Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fantasy Reform from Jay Matthews that actually makes some sense

I'm often amused and nearly always irritated at Jay Matthews - from his claim for KIPP being the Deus Ex Machina of the Educational world to his quaint ideas on time management for teachers. I was surprised that I actually agreed with him on a couple things. I know, it's crazy but there it is.

I've posted a copy of his latest attempt at reasonable reform. Read that for context, as I plan on fairly heavy-handed snipping.
1. Replace elementary school homework with free reading. Throw away the expensive take-home textbooks, the boring worksheets ....
Just as long as you drill them for hours like KIPP does daily?
One of the clearest (and most ignored) findings of educational research is that elementary students who do lots of homework don't learn more than students who do none.
Hasn't stopped KIPP yet. Jay, you're contradicting yourself again. This time, though, you might be onto something. More-targeted homework rather than simply more homework is a good idea. Reinforce the day's work with a few minutes of practice that can be done with the parents -- just what the elementary student needs. High school is another matter, of course.
5. Have every high school student read at least one nonfiction book before graduation. I am not talking about textbooks.
Here's Three: "The Killer Angels" by Sharra, "A Brief History of Time" by Hawking and "The Big Splat" by Mackenzie. Yeah, I'm all for this.

Update: let's add "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" by Weatherford, "Purple Cow" by Godin, "Just and Unjust Wars" by Walzer, "Innumeracy" by Paulos, "Ruby on Rails" by Tate and Hibbs, "Cultural Literacy" by Hirsch, "Punished by Rewards" by Kohn, "How the Other Half Thinks" by Stein. Crap, I almost forgot "Flatland" by Abbott, though that is fiction - not for this list.


  1. I wrote about this too. I haven't read much of Matthews, but recent readings make me marvel that the man actually gets paid for what he does.

  2. Agreed! I'd add an economics text in there somewhere ...