[This is the sixteenth of seventeen finalists in the book review contest. It’s not by me - it’s by an ACX reader who will remain anonymous until after voting is done, to prevent their identity from influencing your decisions. This entry was promoted to finalist status by readers; thanks to everyone who voted! - SA]
Seriously, they’re terrible at it, and nobody ever calls them out as a group. We call out individual children as failing. We call out individual schools and school systems as bad. But the much more dramatic contrast is between learning in school and learning in any other context.
In their first five years, kids learn to understand 25,000 words, even if nobody is actively helping them, at the same time as they’re learning most of what they’ll ever know about physics, psychology, and how to pilot a human body. They then struggle to match this vocabulary acquisition rate over their next ten years, despite expert attention, a wealth of resources, personal encouragement, and even prizes.
After weeks of trying, my teacher gave up on getting me to correctly label the countries and capitals in a map of South America. Yet I quickly learned to navigate the New York City Subway.