A lot of modern education is inefficient, except for foreign language courses. There, teachers still proceed in a logical, sequential, and honest way.

French Class As the Perfect Way to Teach Everything

By —— Bio and Archives--September 9, 2018

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French Class As the Perfect Way to Teach Everything
There is one constant throughout the past 100 years. Professors of education came up with ever more exotic schemes and nomenclatures for how education should be organized, even as these schemes confused students and destroyed achievement.

Each scheme had a catchy name (Open Classroom, Life Adjustment, Multiculturalism, Constructivism, Common Core) and a phalanx of resistance-is-futile jargon. Somehow the proposals didn’t translate into gains. One might cynically conclude that the jargon was a goal in itself (to get a grant, to build a career, to impress ordinary citizens). You may even suspect that the larger purpose of all these schemes is to create an illusion of seriousness, and to fool parents into thinking that their kids are being educated when that is not the case. I suspect as much.


But what if we banished the nonsense, outlawed the jargon, and were genuinely serious, as opposed to faking it? What would that look like? Why, it would look exactly like what we see in every French class. And therein lies the starting point for this meditation.

Let’s reflect on what is the most salient thing about a French class (or any other language class). Teachers and students start off from a position of reverence for the material. French is a glorious thing. You want to learn to speak French. Everybody’s on board, with the same goal, the same love, the same seriousness. We want French and more French. We expect to make progress; and if we don’t, we feel cheated.

The next most salient thing is that it’s absurdly easy for an observer to judge the progress of the students. You say, “Ca va?” and they answer appropriately. You hand them a Parisian newspaper and they read it in a way that sounds like French. You say, “Here is an English sentence. Write it in French…Here is a list of French words, tell me what they mean.” See, the whole thing is totally transparent.

I submit to you that ALL courses should be taught exactly the way every good teacher naturally teaches French. That’s the way things used to be done.

I invite teachers to imagine how they would teach French if they were suddenly dropped into that position (assuming they know French). Point is, you would be really serious about it. You would not settle for mumbo-jumbo and empty promises about what was supposedly happening. No, you would want your students to learn French, and quickly! To read it, write it, and speak it, easily and fluently. What a utopian idea. But such actual mastery was the common practice in EVERY classroom until Progressive Education got in the way.

Respect for content and clear expectations, these are what our professors of education removed from arithmetic, geography, history, and most other subjects. Content is regarded as a nuisance to be circumvented. Testing is dismissed or mocked. Nobody is actually expected to know even the most basic facts. There is merely the goal of spinning wheels, putting up a front, going through the motions. All of education becomes a strange sort of mime. Progress is not expected, and nobody knows whether they achieved any or not. Typically, classes are an incoherent blur.

Our elite educators managed to eliminate sequential progress and an honest evaluation thereof. All the while they injected cloudiness and incoherence into every subject. American History is reduced to dressing up as Pilgrims and eating pumpkins. Being multicultural means that kids build models of pyramids and pretend to be pharaohs. Learning arithmetic is hopelessly befuddled, for one example, by spiraling from topic to topic. What kids need to know they don’t master. A blizzard of trivial stuff smothers any chance of learning.

I suspect that, in the typical public school, the only courses left uninfected by dangerous fads are language courses. There, you still see the focus on substance and goals that are the essence of education. You still see the honesty—in school, teacher, textbook, and student—that is the precondition of learning. Finally, you see the transparency that lets everyone quickly judge the progress of the class and of each student. Transparency, that may be the most important thing of all.

Good schools are easily achieved! Let everyone shut their eyes and imagine, in great detail, a good French class in a good school. Every student is making progress each day. New vocabulary, improved accent, greater reading skills, everything building upward in a logical, systematic way.

Now, simply imagine that the same teacher is teaching biology, geography, algebra, history, or anything else. Bingo! That’s the way you do it.

COMPLEMENTARY ARTICLE: “Teaching History, Etc.


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Bruce Deitrick Price -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Bruce Deitrick Price has been writing about education for 30 years. He is the founder of Improve-Education.org. His eighth book is “Saving K-12—What happened to our public schools? How do we fix them?” More aggressively than most, Price argues that America’s elite educators have deliberately aimed for mediocrity—low standards in public schools prove this. Support this writer on Patreon.

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