“Debating the design of core curricula is a way for grownups to entertain themselves, but it doesn’t help children get anywhere worth going. We should demand that all reformers and armchair rigorists do some actual public-school teaching—maybe three weeks as a substitute every year—as a precondition to furthering their proposed changes.
“Most learning, beginning with speech—which is the real miracle—happens outside of school.
“But reading in school is crucial, obviously. More silent reading and reading to friends—reading of anything—is a good idea. Kids know how to talk—they’re remarkably enterprising talkers, in fact—but many stumble over the decoding of simple sentences, even in high school. Some days, if they hate eye-reading, let them listen to audiobooks and podcasts—whatever holds their interest, and delights them, and makes them laugh. Have them write in one- or two-paragraph bursts after they’ve done some reading. Don’t require outlines. Toss the standard essay form out the window. Avoid horrible two-week-long projects.
“Hire teachers who are good explainers, who are curious about the world’s infinite subject matter. Pay them more and give them their heads. Let them lead their classes in surprising directions.”
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