Tim Worstall links to this Grauniad article about how children should learn to write. As with Tim I confess to having some reservations. The article is about the "surprising" discovery that children learn to write better by actually writing than by learning grammar and parts of speech. My problem is that at some point it becomes a good idea to explain those grammar bits that the child has somehow missed. I'm not saying no writing, undoubtedly the old saw about practise making perfect applies to writing as it does to many other things but practise without being given a model or corrections will lead to the reinforcement of bad grammar and bad habits and in the long term this will limit the student.
For example I am limited in the complexity of Japanese that I can speak or write because I lack the true understanding of how to use certain grammatical constructions in Japnese. I can generally make myself understood, but it would probably be better if I actually had the time to read the form of a couple of rules written down in a book. There is a great fotolog site that highlights grammatical clangers and I believe that many of them are caused by the writer never having been taught the rules.
A secondary school head teacher has abolished homework for all 12-year-olds, saying it is an outdated "dinosaur".
Pupils at St John's in Marlborough, Wiltshire, are being encouraged to "manage their own learning" instead.
Head teacher Patrick Hazlewood believes homework is a repetitious chore which generates more work for teachers.
In a related project, he has also scrapped subject teaching in Year Seven (11 to 12-year olds).
Dr Hazlewood says he wants to make schooling more "relevant to life in the 21st century".
He wants to "get away from the imposition of homework, a product of 20th century education" and allow children to embrace their 21st century "learning journey".
He told reporters: "The National Curriculum is very much like a dinosaur. It served a purpose at the time; it filled the notion of the `job for life'."
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph Dr Hazlewood said: "The time has come to let sunshine flood through the classroom window and place the learner at the centre of all endeavour."
Now undoubtedly Dr H has a point in that it is much better for children to "manage their own learning" but, unfortunately most children lack the self discipline and desire to learn which will be required instead. Two items down, I excerpted parts of a speech by Paul Graham and one of those excerpts would seem to apply here:
I'm not saying there's no such thing as genius. But if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right.
Ask yourself how many 12 year old kids will voluntarily study instad of watch TV, play video games or hang out with their friends? A theory that homework is not "relevant to life in the 21st century" will appeal to the lazy and is therefore likely to be wrong. This, despite all the best intentions in the world, seems highly likely to contribute to the dumbing down of British EdgeUKshun, and that cannot be a good thing. This is not a theoretical worry, across the pond SISU has a good example of how this all goes wrong:
A columnist at the Newton Tab in Massachusetts suggests that school officials there wondering why scores on standardized math tests have plummeted in recent years look no further than recent curriculum changes for an explanation.
About five years ago, writes Tom Mountain, the Newton school district opted to start emphasizing its commitment to "anti-racist education" instead of division, multiplication, fractions and decimals.
Now, administrators are perplexed that scores on sixth-grade standardized tests have declined steadily over the past three years to the point where 32 percent of sixth-graders are now in the "warning" or "needs improvement" category.
Cause and effect seems to be a concept that educators have trouble grasping, for the good of the future the rest of us need to grasp it for them and beat it into their heads. I believe the big problem with such well.meaning educators is that the fail to understand the difference between good and excellent. I have no doubt that exceptional teachers can indeed instill a love of learning and indeed the knowledge necessary without a curriculum or homework or what have you. Unfortunately there are very few exceptional teachers and merely good teachers need the support structure that a curriculum provides.