One eleven year-old was asked to make a time-line of events in early American history that "showed evidence of a growing nation" - but when I talked to him about it, it was clear the teacher hadn't really discussed what a nation was. Now, this kid is eleven, and just adolescent enough to not be always paying attention, but he's still pretty bright. But looking for "evidence of a growing nation" is the sort of thing I would ask a high school or university student to think about.
But at the same time, they have him drawing pictures for assignments, as if he were six, and not writing but making timelines and drawing diagrams. When I was eleven, they had us reading short novels and writing responses in full sentances[sic], and making reports about things like history and science, again with paragraphs of writing.
He can write, when he's inspired - he wrote a 2 page story for Halloween that totally gave me shivers with the scary ending. But they aren't making him practice reading and writing - they are making him draw pictures and grading him on his handwriting and neatness (which is pretty bad).
College students most significant barrier to overcome is not being able to spell, which is really a boogeyman borne in part of the txtspk/language degradation hysteria and a "good old days" nostalgia for Pre-WWII language arts instruction drills.
remove the construct of compulsory attendance.... kids instinctively choose, given full agency and options, places that [are] the best for them.
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