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[Susan notes: It's hard for me to comment on my own letter except to say "Beware of letter writers bearing praise" on the one hand. . . because there is another hand ready.]

Submitted to Wall Street Journal but not published

To the editor

E. D. Hirsch makes a very important point in Vocabulary Declines, With Unspeakable Results: Students don't learn new words by studying vocabulary lists. I couldn't agree more with Hirsch's assertion that students gain critical vocabulary skills by "guessing new meanings within the overall gist of what they are hearing or reading." That's why it's so important that they read widely, why they should have plenty of opportunity to choose what interests them. The new Common Core State (sic) Standards that Hirsch applauds has kids reading the same text over and over in mind-numbing repetition. There's not a member of Congress who would sit through such tribulation, probably not even many members of the Wall Street Journal board.

As a point of information: Washington D. C. analyst Guy Brandenburg reports that recent PIRL resorts show the US outscoring Ireland, Israel, NZ, Canada, Taiwan, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, France, Austria, among others, in reading.


Susan Ohanian

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