Friday, March 6, 2009

Response to "What Should Johnny Learn"

(See this article from USA Today)

Per the USA Today article by Greg Toppo on “What Should Johnny Learn”, I know both the “skills” and the “core” advocates should consider the success of classical educators. We expect young students to master core content by emphasizing the skills of reading words, writing words, and ciphering words. Then we teach our middle school students how to parse languages, debate current events, and mind their “Ps and Qs” in formal logic studies. These critical thinking skills are taught to 13-year-olds who already read well, are eager to spar over big ideas, and have the vocabulary to do so.

In high school, we focus on memorizing even larger amounts of vocabulary, expand our studies into the realms of philosophy and science, and learn to defend universal truths through copious amounts of writing and public speaking. We give our youth lots of content to master from the great classical conversations of history, demand proficiency in algebra and formal logic to develop clear reasoning skills, and expect students to prove they can synthesize a broad range of seemingly unrelated topics into a coherent essay or speech.

Even though half of American 12th graders are illiterate, educational leaders are unwilling to admit the failure of post-modern schools that cater to students’ interests rather than demand the hard work that inspires a love of learning. Since social ‘nitwitting’ has replaced reading as our youths’ primary leisure activity, schools are only funding more illiteracy by encouraging time on computers. Replacing technology with a pen and paper saves money and requires students to develop ‘skills’ using ‘core’ content.


Leigh Bortins

CEO, Classical Conversations, Inc.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. We watched a documentary over the weekend about William Wilberforce called "The Better Hour". I couldn't help but wonder where all these great men have gone, including John Adams, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Nathan Hale and the like. It starts at home, it starts with acknowledging that true knowledge, understanding and wisdom comes from God. Thank you for assisting this new-to-homeschooling momma!

Anonymous said...

I think you should define literacy before declaring 1/2 of American 12th graders as illiterate. This statement seems hyperbolic.
I agree whole heartedly though with the classical model of education teaching our students to think rightly, through first mastering the tools of learning and then, when developmentally ready,teaching logic and reasoning.