Tuesday, March 29, 2022


Reading—or reading with a fervent purpose in philosophy, history, and literature—is vanishing from the lives of Americans, especially the young. The number of people who read for pleasure—and the serious reading of an autodidact is very much a worthy pleasure, as my friend has shown—has declined 30 percent since 2004. Twenty-eight percent of Americans used to read for pleasure; this number has now fallen to just 19 percent. For people who do read, the amount of time they devote to it has also significantly declined—more so for men. And for those who revere reading and consider themselves to be bibliophiles and bookhounds, the fact that only 43 percent of adults have read one novel, one short story, one poem, or one play in the past year is enough to throw a person into the clutches of literary despair. Reading is often a predictor for success in life. In 2018, the Pew Research Center reported that adults with incomes of less than $30,000 per year are three times as likely as affluent households to be “non-book readers.”

For children the results are even starker. Two-thirds of the country’s poorest children do not own a single book. And yet, the benefits of reading for pleasure are enormous. As Miranda McKearney, co-founder of the Reading Agency, a British charity that encourages reading and literacy, has powerfully stated, reading is this “nearly magical thing that can bust you out of poverty.” The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has suggested that encouraging reading might be “one of the most effective ways to leverage social change.” Oxford University researchers studying all of the extracurricular activities sixteen-year-olds participate in found that only one has significant benefits in the workplace later in life: reading for pleasure. Living in a home that possesses a private library, or even the mere presence of books, has profound advantages for children.

Jeremy Adams, Hollowed Out: A Warning about America's Next Generation (87). [No Date] Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


 AP Statement of Principles March 2022

Thousands of Advanced Placement teachers have contributed to the principles articulated here. These principles are not new; they are, rather, a reminder of how AP already works in classrooms nationwide. The following principles are designed to ensure that teachers’ expertise is respected, required course content is understood, and that students are academically challenged and free to make up their own minds.

AP stands for clarity and transparency. Teachers and students deserve clear expectations. The Advanced Placement Program makes public its course frameworks and sample assessments. Confusion about what is permitted in the classroom disrupts teachers and students as they navigate demanding work.


AP is an unflinching encounter with evidence. AP courses enable students to develop as independent thinkers and to draw their own conclusions. Evidence and the scientific method are the starting place for conversations in AP courses.

AP opposes censorship. AP is animated by a deep respect for the intellectual freedom of teachers and students alike. If a school bans required topics from their AP courses, the AP Program removes the AP designation from that course and its inclusion in the AP Course Ledger provided to colleges and universities. For example, the concepts of evolution are at the heart of college biology, and a course that neglects such concepts does not pass muster as AP Biology. 

AP opposes indoctrination. AP students are expected to analyze different perspectives from their own, and no points on an AP Exam are awarded for agreement with a viewpoint.
AP students are not required to feel certain ways about themselves or the course content. AP courses instead develop students’ abilities to assess the credibility of sources, draw conclusions, and make up their own minds.

As the AP English Literature course description states: “AP students are not expected or asked to subscribe to any one specific set of cultural or political values, but are expected to have the maturity to analyze perspectives different from their own and to question the meaning, purpose, or effect of such content within the literary work as a whole.

AP courses foster an open-minded approach to the histories and cultures of different peoples. The study of different nationalities, cultures, religions, races, and ethnicities is essential within a variety of academic disciplines. AP courses ground such studies in primary sources so that students can evaluate experiences and evidence for themselves.

Every AP student who engages with evidence is listened to and respected. Students are encouraged to evaluate arguments but not one another.
AP classrooms respect diversity in backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. The perspectives and contributions of the full range of AP students are sought and considered. Respectful debate of ideas is cultivated and protected; personal attacks have no place in AP.

AP is a choice for parents and students. Parents and students freely choose to enroll in AP courses. Course descriptions are available online for parents and students to inform their choice. Parents do not define which college-level topics are suitable within AP courses; AP course and exam materials are crafted by committees of professors and other expert educators in each field. AP courses and exams are then further validated by the American Council on Education and studies that confirm the use of AP scores for college credits by thousands of colleges and universities nationwide.  

