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Monday, February 11, 2013

40 Minutes: 40 Years Later

I enjoy the study of history and the story of civilization.

History was my favorite subject throughout high school. My interest in famous events, people, places, and pivotal points in our civilization prompted me to extend myself well beyond the confinement of a 40 minute period each day of school. However, I graduated from high school 42 years ago this June and despite the exponential growth in the content of social, economic, political and military issues, our learners today still have a single 40 minute period each day to study and learn about all of the important historical information I had to learn, plus whatever has happened in the world or our nation since I graduated. Think about it. The same can be said about Literature, and especially Science, a discipline that has experienced an incredible growth in content and skill.

How can you do it? How can we squeeze the ever-growing body of knowledge available today into the same amount of time that learners had generations ago? What is of most importance? Surely, you can't expect that the learners of today are learning everything I was expected to learn 42 years ago AND everything that has occurred since then! So, what is left out? Who decides what is left out?

Educational researcher Larry Lezotte refrred to the process of organized abandonment. He cited the overwhelming burden facing schools with an expansive curricula delivered in a fixed and finite amount of time. He discouraged people from adding anything to the curriculum unless something is eliminated in kind, so we no longer try to pour ten gallons of water into a five gallon container.

The question remains - who decides and how do they decide?

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