To the Editor:
Regarding the Commentary “Dispatch From Denver” (Nov. 16, 2011): This essay is typical of reform discussions in that it totally ignores what happens in the classroom cognitively and operationally between the teacher, the student, and the subject matter at hand. It shows no understanding that teachers are at a professional disadvantage as soon as they enter the classroom because the training they receive in schools of education and professional-development programs continues to be based on cognitive sequentialism.
Cognitive sequentialism views subject matter serially in the manner of the typical textbook and education software. Analytic connections within and among topics are not made. The practice causes teachers to describe and not explain subject matter. The impact on schools and schooling is devastating. Cognitive sequentialism defeats the analytic instinct with which all humans are born. Witness the “why?” question exhibited at a very early age.
Instead of nurturing and developing the innate analytic abilities possessed by all learners, such sequential instruction destroys it and promotes rote learning. It defeats the development of basic and critical thinking, reading, and writing skills at all grade levels. Furthermore, by not addressing cognitive standards for thinking, the common-core standards actively perpetuate this.
Reform is a dirty word because 50 years of its outside-the-classroom emphasis has produced almost exactly nothing in terms of improving teaching and learning.
When teachers are trained and developed to engage subject matter analytically, then we will see systemic, reproducible, and reliable improvement in teacher effectiveness. When newly prepared teachers show students how to understand and read and write on subject matter analytically, then there will be significant and measurable improvement in student achievement.
Victor P. Maiorana
Deer Park, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the December 07, 2011 edition of Education Week as Commentary Lacks Classroom Perspective