The AP Program encourages educators to review these principles with parents and students so they know what to expect in an AP course. Advanced Placement is always a choice, and it should be an informed one. AP teachers should be given the confidence and clarity that once parents have enrolled their child in an AP course, they have agreed to a classroom experience that embodies these principles.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022


 Hochman discovered that writing, reading comprehension, and analytical ability were all connected—and that writing was the key to unlocking the other two. If you wanted to enable students to understand what they were reading, convert information into long-lasting knowledge, and learn to think critically, teaching them to write was about the best thing you could do.

The writing strategies Hochman saw in Hoboken were rudimentary. She tried to find academic studies on writing instruction, but there weren’t many….

…Then Hochman had a second epiphany: these strategies would work even better if they were “embedded in content.” Instead of asking students to practice writing on topics that didn’t require any particular knowledge—like what makes a teacher happy—she asked them to write about what they were learning. This worked especially well in history and social studies. If students were learning about the American Revolution, the teacher could give them a bare-bones sentence like “They rebelled” and ask the kids to expand it: Who rebelled? When? Why? The faculty soon realized there wasn’t enough information in social studies textbooks to enable students to write meaningfully about the topics they covered. So teachers started providing additional material. Once the kids had enough information to draw on, their writing became richer and more interesting. And their understanding increased, because they had to figure out the meaning of what they were reading in order to write about it.

Natalie Wexler, The Knowledge Gap (219-220). [2019] Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Monday, March 14, 2022


 Most teachers don’t question the idea of trying to teach reading comprehension as a set of discrete skills. It’s simply the water they’ve been swimming in, so universal and taken for granted they don’t even notice it. It’s not about test scores; it’s just the way to teach kids to read. And if kids don’t seem to be getting it, the solution is to double down, through middle school, if necessary. But there’s a conundrum at the heart of these efforts: despite many hours of practice and an enormous expenditure of resources, American students’ reading abilities have shown little improvement over more than twenty years, with about two-thirds of students consistently scoring below the “proficient” level. Most fourth-graders aren’t actually ready to progress from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Writing scores are even worse: about three-quarters of eighth- and twelfth-graders score below proficient. International tests have shown that our literacy levels are falling, for both children and adults. “We seem to be declining as other systems improve,” a federal official who oversees the administration of international tests has observed. “There is a lot to be concerned about.”

The stagnation in reading scores isn’t the only distressing feature of the education landscape: many American students lack basic knowledge about the world. On the most recent nationwide test of eighth-graders, only 18 percent scored proficient or above in U.S. history, as did only 23 percent in civics and 27 percent in geography—the lowest scores on national tests in any core subject areas. Even students at well-regarded colleges can display a weak grasp of history and government.

Natalie Wexler, The Knowledge Gap (8-9). [2019] Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022


Beyond the obvious dichotomy between the weakness of German forces and the profligacy of German plans, a new factor was slowly coming into the mix, which would impact with ever worsening consequences for the Ostheer. On 25 August, the first day of Guderian's offensive into the Ukraine, Ernst Guicking, a soldier from the 52nd Infantry Division, wrote home to his wife: ‘Here the Russian autumn is gradually becoming noticeable. The wind already blusters through the branches.’13 Days later, on 1 September, Hans Pichler complained in his diary, ‘In recent days it has become noticeably cold and, as a result, there is no chance to properly dry the damp blankets, boots and clothes.’ The following day (2 September) Guicking wrote home in another letter, ‘At the moment we have terrible weather. It rained the whole night long and it does not look as though it is going to stop. It really seems as though it is gradually becoming winter.’ The implications of such seasonal changes were not lost on the men.

Solomon Perel noted that as the colder weather was setting in, the soldiers of the 12th Panzer Division began drawing ominous parallels with Napoleon's fate. By contrast, at the highest echelons of the Nazi state concerns about the changing weather were not permitted to alter belief in the final victory. On 27 August, after having been informed about the poor weather conditions on the eastern front, Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary, ‘It will not make it easy for us to win this war. Yet once we have won it, then the difficulties we are now experiencing, which are causing the greatest concerns, will appear as only pleasant memories.’ In a similar fashion, the chief of the operations department of the Luftwaffe, Major-General Hoffman von Waldau, commented in his diary on 9 September, ‘We are heading for a winter campaign. The real trial of this war has begun, the belief in final victory remains.’

David Stahel, Kiev 1941 (p. 175). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.