To the Editor:
In response to your article “Schools Urged to Push Beyond Math, Reading to Broader Curriculum,” (Dec. 20, 2006), the words of Benjamin Franklin on the education of young people may be instructive.
“As to their studies,” Franklin wrote, “it would be well if they could be taught every thing that is useful, and every thing that is ornamental: But art is long, and their time is short. It is therefore propos’d that they learn those things that are likely to be most useful and most ornamental.”
Franklin then went on to describe how the teaching of history covers a wide range of instruction, including morality, oratory, geography, politics, philosophy, human affairs, agriculture, technology, and science. So he concluded that an emphasis on teaching history along with writing, arithmetic, and language would provide the “most useful and most ornamental” in learning.
As a parent and a teacher’s assistant, I have to agree with him. A child’s education should consist of a wealth of knowledge, which provides the student with the tools needed to succeed. If students are going to succeed, they need a curriculum that motivates them to become part of the learning process. The love of learning comes from students who are engaged in their studies.
To focus only on the rote learning of math and reading for test scores is not the answer. Children need to be allowed to be creative, responsible, and knowledgeable. They need to be able to use their knowledge of history when making decisions on what has worked and what needs to change. They need to be taught how to be innovative in order to be prepared to solve issues such as global warming, poverty, homelessness, and pollution. They need to be taught how to be good citizens and passionate people.
The emphasis should be on teaching a well-rounded curriculum that excites students and motivates them to learn, instead of focusing only on math and reading.
South Dennis, Mass.
A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2007 edition of Education Week as Heed Benjamin Franklin on Curriculum’s Scope