A literacy researcher writes about the common educational fallacy of providing students “personalized learning” that “follows their interests,” explaining how the lack of a coherent, carefully structured curriculum that builds upon itself year after year mentally handicaps children.

The fundamental point is one that few in education seem ready to address: Great lessons may not add up to a great education. A great education is carefully mapped out. The topics to be taught are intentionally sequenced grade by grade so that students acquire the broad, sturdy foundation they need to be literate adults capable of pursuing their own interests. Teachers do need to customize their instruction to ensure that all children are mastering essential content, but “custom resources aligned to their particular context, interests, and learning needs” is a siren song drawing us away from the foundation of shared knowledge on which comprehension stands.

Parents should think about that, because we often think that sticking a hodge-podge of “great learning experiences” into our kids’ calendars will help them get ahead. We often succumb to the ineffective cafeteria style of education rather than ensuring our kids are eating balanced mental meals. In reality, it may be only making families more stressed while not doing much to benefit the kids intellectually.

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