More From Carol Jago on Willingham

by Robert Pondiscio
January 1st, 2010

I was intrigued yesterday by Carol Jago’s response to Dan Willingham’s blog post about reading.   I emailed her to ask for her what she thought the takeaway for teachers should be from the post and the research.  Here’s what she graciously wrote back:

32 years in the classroom with teenagers convinced me that more is more when it comes to reading. Relentless readers develop the ease of fluency but learn to intuit how different books need to be read differently, sometimes a tortoise, sometimes a hare. As they gobble up book after book – good, bad, and indifferent – they develop a sense of how stories work. Seemingly without effort these avid readers have wide, rich vocabularies and a broad base of background knowledge. They know stuff. Harry Potter, Count of Monte Cristo, and Twilight readers also know that long doesn’t mean boring.

The take away for me from the Willingham article (I’ve been reading his columns for years in the American Educator) is that the kind of reading many young people today are doing online may be for the most part so short, simple, and solipsistic that it isn’t having the same effect relentless reading of books had upon their ability to comprehend.

I always saw it as my job to keep putting increasingly challenging books in students’ hands, I did so less under threat of  punishment than through a kind of sweet seduction. “If you liked … , really think you’ll love …”  It’s harder to create this bridge from the online world to the print world. Tweet, tweet.

Honor Society Inflation

by Robert Pondiscio
January 1st, 2010

If everyone’s in the honor society, where’s the honor in it?  The New York Times visits a Long Island high school that has cut back to a mere (!) 11 honor societies.  “Commack is one of many places where educators and parents are re-examining the role of honor societies, which started out as an academic distinction reserved for the top 5 or 10 percent of a class but have become a routine item on college résumés,” writes the Times’ Winnie Hu. 

Honor society inflation is confusing to college admissions officers, who are hard-pressed to separate meaningful accolades from more run-of-the-mill honors.   Fordham’s Checker Finn supplies the money quote in the Times’ piece.  “This cheapens the currency,” he observes.  “Once everyone’s wearing rhinestones, you might not notice someone wearing diamonds.”