June 6, 2005
I visited William Wordsworth’s school in Hawkshead, England.
The great 18th century romantic poet spent 11 hours per day in school, five days a week, as well as part of Saturday.
He and his classmates studied three subjects – Greek, Latin and mathematics.
Any student missing three church services was expelled.
Wordsworth used a small chapel near the school and the room in which he stayed.
He and his classmates also studied a little book called “The rules of civility, or, the maxims of genteel behavior.”
Imagine studying something like that in today’s schools – English or American.
There may be some hope.
After years of experimental and failed attempts at reading instruction, English schools will return to the basics this fall.
Phonics – the sounding out of words – will be the new standard.
Actually, it’s the old standard, which is the point.
The old ways not only taught kids how to read, but how to behave.
For 40 years we have tried to reform those old ways and, instead, have distorted them and produced results we claimed not to want.
Now about those rules for behavior.
In England, I’m Cal Thomas.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C. Watch his television show, After Hours with Cal Thomas, on the Fox News Channel, Saturdays at 11 p.m. Eastern Time.