15 Minutes?

My friend Ed Kilgore once noted that the definition of being an insider in Washington is finding things out 15 minutes before everyone else.   Is the internet ruining that small thrill, too?  I was barely into reading the drafts of the proposed new national education standards when Panic at the Pondiscio decided to publish a leaked copy…

3 Replies to “15 Minutes?”

  1. OK, Andy, so you still got it 15 minutes before me, so you’re still the consummate insider.

    Here’s the problem with the draft — and I accept that it’s still a draft. It reveals a troubling assumption that reading is a transferable skill. Take one of the standards: students should be able to summarize ideas, events and information in a text. That may sound obvious, and no one will disagree, but it’s not a transferable skill. You can’t learn to summarize ideas and information in the abstract and suddenly have the ability to do it for EVERY nonfiction text. It’s a function of your background knowledge, which helps you discern what’s important and what you can set aside. So our insistence on teaching skills and strategies instead of a broad, robust curriculum virtually guarantees that our kids won’t be very well educated or be competent readers, either.

    Same thing in writing. According to the standards, students should be able to “make an argument” and “inform and explain.” Fine. Andy does a fine job of both when it comes to education policy. He might be able to do it for fishing, too. Anyone think he can do it on any subject? Urban planning? International law? Obstetrics? Our refusal to see this problem for what it is sets us back.

    Decoding (turning letters into sounds) is a transferable skill. Reading comprehension is not. Research is quite clear that students who are poor readers suddenly turn into adequate to strong readers when they read passages on subjects they know something about. So maybe we should increase the number of subjects they know something about?

    Anyone who would write standards for reading should understand this: Teaching content IS teaching reading.

  2. I, for one, think Andy would do a fine job explaining obstetrics. He has twins after all…

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