So says essayist E.d. Hirsch and, as a reader, I agree.
All verbal tests are, at bottom, vocabulary tests. To predict competence most accurately, the U.S. military’s Armed Forces Qualification Test gives twice as much weight to verbal scores as to math scores, and researchers such as Christopher Winship and Anders D. Korneman have shown that these verbally weighted scores are good predictors of income level. Math is an important index to general competence, but on average words are twice as important.
Cos Cob Library patron
Yes, we should instruct students in science, technology, engineering and math, the much-ballyhooed STEM subjects—but only after equipping them with a base of wide general knowledge and vocabulary.
Students don’t learn new words by studying vocabulary lists. They do so by guessing new meanings within the overall gist of what they are hearing or reading. And understanding the gist requires background knowledge. If a child reads that “annual floods left the Nile delta rich and fertile for farming,” he is less likely to intuit the meaning of the unfamiliar words “annual” and “fertile” if he is unfamiliar with Egypt, agriculture, river deltas and other such bits of background knowledge.
Yet in the 1930s, American schools transformed themselves according to the principles of “progressive education,” which assume that students need to learn not a body of knowledge but “how-to” skills that (supposedly) enable them to pick up specific knowledge later on. Analyses of schoolbooks between 1940 and 1960 show a marked dilution of subject matter and vocabulary. Little surprise, then, that students began scoring lower on tests that probed knowledge and vocabulary size. The decline became alarming in the 1970s, as the federal report “A Nation at Risk” pointed out in 1983.
Come here, CC, I’ll teach you to read!
The focus on the “skill” of reading has produced students who cannot read. Teachers cannot cultivate reading comprehension by forcing children to practice soul-deadening exercises like “finding the main idea” and “questioning the author.” Students would be better off gaining knowledge by studying real subject matters in a sensible, cumulative sequence. Instead, elementary schools are dominated by content-indifferent exercises that use random fictional texts on the erroneous assumption that reading comprehension is a formal skill akin to typing.
Vocabulary-building is a slow process that requires students to have enough familiarity with the context to understand unfamiliar words. Substance, not skill, develops vocabulary and
Wanna conjugate a verb, big guy?
reading ability—there are no shortcuts. The slow, compounding nature of vocabulary growth means that successful reform must lie in systematic knowledge-building. That is the approach used in South Korea, Finland, Japan, Canada and other nations that score highly in international studies and succeed best in narrowing the verbal gap between rich and poor students.
Just over here by this ditch, gramps, come on …
That’s what it costs the federal government to keep Alzheimer’s patients around, with an additional $80 billion paid by private citizens.
Belgium now proposes to relieve its citizens of a similar burden by euthanizing the senile. France is “looking into” accelerated deaths – speeding the dying out the door.I expect we’ll soon hear calls for the shedding of our own helpless for the common good. Personally, I wouldn’t want to wait around while I gradually slipped into dementia and I don’t intend to, but the idea of being pressured to do so by others eager to save on feeding me mush irritates me – I might just stick around out of spite.
12 Indian Chase, whose price peregrinations we’ve followed here for the past year as it started at $4.250 million and made its way to $3.250, finally has a buyer: contract reported today. Nothing particularly wrong with this house except its price and once that was fixed, voila! This process really isn’t all that difficult.
Two more sales. 11 Will Merry, for $2.235 million ($3.650 asked, 2011) and 84 Pecksland, $2.205 ($3.195 asked in 2008). Will Merry backs right up to the Merritt and needs a lot of work – new kitchen, reconfigured master bedroom/bath, etc., but it sits on two very nice flat, level acres, with a tennis court and a pool and with renovations, will be a nice house again. I wouldn’t personally want to be in for more than, say, $3 million on this street and I’d feel even more comfortable at $2.750, but there’s room to do that here at this price.
I never saw 84 Pecksland, so I have no opinion (although when did ignorance stop me from voicing an opinion before? Must be Christmas.), but with the exception of that poor old house in a swamp further down, $2 million on Pecksland can’t be all bad.
A tree grows in its Brooklyn-style living room
And up north in the Al Gore Polar Bear Sanctuary, that old abandoned Antares project at 3 Cherry Blossom Lane (no, Virginia, this was not a road named long, long ago by Anya Seton), has cut its price again and now begs someone, anyone, to pay $4.495 million for 10,000 square feet of unfinished bad taste, velvet Elvis paintings included. That’s down from the $5.495 the lender/owner asked this past January, and down considerable from happier days in 2009 when the Antares Boyz still owned the place and were foolish enough to expect $7.995 million, but really, who wants a house that’s sat empty for so long? I see a bulldozer in this one’s future. Two acres of land on the Banksville border? Maybe an even million.
Here’s a sale reported today of 9 Daffodil Lane, off of Mimosa, for $1.8 million. That’s a lot of money, but compare what you get: one acre, newly renovated, pool, much more space, with some of the houses selling in that same range in Riverside. If Mimosa were a shabby neighborhood, I’d say it was an apples-to-oranges comparison but this area is very nice. Despite the cruel jibes tossed at Cos Cob by a certain mean-spirited blogger, there are some very decent homes out there worth considering.
Connecticut state police threaten to arrest and prosecute anyone who disseminates false information about Friday’s massacre. This presumably includes all of the major news networks who have, so far, misidentified the identity of the shooter, the weapons he used, the occupation of his mother, the presence of a second shooter and the murder of the boy’s father.
And they were just warming up.
Even taxing the very rich isn’t enough for Obama. He’s already rejected the Republican leadership cave-in because he wants to hit the upper middle class and he wants to hit them bad. Given the huge number of liberal upper middle class families in the tri-state area who gave this man and his fellow thrives their vote, I can see the humor here. Too bad those compassionate, self-sacrificing families have dragged the rest of us into their utopia – some people have mortgages to pay and children to put through college.