ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, July 15, 2005

Reading & Education

It really is a shame that kids don't like to read.

(AP) At last! Faster than a turbo-powered broomstick, Harry Potter has started flying off the shelves.

Bookstores across Britain flung open their doors at a minute past midnight Saturday to admit hordes of would-be witches, warlocks and ordinary muggles — Potter-speak for non-magical humans — eager to get their hands on "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment of the boy wizard's adventures. Shops as far afield as Singapore and Australia put the book on sale at the same time.

Potter fans rushed to tills to purchase the book and savor its opening words: "It was nearing midnight and the prime minister was sitting alone in his office." Many planned to stay up all night reading the 607-page tome.

"I'm going to read it all at once. I don't think I could stop once I got started," said Katrine Skovgaard, 18, who traveled from Denmark and waited in line for six hours at a central London bookstore.

I saw David McCullough in a hearing before a Senate hearing on Teaching American History on C-SPAN the other day. (Click here for realplayer video if you're a sick, twisted freak like me.) Lamar Alexander and Ted Kennedy were the only Senators listening to him at the time. The topic was the pathetic state of US student's understanding of history (just ask any high school grad for the year of our founding or who fought in World War II... if you want to really stump them, ask them to name the war between Vietnam and World War II). Anyway, McCullough made the great point that it's not that kids aren't interested in history - it's that the text books that we give them are crap. It's full of charts and graphs and pictures and has little real content. It's not presented in a compelling, human way.

And as we see from the continued success of the Harry Potter series, kids love to read. And Harry Potter isn't exactly a picture book with small words...

The biggest problem with the current education system is that we don't expect more from our students - and we don't provide them with information presented in a compelling way. We think that pretty colors and a computer screen wll impart knowledge to a student. But if you look at how passionate these kids are about reading 607 pages of Harry Potter, it becomes quite clear that kids are capable of anything if it's interesting and if it matters to them.

It's soo much fun to point out the idiocy of conventional wisdom...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler