Friday, July 6, 2007

Cambridge Ed Professor: "Trendy Lessons" Depriving Children of Cultural Heritage

The British newspaper The Evening Standard reports that the head of the teaching college at Cambridge University, Dr. Kate Pretty, is warning Britain is in "grave" danger of losing its shared cultural heritage due to trendy curriculum in its government-run schools.

Dr Pretty said Cambridge students (who are the cream of the crop) are increasingly arriving at the university with gaps in their basic knowledge of key events and people that shaped history. Only 5% in a recent class knew about Christopher Columbus' discovery of America. Granted this is a British institution, but still that's a shameful statistic! Dr. Pretty laments the loss of:

"The little, tiny stories that make up the common thread which you can pull on, we are expecting students to somehow implicitly know. There are the great stories of the past like Alfred burning the cakes, the Magna Carta, Columbus sailing the ocean blue - all that sort of stuff we learned. It is not about A-level [the most elite track similar to Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate] knowledge of a particular subject, it is a more general sense of the web of understanding that binds us to a common understanding of the past."

Dr. Pretty blames the "modish" teaching theories that downplay subject content in favor of "trendy themed lessons". She particularly criticizes the loss of Biblical literacy and said that students of all faiths should be taught Bible stories so that they can understand references to it.

This is the same argument that Boston University professor Stephen Prothero made in his excellent book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know- and Doesn't.

It's not about indoctrinating children into a certain faith, which would be a violation of the First Amendment. Public schools should not teach the Bible from a theological standpoint (that's the job of the family and their chosen church/synagogue) but rather from a historical and literature one. Removing all religion from the curriculum leaves children at a serious disadvantage when trying to understand our cultural heritage. Our nation is a religiously pluralistic one, but Judeo-Christianity is one of the three main influences (along with the Ancient Greeks and Romans). All students need to be familiar with the Bible to understand America.

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