Saturday, March 25, 2006

Reading Moloch

The NYT reports how, driven by NCLB, math and reading is driving out other subjects like science and history.

SACRAMENTO — Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks.

I find it curious that educationists regard "reading" and learning science and history as being mutually exclusive. "Reading" is not some abstract, isolated skill but a practical tool that can be applied to many fields. Couldn't you learn a lot of history and science by reading? Whatever happened to reading across the curriculum?

In The Knowledge Deficit , E.D. Hirsch argues that reading instruction should be less concerned with "strategies" and should focus more on domain knowledge:

From Publishers Weekly
The notion of learning how to learn is a shibboleth in America's schools, but it distorts reading instruction, contends this provocative manifesto. Education theorist Hirsch decries a dominant "Romantic" pedagogy that disparages factual knowledge and emphasizes reading comprehension "strategies"—summarizing, identifying themes, drawing inferences—that children can deploy on any text. Such formal skills, he argues, are easily acquired; what kids really need is a broad background knowledge of history, science and culture to help them assimilate new vocabulary and understand more advanced readings. "Process-oriented" methods that apply reading comprehension drills to "vapid" texts waste time and slow kids' progress, Hirsch contends, and should be replaced with a more traditional, "knowledge-oriented" academic approach with a rich factual content. Hirsch repeats the call for a standard curriculum based on a canon of general knowledge (he touts his own core knowledge sequence as a model) made in his bestselling Cultural Literacy. That work drew fire from multiculturalists who accused Hirsch of promoting dead-white-male worship, but here he grounds his case in the latest cognitive-science research (with a healthy dose of common sense). Fluently written and accessible to teachers and parents alike, the book presents a challenge to reigning educational orthodoxies. (Apr. 24)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


thanks for reminding me!

I wanted to make sure to post some of the pithier comments from this article at ktm -