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The Redemption of E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Sol Stern, at the City Journal site.  His experience with the much-lauded P.S. 87 and its progressive curriculum was, shall we say, unsatisfactory:

I soon received a crash course in educational progressivism. Many of the school’s teachers were trained at such citadels of progressive education as Columbia University’s Teachers College and the Bank Street College of Education, where they learned to repeat pleasant-sounding slogans like “teach the child, not the text” and were told that all children are “natural learners.” PS 87 had no coherent, grade-by-grade curriculum. Thus, my son’s third-grade teacher decided on his own to devote months of classroom time to a project on Japanese culture, which included building a Japanese garden. Each day, when my son came home from school, I asked him what he had learned in math. Each day, he happily said the same thing: “We are building the Japanese garden.” My wife and I expressed our concern to the teacher about the lack of direct instruction of mathematical procedures, but he reassured us that constructing the Japanese garden required “real-life” math skills and that there was nothing to worry about. But I worried a lot, and even more so when my son moved up to fourth grade. His new teacher assigned even more “real-life” math problems, including one that asked students to calculate how many Arawaks were killed by Christopher Columbus in 1492 during his conquest of Hispaniola.

It seems as though Hirsch’s whole life’s work after Cultural Literacy was to bring about a change in how we teach.  I’m not thrilled with the plug for Common Core at the end of Stern’s piece, but it’s important to understand it as an attempt to rescue our kids from the eduocracy that’s pretty much destroyed public education in this country.

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