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Thu Mar 8, 2012, 12:32 AM

A Lesson in Teaching to the Test, From E.B. White

In a recent quixotic attempt to broaden our kids’ horizons beyond Hogwarts during evening story hour, we turned to E.B. White, whose crystal-clear style, arrow-straight moral compass and trenchant sense of the ironic, coupled with great storytelling gifts, make him a superb choice for both children and adults.

New Yorkers in particular have found again and again that his writings have anticipated the talk of the day, so we should have predicted that his perspective would illuminate current debates over the importance of quantifying student progress and teacher performance. White’s wonderful book about a mute swan given voice by a trumpet stolen for him by his father, “The Trumpet of the Swan,” contains the following passage that in a few paragraphs beautifully evokes the elementary-school classroom of yesteryear – and, we should all hope, of tomorrow. (The episode is at the close of the chapter entitled “School Days.”)

The fifth-graders were having a lesson in arithmetic, and their teacher, Miss Annie Snug, greeted Sam with a question.

“Sam, if a man can walk three miles in one hour, how many miles can he walk in four hours?”

“It would depend on how tired he got after the first hour,” replied Sam.

more . . . http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/03/07/a-lesson-in-teaching-to-the-test-from-e-b-white/

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