Seven myths of education are hobbling education reform

by Grace

Author Daisy Christodoulou argues that the “chief barriers to effective school reform are not the usual accused: bad teacher unions, low teacher quality, burdensome government dictates”, but instead are the Seven Myths about Education:

1 – Facts prevent understanding
2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive
3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
4 – You can always just look it up
5 – We should teach transferable skills
6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn
7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. points out the relevance of these myths today, with the nationwide embrace of Common Core Standards that comes after the failure of No Child Left Behind reform.

Ms. Christodoulou’s book indirectly explains these tragic, unintended consequences of NCLB, especially the poor results in reading. It was primarily the way that educators responded to the accountability provisions of NCLB that induced the failure. American educators, dutifully following the seven myths, regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge; in preparation for the tests, they spent many wasted school days on ad hoc content and instruction in “strategies.” If educators had been less captivated by anti-knowledge myths, they could have met the requirements of NCLB, and made adequate yearly progress for all groups. The failure was not in the law but in the myths.

While Hirsch focuses most on reading skills and how CCS employ ‘the same superficial, content-indifferent activities, given new labels like “text complexity” and “reading strategies”‘, the entire list of myths is in play to doom the latest reform efforts.

… If the Common Core standards fail as NCLB did, it will not be because the standards themselves are defective. It will be because our schools are completely dominated by the seven myths analyzed by Daisy Christodoulou….

Despite some rhetoric to the contrary, CCS implementation continues the educational establishment’s crusade against “knowing things” and “being taught things”.  Instead, in accordance with the seven myths it downplays outside knowledge and encourages a “discovery-oriented” approach instead of direct instruction.


E. D. Hirsch, Jr.,  “A Game-Changing Education Book from England”, Huffington Post, 06/27/2013.

2 Comments to “Seven myths of education are hobbling education reform”

  1. Number 3 is the one that drives me craziest, because it is used to justify a wide range of stupid practices.

    On the other hand, number 5 – it depends on what you mean by projects and activities. In many fields, including math and my own field, you haven’t learned the material unless you can “do” it. In math, you need to be able to work problems, and hopefully, increasingly complex ones. In computer science, you need to be able to write programs. Doing math problems and writing programs are certainly “activities”. In fact, I would argue that a student has not mastered either area until he or she can do the activity without following a recipe handed down by the teacher. So yes, my students do a lot of “activities” in my courses.

    On the other hand, if you mean dioramas or making paper bag puppets to demonstrate knowledge of, say, biology, then I would say that those activities are bad, bad, bad. It isn’t the fact that the students are doing an activity, it is that the activity is poorly aligned to the actual educational outcome that is desired (a student who understands biology, in that case).


  2. Yeah, she means dioramas and such, where the activity contributes very little if anything to learning the subject material.


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