Reading & Literacy

Arguing Skills vs. Content

By Anthony Rebora — May 19, 2010 1 min read
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Will Fitzhugh, editor of the Concord Review, warns against placing processes and skills above content knowledge in literacy instruction, saying that, in the manner of kudzu, they will “choke attention to the reading of complete books and the writing of serious academic papers by the students in our schools.”

On the Core Knowledge blog, teacher Diana Senechal seconds him and chides those who think they can have it both ways (i.e., by combining a skills-based instructional emphasis with meaningful content):

Process does replace content when it is accorded the highest place on the scale of values. To put process at the top, to subordinate literature and history to skills, is a gory sacrifice and boring practice.

She adds, in a metaphorical flourish, that no one learns Bach’s “Suites for Unaccompanied Cello” in order to “practice bowing techniques.” True enough, but (just to play devil’s advocate) it’s worth noting that you can’t play Bach’s cello suites without having first developed some pretty fine bowing techniques, no?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.