Believe it or not: old-school teaching methods work best

Research shows, over and over again, that traditional teaching methods work best to prepare children for the future. But these methods are out of favor at public schools across the nation, which have almost completely abandoned them in favor of trendy methods taught in Education schools, built on unproven assumptions and theories, including social justice, that have little or nothing to do with actual education of children.

Which is, after all, the whole point, right? Can we get everybody to sign off on that one: whatever system works best to prepare children for a future in the world we live in is, by definition, at least one of the primary goals of an educational system. Agreed?

So with all that in mind, this is a must read: Why Kids Should Learn Cursive, Math Facts, Word Roots.

It explains how and why there are subtle advantages to learning early in school, advantages that pay off huge into the future, when you teach children Greek and Latin roots of words, among other traditional but long-since retired concepts.

Suzanne Kail’s experience is instructive. As soon as she began teaching her students the Greek and Latin origins of many English terms — that the root sta means “put in place or stand,” for example, and that cess means “to move or withdraw” — they eagerly began identifying familiar words that incorporated the roots, like “statue” and “recess.” Her three classes competed against each other to come up with the longest list of words derived from the roots they were learning. Kail’s students started using these terms in their writing, and many of them told her that their study of word roots helped them answer questions on the SAT and on Ohio’s state graduation exam. (Research confirms that instruction in word roots allows students to learn new vocabulary and figure out the meaning of words in context more easily.)

(emphasis mine)

This effect, where learning something at any given age prepares you to learn better, faster and easier in the future, is called the Matthew Effect. And because education systems built upon that concept quickly show impressive results, especially in third grade, it is apparently the one key guiding principle that should illuminate any education discussion.

If kids do not learn to read well in third grade, they cannot read to learn later.

The article goes on to describe the same type of advantages with memorizing math facts, learning cursive writing, rhetoric and argumentation, and reading aloud. I won’t quote it all here – please go read the article, it’s only one page long.

Again: the Matthew Effect. Learn about it (bing, google). I have written about it on this site when describing the work of E.D. Hirsch (search site), who shows convincingly that the ability to learn by reading is largely dependent on background knowledge in the form of facts and content. In other words, you need existing context in your brain in order to organize and understand what you read.

We all like to talk a good game on Education. So are we serious, or not? Because if we are, and by extension, if we are serious about the future of our children, we need to grab the reins on education and undo the damage done by misguided education theories, especially social justice theory led by leading lights such as unrepentant-terrorist-turned-esteemed-education-professor William Ayers, and class warfare Marxist theory led by communist-apologist-turned-major-America-History-textbook-writer Howard Zinn. Shorter version: we are allowing former 60s radicals to destroy our children’s intellectual development – and therefore, their future – from within the educational mainstream.


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