Commentary by Thomas Newkirk, professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and director of the New Hampshire Literacy Institutes. These pieces originally appeared in Education Week.
To the Editor: In his Nov. 2, 2005, letter to the editor concerning my Commentary, ("‘Brain Research’— A Call for Skepticism," Oct. 12, 2005), Ronald Fitzgerald terms my argument “superficial,” “unfair,” and “destructively reactionary.” Yet he fails to engage the argument I have made. Read Full Story
"Brain research” is everywhere these days. Teachers are bombarded with claims about “brain-based learning” at conferences, where they are regularly invited to view photo imaging of cerebral blood flow. Gender differences in learning are explained by variations in the cortical activity of boys and girls. And typically this research, or so proponents claim, can lead to clear implications for teaching. It often seems a short step from blood-flow studies to single-sex schools. Read Full Story
The focus should be on showing what writing does, not on itemizing the 'traits' it has.
We don't hear much about pleasure in this era of reform. The focus is on research-based instruction, on standards, rubrics, and prompts, and on the supposedly increasing literacy demands of the Information Age—all of which are discussed in the feverish language of cultural crisis. Read Full Story