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The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them Paperback – August 17, 1999
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Everyone wonders why American schools have gone bad. E.D. Hirsch, author of Cultural Literacy, offers a compelling explanation. Schools do a lousy job of transmitting "core knowledge" to their students, he says. To improve, they must abandon all of their feel-good theories about "critical thinking" and work harder to endow kids with intellectual capital at an early age. It may sound like common sense, but this important book shows why so many educators appear to have lost theirs. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Bestselling author Hirsch (Cultural Literacy) argues that American education, kindergarten through high school, has been undermined by a deep contempt for factual knowledge and an addiction to fads such as "project-oriented" instruction, "relevant" topics, "child-centered" activities and building students' self-esteem. In a damning, highly provocative, full-scale assault on today's educational establishment, this University of Virginia English professor calls for a return to a so-called traditional approach emphasizing drill, verbal practice, memorization and interactive classroom instruction. Hirsch, who advocates a grade-by-grade core curriculum, buttresses his pragmatic tack with cognitive-psychology research and international comparative studies of classroom practice. An enjoyable 30-page glossary demystifies educators' slogans, pet phrases and jargon. A rigorous polemic.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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A year ago, I retired from the practice of law to provide full time academic support to my children. Only then did I discover that my 5th, 7th and 9th graders, all of whom attend the 'best' private school in our area, could not perform any of the basic algorithms with consistent accuracy or identify the parts of speech. While parents bear primary responsibility for such deficits, Hirsch provided the historical context and data with which to evaluate causal factors rooted in 'progressive' education methods. Most importantly, he introduced us to the body of learning research from the domains of cognitive psychology and neuroscience, where we at last encountered experts whose prognostications mirrored our experiences. This research was invaluable in helping us to choose effective extra-curricular remediation. But, we immediately began to search for a school that is based on the Hirsch model - and couldn't find one. We live in a state which has legislated wholesale progressive reforms, and our 'independent' schools have largely followed suit. We encounter the same reform patter at every school tour, and we're resigned to ongoing Kumon Math and other supplemental tutoring. I can only hope that Hirsch's positions will germinate in time to make 'the schools we need' readily available to my grandchildren.
My former bosses, the principals, had kept making suggestions (always about projects, hands-on learning, etc.) to me that ran counter to what I believed in. At the end, they did a good job of driving me out because I couldn't take it anymore: being stressed out thinking that I was teaching the wrong way. They always wanted feelings, displays of affection, and caring as part of my class. I was like, "I am not their daddy. I am a mathematics teacher, and my goal is to teach them math, no more." Other teacher had employed this affection route in their job which makes me ill to this day.
All in all, I agree with everything presented in The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them; they are sound ideas, and it's how I learned when I was growing up: taking advantage of background knowledge and using old knowledge to construct new knowledge, going from novice to expert in mathematics.