Foundational Skills / What it Means

What it Means

Why Foundational Skills?

Friends of Education supports schools which provide students foundational skills. Why? Because foundational skills are critical to life success.

A primary academic difference between the advantaged and disadvantaged child is vocabulary size.  Advantaged high school graduates generally know eighty-thousand words, whereas disadvantaged students know half that.  Does it matter?  Absolutely.

Knowledge builds on knowledge, and obtaining that knowledge requires more than phonemic skill; it requires having a wide vocabulary in order to understand what you’re reading.  How do you obtain a wide vocabulary?  It necessarily results from exposure to a correspondingly wide knowledge.

Bill Gates frequently addresses school students, telling them that wide reading and general knowledge are critical to competence.  Why does he believe that?  Bill Gates, after all, is indisputably a critical thinker engaging in creative competencies which some say are more important than knowing facts.  But Bill Gates, and others like him, know a lot of facts.  If he didn't, he couldn’t be such a critical, creative thinker.  In fact, psychologists tell us that knowing more makes a person better able to learn new things and to think critically—that critical thinking comes only after factual knowledge.

Moreover, independent studies repeatedly demonstrate that, where schools emphasize broad factual knowledge, students become more curious and engaged.  They’re being set-up for success.

Adapted from Why Core Knowledge Promotes Social Justice, You Can Always Look It Up — Or Can You, and Why General Knowledge Should be a Goal of Education in a Democracy, all by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.