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Schools need more time with their students

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “Mankind’s greatest problem is a perfecting of means and a confusion of ends.”

As a new school year begins, there should be no confusion about what ends the students and teachers are targeting.

Would it not be significant growth in knowledge and skills for all students? And the means? Good teachers having enough time with their students for instruction to result in marked improvement in math and reading skills, at least.

Do I know what I’m talking about? You judge. I read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, Chapter 9 especially. I checked it out from Dixon Public Library.

In it, I read that educational reformers such as Horace Mann “strove for ways to reduce time spent studying, because long periods of respite could save the mind from injury. Hence the elimination of Saturday classes, the shortening of the school day, and the lengthening of vacation.”

All of this has had prolonged negative consequences for the learning patterns of present-day students.

I also read about research led by the Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander. What Alexander’s work suggests is that the way education is discussed in the U.S. is backward.

An enormous amount of time is spent talking about reducing class size, rewriting curricula, buying every student a new laptop, and increasing school funding – all of which assumes that there is something fundamentally wrong with the job schools are doing.

But the research shows that schools work. The only problem with school, for the kids who aren’t achieving, is that there isn’t enough of it. Am I right in assuming that this conclusion is known, or at least knowable, to those in the business?

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