Curriculum Letter to the Editor

The Failure of Roteism Instruction

November 27, 2018 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Fredrick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane’s open letter to the U.S. secretary of education misses the greatest takeaway of all (“What Betsy DeVos Can Learn From Bush-Obama School Reform,” October 24, 2018). Secretary DeVos, what you must understand is that years of school, college, and textbook reform efforts have not changed the way thinking, subject matter, teachers, and students come together in classrooms. Unfortunately, after centuries of practice, education is still defined by roteism instruction.

Roteism instruction, which is the practice of teaching topics sequentially without making connections between them, denies the natural science of how the human mind thinks critically and learns when engaging with the world. Thinking is the first language art. The conscious mind innately seeks intent, looks for related activities and, when functioning fully, considers consequences. Roteism practice prohibits this natural cognitive process because it doesn’t use formal and explicit critical reasoning systems to think, read, listen, write, speak, observe, and compute when engaging subject matter. Therefore, it inherently hinders development of comprehension and critical language-literacy in all learners.

Solving this central-to-everything instructional problem requires moving the core teacher education curriculum to a pedagogy of critical instruction. This instruction should include a common language of instruction; formal and explicit reasoning processes based on the natural science of how the human mind learns; and actionable standards for critical thinking, reading, and writing.

Roteism instruction is an airplane without wings, ill-equipped to lift the profession and its students into the future. Its practice must be minimized greatly. The means to do so are now at hand.

Victor P. Maiorana


Deer Park, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the November 28, 2018 edition of Education Week as The Failure of Roteism Instruction


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