Trivium Pursuit

Earlier is not better by Sue VanHattum

9. Earlier is not better.

The schools are pushing academics earlier and earlier. That’s not a good idea. If young people learn to read when they’re ready for it, they enjoy reading. They read more and more; they get better and better at it; reading serves them well. The same can happen with math. Daniel Greenberg, working at a Sudbury school (democratic schools, where kids do not have enforced lessons) taught a group of 9 to 12 year olds all of arithmetic in 20 hours. They were ready and eager, and that’s all it took.

In 1929, L.P. Benezet, superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, believed that waiting until later would help children learn math more effectively. The experiment he conducted, waiting until 5th or 6th grade to offer formal arithmetic lessons, was very successful. (His report was published in the Journal of the NEA. Although some people disagree about the success of this experiment, there is nothing published which contradicts his evidence. I’d like to find more information about how this project ended.).

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