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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teach the children: 'Is the Soviet Union a country?'

Teaching is "oppressive." Teachers should "guide" students to discover things on their own, based on their interests, but shouldn't actually teach. Critical thinking is a valuable skill that doesn't require knowledge of facts, which are obsolete.


Daniel Buck takes on this ideology in his new book, What Is Wrong with Our Schools, writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in a Commentary review.


As a teacher in Wisconsin, he once showed ninth-graders a documentary about the Great Depression that said some U.S. workers had moved to the Soviet Union. Buck asked teachers why they might do that. Silence. Finally, a student asked: “Is the Soviet Union a country?”


His students had been taught "a smattering of U.S. and ancient history, but nothing about World War I, World War II or the Cold War. The 20th century was supposed to come later.


It's hard to think critically in a vacuum.


Children's interests are supposed to determine what they study, writes Buck. Each student is doing his or her own thing.


He prefers communal learning. When reads aloud the scene with Tom Robinson’s conviction in To Kill a Mockingbird, students “experience the build-up and disappointment together,” Buck writes. “Every year someone lets a ‘No!’ slip out; when the bell rings, my students walk out of the classroom talking about how affecting that scene is.”


The focus on “relatability” in choosing what children should learn is limiting, Buck writes. "He notes that kids have a natural curiosity about things outside of their experience, and teachers should be exploiting that," writes Schaefer Riley.


He repeated cites research, she writes. "Project-based learning, student-driven classrooms, and skills-based curricula are failing our kids. Children need and want instruction on actual subjects with regular assessments on what they have learned along with all of their classmates."


In addition, Buck argues that students learn a lot more when they're not distracted by classroom chaos or worried about being beaten up. "When schools create expectations of punctuality, order in classrooms and hallways, and civil behavior, students are able to focus on the educational tasks in front of them," as Schaefer Riley puts it. They have a chance to learn.

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Craig Randall
Craig Randall
26 mar

"In addition, Buck argues that students learn a lot more when they're not distracted by classroom chaos or worried about being beaten up." This has always been true, but increasingly less and less common to find classroom environments, even those managed by excellent educators, that are devoid of chaos. And for those who find themselves in these idyllic educational environments, they are likely to already be carrying some level of chaos from their home environments with them--particularly if they are currently in the K-4 age group.

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linda.g.oc
17 mar

Kids already know their own environment They should be explicitly taught a whole host of things outside of it; across all of the disciplines. Widen their world and teach them to see how their world fits into the wider world and the history etc. of it. Like the old children’s poem “ There’s no frigate like a book, to take us lands away”, kids need to be taught how to expand their horizons.

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