Focus on Students

Will Fitzhugh, editor of the Concord Review, which publishes academic articles by secondary students, makes the point that too much discussion about lower education focuses only on teachers and studiously avoids discussion of their little charges. He cites Diane Ravitch, who writes: “One problem with test-based accountability, as currently defined and used, is that it removes all responsibility from students and their families for the students’ academic performance. [No Child Left Behind] neglected to acknowledge that students share in the responsibility for their academic performance and that they are not merely passive recipients of their teachers’ influence.” Conservatives as well as liberals have been guilty of this over-emphasis on teachers and under-emphasis on what students must do for their own education.

Fitzhugh notes that Natalie Monroe, a high-school-English teacher in Pennsylvania, described her students on a blog as  “disengaged, lazy whiners,” and “noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy LOAFERS.” The school system responded not by examining the paucity of academic effort on the part of their students, but by suspending the teacher. Yet one of her students admitted, “As far as motivated high school students, she’s completely correct. High school kids don’t want to do anything.” The student counteracted this bit of honesty with the usual refrain heard today, insisting that ”It’s a teacher’s job . . . to give students the motivation to learn.”

Fitzhugh has an article in an upcoming Academic Questions stressing the importance of making high-school students read complete non-fiction books and write research papers of a serious length. He maintains that such assignments would go a long way toward diminishing college professors’ frequent complaints that their students lack basic skills.

Some of Fitzhugh’s suggestions for high-school reading include David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback for freshmen, David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing for sophomores, James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom for juniors, and David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas for seniors. He warns, however, that when a high-school-English teacher in New York State wanted her students to read a nonfiction book chosen from the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, a big group of her female students chose The Autobiography of Paris Hilton.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More