Sunday, February 26, 2006


Just the Facts, Ma'am

Progressivist education, at least that of a certain sort poisoned by bumper-sticker ideology, a caricature that alas exists all too often in self-caricaturing reality, is the sworn enemy of "mere facts," "rote memorization," and "drill and kill." There is a venerable pedigree to this peculiarly American brand of anti-intellectualism, one which scoffs at creationists but embraces discredited Rousseauian ideas of a child's "innate nature" and persists in believing that the acquisition of all knowledge is simplistically analogical to a child's acquisition of language. On the ground, this translates into a dismissal of book-larnin' and a fetishization of nebulous unmeasurables that just don't show up on tests, explaining why our kids are surely smarter than the rest of the world's kids, but just don't test so well at everything.

Fortunately, in education as in American Catholicism (the chief topics of this blog), there is much evidence that the Silly Season is ending. Soon, God willing, parents will never again have to hear vapidities like "teach the child, not the subject" and "schooling shouldn't interfere with education."* Note that this isn't a school-vs.-homeschooling thing; if I hear one more progressivist homeschooler tsk-ing about "stuffing a child full of facts as if she were a sausage," I will forget my Lenten resolutions and smack her.

Some worthy and interesting articles on the need for procedural fluency and mastery of facts, algorithms, and other data. For those who still need convincing.

Reaching for Common Ground in K-12 Mathematics Education

Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise

Practice Makes Perfect– But Only If You Practice Beyond the Point of Perfection

You Can Always Look It Up — Or Can You?

Classroom Research and Cargo Cults

Knowing And Teaching Elementary Mathematics

Why Students Think They Understand—When They Don’t

Basic Slills Versus Conceptual Understanding

Neglecting the Early Grades

(Source: KDeRosa at Chris Correa.)

*My, one could go on all day listing inane educational phrases, couldn't one? "Teach to the whole child." "Every child is gifted." "Commitment to excellence." "Emotional intelligence." "Learning to learn." One of my favorites is "the highest level of learning is when a student has the ability to instruct others"; besides being demonstrably false, it's only pressed into service when schools want to cancel gifted programs and use children as unpaid teaching assistants instead. Please feel welcome to add your own.

2 Comments:

Blogger bearing said...

Obviously, schooling *can* interfere with education, and one should avoid it if possible.

Institutional schooling is a perfect example!

10:28 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

I agree that there's a true sense to that saying, just as there's a germ of truth in all of them. But in my experience, the slogan gets used as a way of belittling academic instruction.

The trouble with thinking in slogans is that it bypasses the presentation of clear claims and arguments which can be critically examined, and which often enough wouldn't withstand scrutiny if spelled out.

11:36 AM  

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