...But one sharp-eyed reader emailed us to point out what she considered a real howler amidst all the doom and gloom from educators: Stanford professor Michael L. Kamil's suggestion that our culture has 'overemphasized' the need for 'stories and literature' to children, when so much of the stuff they'll need to read for their grown-up jobs contains 'zero narrative.'
Kamil's serious about this: Back in 1997, he wrote a paper explaining why first-graders need less narrative and more information when learning to read, because, among other things, stories don't teach kids how to figure out truth from lies, or how to find the nut graf. When you put it that way, maybe it doesn't sound quite so wacky after all—if the American people could re-elect George W. Bush, after all, clearly our public education system had major problems instilling critical thinking skills in at least two generations of voters—but on her Free Range Librarian blog, K.G. Schneider remains rather skeptical. 'Education shouldn't be some some artsy-fartsy waste of the taxpayers' dollars, teaching kids dumb stuff like cultural appreciation, empathy, and the power of art,' she mockingly summarizes Kamil's position. 'It's about preparing a workforce of Silicon Valley drones.'
Kamil received his graduate degrees here at UW. Did he learn that here?