Brickbat: Beyond 'Dumbing Down'


Students at New York City's Edward R. Murrow High School said they were surprised by an assignment in their American literature class. In that class, which is for juniors, they were told to read "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and "The Tortoise and the Hare" and answer the questions "Who?" "What?" "When?" and "Why?" They also had to write a one-sentence summary of each work. Department of Education spokesman Nathaniel Styer declined to answer questions from the New York Post about the course, but he tweeted that the assignment was "scaffolding," or giving students an easy assignment to prepare them for a tougher one. In this case, he said, it was to prepare them to read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and answer similar questions about that work. Students in the class told the newspaper they didn't actually read The Scarlet Letter but a seven-page summary of the novel.