Issuu on Google+


British -school study rates old-fashioned ones higher appeared in The Boston Globe, 4/26/76.

United Pnu IntmiaiTonar- - - -

LONDON - One of modem educetlon't rnoet chemhed ldeu took a knock yeatet· doy with rneareh showln& children ltll'n morlt when tou&ht the old·fuhloned way.

A team of rneorehera blued toward ' •pro1renin" educolion tnted children In 871 British schoola, comparln& thost tautht by u odltlonol methods with thoae t&Uihl the plOII'IfiiiVI way. They found children In old-faahloned achools: - W~t:re the tqlllvalent of three to four' monthl ahud in readln& abJUty. - Oolned four to live monthl' ability In mathftftatlca. - l.nded three to f01.1r monlho ahted Ia Enllilh. Enn lD creotive wrltln& and lmallnetive u~ of lanauq~ta, areu where pf'Oirtfaive achools were thou&ht 10 be better, U l · dllion&l pupila came out best, rtHarehtr Dr. Nrvllle Bennett 111d.

Bennett, a S7-yur-old nsurch lecturer In education, Ia from Laneaa~r University, which doet not ualn tHc:hera. In the report ''Teochln& StyiH llld Pupil Proareaa.'' beln& publiahed locloy, Bennett aold his own leonina ot fint wu toword procr-lve teoehlna. He delined thla •• hithly infcwmol dauea where children choose what they want to do, talk ond move about u th<ty wlah ond form aroups u they wiah. "Divi· aloru between aubjecu ll'lf fluid ond teoeh· era dlnpprove of """ ond homework," he wrote. Trldltlonol achoola, by contru t, Jdeatify tac:h aubjtel Hpll'at<tly. TtKhH't apeak to the whole dua, there is little movemet or tolk ond plmty of \tits. Bennett'• member teem dlatln,ulahed 12 crldH of ltoehlnf between thne extl'e1MI. Durin& their four-yur study they \tlted chlldrm at the be&lnnln& end end of one ICbool year. In rvery cue and every catecory, they found, ehtldrm tau&ht the old-fu hioned way came out belL


much ha enjoys what he reads, 3) How adventurously he reads, i.e., how Guch of his reading ie in books supposedly "too A story in your morning hard" for him, 4) How much his edition of 4/26/76, headed reading contributes to his "British School Study Rates curiosi ty about, and underOld-Fashioned Ones Higher" standing of, himself and the tells us that a te8111 of British researchers testing chil- world around him, and 5) How much he reads on his own, dren in 671 British schools without anyone ordering, or at the beginning and at the prodding, or bribing him. end of a school year, found Quite obviously, these are all that the children in oldof critical importance in mafashioned schools, co•pared king judgmen~s about how well to the children in progresschildren (or adul ts ) read. ive schools , were three or four aonths ahead in reading Even if we take the very ability and English, and four shallow and trivial, though or five months ahead in Mathpopulsr view, of looking at ematics. reading as a purely technical skill, reading testa - at Without knowing more pre- leu t none of the ones I cisely vho was tested, and by have seen in this country whom, and bow, and for what, do not teet this ability. ve cannot draw any sensible What they test is the ability conclusions f r om this brief and willinaaeas, of children report . But even knowing ae to answer, out of any context, little as we do, we have many questions about words and pargood r easons to doubt i ts con- agraphs, which have little or clusions. no relation to the kinds of q ues tiona serious readers ask In the f i rst place, there themselves while reading. I are no such things as teste • tress ''willingness" because, of reading ability. What reaas Daniel Fader pointed out in ding tests (like all tute) his book THE NAKED CHILDREN, measure, and the only thing there may be many children they can measure , i e the abiwhom school tests declare to lity to take reading testa. be illiterate, but who are in More speci f i cally, sofact skillful readers, who for called reading tests do not various reasons do not choose and can not measure any of to r ..d in school.' perhaps bethe following iteiD8: 1) How cause they think that what much a chi l d reads, 2) How they are given to read is To The Editor:

junk, perhaps because they repractice in taking teste in fuse to do tricks for people the ordinary course of their whom (with good reason) they schoolwork, but also that they feel generally distrust and were specifically coached on deaoise thea. the tests used in this experiment, since it is the standWe couLd say the same ard practice of traditional thing, in general, about Math schools to do such coaching, tests. Those few teachers who to get the highes t scores have taken the trouble t o poaaible. check have found over and over again that children who s eem The story does not tell unable to do Math in school us whether children were tesand score at the bottom of ted at one grade level or school Math tests can and do many, and if so, at which levuse numbers skillfully and el or levels. The point is imwell in their lives outside portant, above all with resschool. pect to reading. In schools To begin with, then, the idea that there are such thinga which do not pressure children to read, some learn earas "reading ability" or "Engly, but many do not begin realish ability" or "math abiliding until they are seven or ty" which can be measured to eight, or even older. Such within a few months ie an abchildren usually catch up with surdity, built of circular the others in a very short logic on very dubious or untime. But if these tests were tenable assumptions. given t o all grade levels, There are many other rea- such children would show up in the early grades as nonsons for doubting t he conclureaders, and would tend to pull sions of this article. Thus, down the average scores. In we are told that in the proshort, this way of testing gress! ve schools "tea chers tends to favor children who disapprove of teats" while in learn ac cording to the school the traditional schools there timetable as opposed to those are "plent y of tests ." I t folwho start later and learn in lows then, that the children big spurts. in the traditional s chool s have had plenty of practice And of course such tests in test- taking, a trivial but do not and cannot reveal the learttable skill, while those teat-wise stud~nta, of which in the progressive ¥cnoole our "best" schools are full, have had little or nona . Just and of which I was one, who this difference in teat-taklearn early in the game that ing experience would be more the trick is to memorize what than enough to account for the ie taught until it is tested, differences in •~ores. after which it can be safely forgotten. In short, they do We can f airly ass ume, not and can not test whether also, that the tests the chilin the long run students redren were given were some form member and make use of what of standard school teste , and they seem to be learning in therefore , that most of the school. schoolwork in the traditional schools ha4 been built around ln short, the storr does these tests , while i n the pro- not do auch of anything but gressive schools this wae auch give a further excuse for less so or not so at all. In pushing children around to other words, what these teats people who need no excuse to were testing ie aaterial that do it. Thosa many who do not ~he traditi onal schools had believe in human freedom and worked bard to teach and that disnity will of course greet the progressive schools had with roars of enthusiasm this not. There is no indication latest piece of so-called rethat any attempt was made search in favor of the timeindeed it would be very hard worn idea that fear and slavto make - to find out whether ery are what ''work" best . the children in the pro&reesive schools kn.w things that Sincerely, the children in the traditional schools had not learned at all. Beyond that, we can fairly assume, not only that the children in the traditional achoola had auch 1110re

John Holt

Holt Replies to British School Study