Read these books with an open mind, and you will come out convinced that a sound, straightforward education based on strict discipline and the memorisation of core knowledge is possible for anyone. You will also be angry at how this effective education has been denied to millions of children over the last century, and determined to do something to bring it back, refreshed and reinvigorated by the latest discoveries of cognitive science and the latest methods of the most successful no-excuses schools.
Christodoulou explodes the progressive myths which continue to dominate British and American education. She points out that the use of discovery learning, the isolated teaching of transferable skills and an obsession with technology all prevent pupils from developing a solid grounding in core knowledge that will enable them to master subjects.
Peal provides a vigorous and clear outline of how British education has been ruined by discovery learning and permissive discipline. This book is a call to arms to carry out what Harold Wilson originally asked for: ‘grammar schools for all’.
Hirsch proves the importance of memorising good general knowledge for entrance into the world of educated reading. He also describes the shocking failure of modern schools to provide this general knowledge, leading to an ever increasing disadvantage for those who come from a background which does not provide cultural capital.
Willingham shows the vital importance of storing facts and procedures in long term memory, so that working memory does not become crowded or confused. Cognitive science proves how essential memorisation is for mastery of any subject. It also makes clear that skills cannot be separated from knowledge: we can think about a subject because we know something about it. The more we know, the more effectively we think.
This is an inspiring journey through the remarkable success stories of no-excuses schools in the USA. They all prove that with strict discipline and a focus on core knowledge, pupils from any background can succeed. Unlike the hand-wringing progressives, the new traditionalists do not write anyone off.