I was intrigued by this recent NYT article, To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions.

It makes intuitive sense. Of learning in general:

This rule holds true even across subjects and disciplines, Dr. Immordino-Yang writes in her book, “Emotions, Learning, and the Brain.” “Even in academic subjects that are traditionally considered unemotional, such as physics, engineering or math, deep understanding depends on making emotional connections between concepts.”

Teachers fancy themselves as building intrinsic motivation in their students, getting them excited about being “learners” who strive to one day “go to college.” But when you get to observe what is actually being taught, one wonders how an adult could get motivated to learn in such an environment, let alone a child who does not yet possess deeply rooted intrinsic motivations to make their education count.

Given the pressures to succeed in math and reading, largely based on standardized assessments, many students, especially those in schools with lower test scores, are given passages to read and questions to answer. Reading is a detached exercise with no connective tissue binding the texts together. Knowledge doesn’t build. Reading is merely a checklist of skills whereby content can simply be swapped in and out.

I’ve seen worksheets go home that ask students to read some flimsy passage about horses and then asks them to write about what it would be like to have a pony. Pretty compelling stuff. Spelling words that have no context or relevance. It’s all so lazy.

Even architects of common core themselves demand that emotion, reaction, and opinion be taken out of reading, because no one really cares about what you think. It’s about a “close” examination of the text, its features, and meaning, taking every word as gospel truth and questioning nothing. What a boring, lazy, and spiteful experience we are creating for our students.

Ironically, we are asked to encourage reading “fluency,” or the cadence and delivery of text as we read aloud. But at the same time, we strip any possibility of emotional reactions or connections to reading.

So, which is it?



Dear Mr. Rosenthal, This is why I have decided to cancel my subscription to your paper today. Many people I know have already done so, but I’ve been holding out because of my love for the good journalism that goes on at the paper. As a teacher, parent and thinking individual, this editorial today about […]

According to the NYT, professors can now track how students are reading digital materials: Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort […]