Saturday, September 12, 2020

Teaching Changes And The Decline Of Americans International Ranking In Adult Literacy And Student Reading Assessment From 1950s To 2015

From The Wall Street Journal, "Bad Teaching Is Tearing America Apart: Education’s dumbing down frays the bonds of citizenship and is hardest on the poor, says E.D. Hirsch, the man who wrote the book on cultural literacy." by Naomi Schaefer Riley:
He [E.D. Hirsch] cites both history and neuroscience in explaining how education went wrong. It began in the 1940s, when “schools unbolted the desks and kids were no longer facing the teacher.” Instead children were divided into small groups and instructed to complete worksheets independently with occasional input from teachers. “That was also when our verbal test scores went down and the relative ranking of our elementary schools declined on a national level.” On the International Adult Literacy Survey, Americans went from being No. 1 for children who were educated in the 1950s to fifth for those in the ’70s and 14th in the ’90s. And things have only gotten worse. Between 2002 and 2015, American schoolchildren went from a ranking of 15th to 24th in reading on the Program for International Student Assessment. [Emphasis added.]

The problem runs deeper than the style of instruction, Mr. Hirsch says. It’s the concept at its root—“child-centered classrooms,” the notion that “education is partly a matter of drawing out a child’s inborn nature.” Mr. Hirsch says emphatically that a child’s mind is “a blank slate.” On this point he agrees with John Locke and disagrees with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who thought children’s need to develop according to their nature. Both philosophers make the “Cultural Literacy” list, but “Locke has to make a comeback” among educators, Mr. Hirsch says. “The culture is up for grabs, and elementary schools are the culture makers.”

Mr. Hirsch is a man of the left—he has said he is “practically a socialist.” But he bristles at the idea that kids should read only books by people who look like them or live like them. He recalls how reading outside his own experience enabled him “to gain perspective.”