As a parent of children attending Fairfax County schools, I vehemently disagree with Alfie Kohn's attack on basic educational standards [Outlook, Oct. 10].

Mr. Kohn said, "Real learning is being squeezed out of classrooms," but academic learning as the primary objective of public education was squeezed out of classrooms two decades ago. Since the '70s, Fairfax County has embraced whole math, invented spelling, whole language, forced busing, deconstructionist multiculturalism, the self-esteem movement, "developmentally appropriate" curriculum, student-directed group learning and social promotions.

As a result of these "progressive" techniques that Mr. Kohn seeks, Fairfax schools, despite being in the richest county in the country, rank in the 59th percentile on Stanford 9 assessments. American educational performance has been deplorable by every yardstick, save two: Our students rate highest in "self-esteem" and violent assaults.

Mr. Kohn said our schools are mired in traditional, rote memorization and the "bunch of facts" model of instruction. But my kids confront a confusing, mile-wide, inch-deep fluid survey of politically correct subject matter with few central concepts and no reinforcement, let alone "facts" or "memorization." My seventh-grader's first math assignment was a review of shapes (squares, rectangles, circles and triangles) and basic long division. These were first- and third-grade exercises in bad old 1950s Fairfax. Despite any imperfections in the traditional orthodoxy that Mr. Kohn deplores, it was plainly superior to what my kids are mired in today.


Fairfax Station