogue will likely be gone, and only the listening-exercise instructions will remain. Otherwise, the boss declared himself pleased with the unit's overall look, and he doesn't think the reading passage is too difficult (given that I was at pains to explain many new terms within the passage itself), but he's still fairly sure that the unit will need to be redone after the teachers have had their say.

Creating the content was easy and straightforward, but doing the art and layout took a long, long time. In the future, when I get back to working on this textbook, I've been told that I should concentrate solely on creating content. I hope this doesn't mean that other people will be brought in to do the design work (this has become my baby, after all), but that may be the only way to produce the book faster. My own thought is that I can radically reduce the number of illustrations I do per unit, which will speed production up nicely.

ADDENDUM: Dammit. I'm still finding mistakes in this draft. For my own purposes (because I'll need to go back to the original files, clean up the errors, then create new PDFs and hard-copy printouts), I'll list the gaffes here.

1. Page 3: need a closed quotation mark after "dead" in question 5.
2. Page 4: "analyze" is a verb, not a noun.
3. Page 4: for #4, "wisdom" = awkward phrase "a deep sense of about how to live life..."
4. Page 7: Prof. Jones's line, second utterance from the bottom: close up the space in the phrase "an animal that can use reason or logic."
5. Page 7: close up spaces after all ellipses (consistency).
6. Page 7: Prof. Jones's final line: close up space in the phrase "human beings are unique."
7. Page 11, section 1, question 2: delete "has."
8. Page 12: close up spaces after ellipses.
9. Page 14, section 2: switch "by" and "come to" to reflect proper order of patterns.
10. Page 16, section 1: change "6-line" to "4-line."
11. Page 17, #3: add the line, "Print out your paragraph and bring it to class."

ADDENDUM 2: corrections made. I'm breathing easier, now.


Anonymous said...

First of all that is a phenomenal effort. The pictures are quite good and get the points across in a humorous way.

Second, what is the audience? This could not be done by high school students in the US in English, much less in a foreign language. Of course, I have a very poor opinion of US education since the 60's. Do Korean elementary students have that good a command of English?

You have one a excellent job of trying to get to the heart of the matter. The examples are quite apropos.

A great job, but expect the teachers to want lots of changes.


Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for the encouragement and for the dose of realism. Yes, I suspect that changes will be asked for. It's my job to make the consumers happy, so I'll implement those changes as I can.

The target audience is elementary-school kids. Here in Korea, kids are pushed to tackle English at absurdly high levels of complexity. I've heard horror stories about elementary-school students reading articles from Time. I've also heard stories of elementary kids in SAT-prep courses, which is the height of absurdity to me. Generally speaking, Korean kids learn to read English long before they learn to speak the language. The pedagogical approach here tends to be more focused on reading and grammar, with little attention paid to verbal communication skills, oral proficiency, writing ability, etc. This is consistent with the Korean educational notion that students are merely passive vessels, ready to receive information. A student's job is to sit, listen, and take notes. Critical-thinking skills are largely unnecessary, and there's no culture of discussion, whether inside or outside the context of language learning (see Jeff Hodges's various—and excellent—posts on Korea's overall lack of a culture of discussion: type "culture of discussion" in his blog's search window for quickest results).

Foreigners who teach English to Korean kids provide the kids with their first real opportunity to engage in language learning by actively speaking and writing. The kids are normally terrible at these things, but they do begin to improve, albeit slowly. Some of these kids will eventually go abroad, and those students' English skills will improve dramatically because they're forced to speak the target language 24/7.

I agree that Korean children are often given level-inappropriate material to study for their English classes. But that's the reality I live in, and I can't change the academic culture all by myself. I'll "dumb down" the philosophy book's verbiage, but it'll still be too difficult for the kids.