In AFT’s American Educator, E.D. Hirsch argues that building students’ knowledge base is essential to educating students who comprehend what they decode.
Instead of a respect for the importance of knowledge, Romanticism gave us faith in the half-truth that the most important thing for students to learn is “how to learn.” It bequeathed to us a tendency to dismiss the acquisition of broad knowledge as “rote learning” of “mere facts” to subtly disparage “merely verbal” presentations in books and by teachers, and to criticize school knowledge unless it is connected to “real life” in a “hands-on” way.
Basal readers teach “formal comprehension stragies, such as predicting, summarizing, questioning, and clarifying,” independent of any body of knowledge.
Knowledge is good, writes Daniel Willingham in the same issue.
Those with a rich base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more—the rich get richer. In addition, factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning. The richer the knowledge base, the more smoothly and effectively these cognitive processes—the very ones that teachers target—operate. So, the more knowledge students accumulate, the smarter they become.
I think of knowledge as Velcro. The more little knowledge hooks you’ve got in your brain, the easier it is for new knowledge to stick.