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[Susan notes: Most letter writers blame teachers or parents. Susan Neuman hits the nail on the head in blaming curriculum. Read Marion Brady.]

Published in Wall Street Journal

To the editor

Mr. Murdoch's right on one thing( If Schools Were Like American Idol, Oct. 8): Schools today are in trouble. Over 60% of high-school students in Detroit do not graduate on time. But he's wrong about how to fix them. Teachers aren't the problem; neither are the teachers unions, especially the American Federation of Teachers which has consistently supported higher and more rigorous standards, curriculum and quality assessments. The problem is that curricula in schools have not caught up with the 21st century. Too often schools are remediation factories, teaching mind-numbing basic facts. Recently I asked a student why he was considering dropping out. He replied that "I just don't want to know that stuff they're teaching."

Obsessed with achievement score gains, policy makers seem to have forgotten that schools are designed to serve their local community, to educate children deeply, not simply in basic reading and writing, but in the knowledge that these skills convey. Despite wave after wave of educational reform, we have undervalued knowledge in an information-based economy and in the careers of experts. Education should be about engaging students' minds. This is what real reform is all about.

Ms. Neuman was assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education under President George W. Bush.

Prof. Susan B. Neuman

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