A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Next entry: Snuffy says don't blame the teachers
Previous entry: Neil Turok on teaching the best maths students in Africa
Thursday April 03 2008

imageIn the course of reviewing Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life by Richard Florida, which is about what makes cities successful, Steven Malanga has this to say about what Florida has to say about education:

Now that Florida has discovered how important a school system is to his target audience, in Who’s Your City he must now give his two-and-a-half page riff on what’s wrong with public education in America. His assessment boils down to this: we’re still teaching kids as though we were in the industrial age, trying to force them into rote learning instead of unleashing their creativity and allowing them to learn flexibly. Florida doesn’t seem to know that one reason so much public education has gone off the rails in the United States is that curricula developed in our education schools starting in the 1960s and 1970s tried to do exactly what he proposes - make learning a more inner-centered, “natural,” and creative process, while ignoring the basics. Today, for instance, kids are taught to read through “whole language” courses that dispense with what educators deride as the “drill and kill” of learning phonics in favor of classroom interactions with classmates and minimal teacher guidance. Though we now have a mountain of scientific evidence showing that whole-language instruction doesn’t work nearly as well as phonics-based instruction, “the resistance from many educators to [teaching phonics] has been palpable,” according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. Educators cling to ineffective techniques precisely because many share Florida’s romantic, misguided notion that they must find ways to unleash students’ creativity. Indeed, when Florida praises foreign elementary-education systems over America’s, he seems unaware that most of them are far more traditional in their curricula, and far more standardized in their teaching (many countries require that the same curricula be taught in all of their schools), than America is.

I believe in unleashing students’ creativity by teaching them to read and write, which works best if you use phonics.  Illiteracy, I believe, leashes creativity.