Instead of talking about what teachers should teach and what students should learn, Smith argues that we should talk about experiences that they should be mutually engaged in, involving reading, writing, imagining, creating, calculating, constructing, producing and performing.
P r e f a c e
For nearly twenty years I have studied two conflicting realities. One is the reality of the human brain, and especially of how children and adults learn. Children learn constantly, and so do adults -- when they have not become persuaded that they can't learn. The time bomb in every classroom is that students learn exactly what they are taught. They may not learn what their teachers think they are teaching them, but their teachers are probably not teaching what they think they teach. To see what students learn in school, look at how they leave school. If they leave thinking that reading and writing are difficult and pointless, that mathematics is confusing, that history is irrelevant, and that art is a bore, then that is what they have been taught. People learn what is demonstrated to them, and this reality will not change to suit the convenience of politicians and educational administrators.
Few intellectuals share Smith's ability to explain complex scientific theories, and arguments against them, in a fashion that feels like a conversation with an old friend.
The skill with which he writes provides readers with a vocabulary for discussing their own learning experiences. This is particularly true for educators; they will find that his books give voice to the nagging pit in their stomachs caused by current educational trends.
For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Smith is a 75-year-old psycholinguist, currently living in Ontario. His many books, including: Insult to Intelligence; Reading Without Nonsense; and Joining the Literacy Club are popular favorites among literacy educators. Whether you have always wanted to understand the zone of proximal development or just need a book to share with a neighbor concerned about her daughter's education, Frank Smith is the author of choice.