“The consensus among Edupundits is that teacher quality is the most important variable in student academic achievement,” writes Will Fitzhugh, the founder of the Concord Review. “Meanwhile, practically all of them fail to give any attention to the basic purpose of schools, which is to have students do academic work. Almost none of them seems inclined to look past the teacher to see if the students are, for instance, reading any nonfiction books or writing any term papers,” he observes.
Fitzhugh has long been a champion of non-fiction reading and writing, and high academic standards that too often students make it to college where ”they encounter nonfiction books and term paper requirements which they hadn’t been asked to manage in high school.”
One of the sad and damaging consequences of this myopia among Edupundits is that everyone but students is imagined to be responsible for student academic work. As Paul Zoch has so regularly pointed out, the message that sends down the line to students is that their job is to get through high school with a minimum of work, while it is someone else’s responsibility to educate them. The result is that, whatever gets decided about dropouts, vouchers, union contracts, budgets, textbooks, teacher selection and training, school governance, curricula in all subjects, school management issues, and the like, our students are not working hard enough on their own education.
“Far too many of our high school students are waiting for someone else to set demanding academic standards, Fitzhugh concludes. “But after they slide through high school and emerge, they are mightily sorry they were not asked to do more and held to a higher standard for their own academic work.”
“Many students, especially those whose parents aren’t college-educated, have no idea what skills, knowledge and work habits are required to pass college classes,” adds Joanne Jacobs, commenting on Fithugh’s post. “They pass classes labeled ’college prep’ with B’s and C’s. They think they’re doing well enough. If they knew they were in remedial prep they might work a lot harder.”