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“Elementary and middle school should be about memorization”

So I’m digging into this week’s Carnival of Education and first I read this (I love the quote by Sinclair!):

Pop over to your neighborhood school and visit some classrooms. Is what’s happening cognitively nutritive? That is, does it satisfy present needs and provide nourishment for the future health and development of children’s thinking?

Or is it punitive, with little concern for present nourishment and future health and development?

The Genevan psychologist and researcher Hermina Sinclair said,

All of us concerned with education should view children as wearing signboards saying ‘Under Construction’. No, wait a moment. I didn’t say that strongly enough. All of us should look at people as wearing signboards saying, ‘Under Construction—Self Employed’. (See Reference 1.)

We are in the fifth year of research, work which sheds light on Sinclair’s claim, shows that present educational goals for children are often trivial, and which suggests that current methods of causing learning to take place should be re-thought.

The work shows that children at grades 1-5 are capable of stunningly complex thinking and that this goal can be achieved with no direct teaching, but rather by posing problems for the children to solve.

Then, in an abrupt about-face, I read this:

Elementary and middle school should be about memorization. Many of my 8th graders aren’t really capable of abstract thought at this point.

As an example, I teach my 7th graders about the reconquista and about the exploration of the Americas. Yet despite repeated prompts, none of my students in 7 years have been able to connect the two things, despite my prompts about both occuring in 1492.

Let high school and college develop meaning and interconnection.

The second excerpt is from a teacher. I feel really, really sorry for his students…


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[I was supposed to post this last Friday. This is starting to become a troubling trend…] My next recipient of the crimson megaphone is Alice Mercer, a teacher in California. […]