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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

Jay Matthews in the Oct. 11th Washington Post

"The following statement is not a joke: Many writing classes discourage much writing. The nonprofit Education Trust found that only 9 percent of 1,876 literacy assignments in six urban middle schools asked students to write more than a single paragraph."


Matthew writes of Will Fitzhugh, who publishes the Concord Review, all written by high school students, and who says this, "Sadly, English teachers don't have time to handle lengthy researched essays. They cringe at what Fitzhugh calls his Page Per Year Plan: a five-page paper in fifth grade, adding a page each year until everyone does a 12-page paper in 12th grade. He wants students to address issues they have read about, maybe even tackling a nonfiction book or two, very rare in schools."


My experience tells me that writing in schools often means writing about "your inner feelings," or writing fiction. That's tough for most kids. Writing narrative nonfiction is a whole lot easier and it teaches important research skills. Besides, narrative nonficiton is the art form of our information-centered times.

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A Map of this New Land Is Worth Pounds

A 1499 map of the new world turned up recently in a rolled-up parchment in the UK's National Archives. Included were details on a reward William Weston received from King Henry VII for drawing the map. That was in 1500, just a year after England sent its first British-led expedition to "Terra Nova" (the so-called New World).


The reward (30 British pounds sterling) was hefty.  William Weston was a Bristol merchant who traveled on the 1499 voyage.  That sum of money was the equivalent of about six years' salary for a laborer. King Henry VII must have been pleased. The map would help with later British claims to discovery of the New World.


In 2018 explorers at the National Archive discovered the parchment detailing Weston's payment. They had to use ultraviolet light to see what the text said.

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