In this article by Peg Tyre for the Atlantic explains how a Staten Island high school, New Dorp, drastically reversed the scores of their students across the board, and it wasn’t because they “taught for the test,” as is often the case, especially since 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act, or the more recent Race to the Top Act, if I am remembering the quasi-extension put in place under the Obama administration, which essentially furthered Bush’s NCLBA.
In essence, if you don’t want to read the article, but you should, the principal of New Dorp found a formulaic way of teaching analytical writing, and emphasized the ideology in every class. Even requiring, during class discussions, students to use preordained clauses to begin their sentences, such as, “I agree/disagree…because…”, and in classes such as chemistry, after learning about the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, using a worksheet which had clauses such as, “Although…” or, “If…” and would require students to finish these sentences, logically and grammatically correct using the information they just learned.
They saw improvement and improvement. The article also provides a critique, or rather a caution or hesitancy to toss away all creative expression–earlier in the article a proponent of rote analytical teaching religiously demonizes creative expression in schools.
I daydreamed while reading the article of how Oscar Wilde might have learned about science, or math, and realized that by and large he had to rread these topics, and then had to write about them. Essentially what New Dorp is expecting their students to do now. So, this is a return to old ways. Which is fine. I can’t support it, and don’t feel like trying, but knowing the education rates of Wilde’s time, those who were educated…well, they were educated people, and they had their opinions, and they understood Darwin’s books, or Newton’s books. How many students learning calculus today do you think could read Newton’s essays and understand the concepts enough to learn Calculus? Hell, I wonder if I could.
Darwin’s books are usually not even considered to be read until later in the undergraduate experience, and only for those in the relevant field, or weird people as freshman (like me) who think it would be interesting, but they probably stop reading it (like me) because it’s actually pretty…what we like to call: dense.
Perhaps there should be an emphasis on writing in the earlier stages, as clear communication is essential to all aspects of life. Language is what our society, our culture, is built upon. Expression of complex thoughts and ideas, perceptions of life, is what distinguishes us as a species.
I don’t agree, however, that ignoring the creative side is good, either. There should definitely be a balance found. We continue to swing from one extreme to the other. Let us settle with our minds and words utilizing both sides of our brain.
We need to break this barrier of thinking: “I’m creative, I don’t think like that.” Or, “I’m analytical, I don’t think like that.” Bullshit. It’s because you don’t try, and work, to think like that.