Our Language Curriculum
Just a few careful words can destroy a person — or create a world!
Language is amazing. With language, we can enter one another's minds. We can hear — and can fine-tune — our own thoughts. We can spread our ideas across continents and down through generations.
But most people graduate from high school barely able to type a competent e-mail. Or speak publicly without hysteria. And all that in only a single language.
The promises of language are so great; the reality of language are so dismal.
What if a new kind of school could help most every student fall in love with language, and delight in using it brilliantly?
To cultivate readers, our schools will —
- nurture pleasure reading by turning classrooms into libraries, devoting whole periods to silent free reading, and organizing "book tastings".
- introduce kids to an enjoyable new poem each day.
- teach basic reading through a combination of synthetic phonics and delicious literature.
- teach advanced reading by training older children to slice apart sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
- set kids on epic reading missions for their Learning in Depth projects.
To cultivate writers, our schools will —
- support children as storytellers and public speakers.
- coach kids in calligraphy, penmanship, and touch-typing.
- unveil the secret origins of exotic words and harebrained spelling rules.
- help children master not only fussy ("Standard English") grammar, but also a profusion of different dialects, accents, and styles.
- instruct in the subtle art of diagramming sentences.
- lead kids to identify, savor, and emulate the writing styles of authors they love.
- engage kids in meaningful writing — assignments that help kids think better about questions they value, and that other people actually want to read!
- go beyond the (oversold) "five paragraph essay", and have kids write poems, short stories, scripts, novellas, parodies, and more.
And to cultivate polyglots — people who can read, write, and think in more than one language — our schools will —
- teach grade schoolers in a new language, rather than teaching them about the new language.
- instruct middle and high schoolers the language using an intensive method drawn from brain science, so most every kid can master accents, remember words, and gain fluency.
A writer, filmmaker, and philosopher Susan Sontag was asked if there was anything she thought writers ought to do. She responded:
agonize over sentences,
and pay attention to the world.
Our schools strive to make this the everyday reality of kids. We seek to cultivate students who love words, and use them with beauty and power.
“Human speech is like a cracked kettle
on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to,
while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”
― Gustave Flaubert