Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Most of us are pretty mad at the French, those no-shows in the war on terrorism. But three French educators have recently come out with books that are of supreme relevance to what’s going on in our public schools, including almost all of them in Nebraska.

They make so much sense, they almost redeem themselves – or at least, if U.S. educators would listen, it would do our country more good than if France had sent a few hundred troops and bombers into Iraq.

The three books all blast the widespread philosophy of education in the early primary years in public schools in both France and America: “child-centered education.” They don’t say it, but we can all “thank” psychologist Jean Piaget for that, a Frenchee who was highly instrumental along with John Dewey in removing intellectual development from the primary school things-to-do list in favor of socialization and hands-on experiences.

Instead, these teachers plead for content-based educational methods, such as teaching reading with systematic, intensive, explicit phonics.

With that system, children learn the structure of our language in 16 weeks of lessons and can begin the high-octane knowledge gain that comes from independent reading. But kids in a child-centered classroom, which follows the constructivist philosophy devoid of direct instruction on how to read, may take several years to reach that stage. Further, with child-centered schemes, the teacher is marginalized and sidelined, and these teachers scream about what a stupid idea THAT is.

One French educator describes child-centered classrooms as equivalent to “the organized deprivation of knowledge.”

Another calls the Whole Language non-method of teaching reading a “cultural catastrophe.”

They sure make a persuasive case for demanding that our schools go back to the basics, and quit all this philosophical mumbo jumbo.

Sounds like marching orders to me. Is that “The Marseillaise” I hear?

Read what they have to say for yourself – don’t worry, it’s in English – on the online publication, Spiked:


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