My 6 am taxi ride to the Nashville airport included an early morning educational eye opener, delivered by a self-proclaimed Virginia mountain man (complete with just the right bearing and beard), named Josh. As he drove, Josh sequed from a notably sophisticated treatise on the hypocrisy of some people's attitudes toward medical care (and euthanasia) for animals vs. humans to a trenchant historical critique of Andrew Jackson (the treatment of native Americans was the connector here) to a concise listing of the keys to education. I thought I'd share the latter with you here.
There are just three keys, says Josh. First, teach your kids to read at a young age. Second, teach them to enjoy reading. (He seemed concerned that we didn't model reading for pleasure and personal growth and also that adults might over-correct a child reading and kill the inclination to pick up some text.) Third, teach them what's worth reading. (He sounded a bit like the Bill Bennett of The Book of Virtues days, suggesting that the Bible or Aesop's Fables or Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac might offer both interest and character development, but then he opened up the universe of reading suggesting that the what to read question had an infinite number of answers.)
Josh is willing to leave the teaching of reading in the hands of school teachers, though he seemed to think that even teaching the mechanics of reading was a team sport. He clearly believes that teaching kids to enjoy reading and teaching them what is worth reading is the responsibility of all of a child's "teachers" (including parents and others, older and wiser).
I was struck by the uncommon sense of Josh's formulation and wondered to myself how the "underperforming" school I was in yesterday might be transformed if we concentrated on Josh's keys.
I hasten to add that Josh completed his dissertation on reading before he knew that I was a professor of education at Vanderbilt University. When I disclosed that information and asked whether I might share his views with others on this blog, he replied quickly in the affirmative. As we parted at the terminal door, I told him that my goal as an educator of teachers was to replicate his spirit among those who were and would be teachers. Josh is himself an educated mountain of a man.