At some point during our conversation, Mr. O’Brien asked me about the relationship between a challenging curriculum and student learning. Here’s my answer:
When we introduced the new classical curriculum, it was clear that our high achievers in the school were not accustomed to being challenged. They had become accustomed to filling out the worksheet, finding those words in bold print, and knew how to regurgitate what we wanted to know on the tests. All that was taken away and they were presented with questions that were more open-ended in nature, and they were being asked to write essays instead of take multiple-choice tests. And so it was funny—the high achievers were the angriest with us about the curriculum change because they were being challenged and they weren’t used to that experience.
It’s like anything else, though—the human person is made to work, made to think, and there is a lot of joy and fun in education when you do climb that tough mountain, get to the top and realize you did understand that lesson, that story, that math concept.