Let’s Skip the Salad Dressing

When I was a kid, I didn’t do too well with eating my vegetables. My mom, wanting to see some eaten, offered me plenty of salad dressing to eat with the vegetables I wouldn’t, and I got awfully fond of salad dressing.

But not so much the vegetables. I was in my twenties before I discovered that broccoli actually tastes pretty good. All by itself. No sauce necessary.

I wonder some days if the “innovations” folks fawn so much over in the educational technology space are actually helping us to eat our academic vegetables, or if they’re really just helping us to develop a taste for the thing that these innovations use as a distraction from the essential work of learning.

We need our schools to develop strong readers and writers and thinkers, folks who aren’t led along the road of citizenship by badges or points or a snazzy UI. It might be that many of the “innovations” steering students into devices and apps and gamified almost-learning experiences are nothing more than Thousand Island or Ranch in shiny packages.

When someone comes to you and says “Here’s a better way to teach reading,” look carefully. If the “better way” doesn’t actually involve any time spent reading, then that’s not innovation. It’s salad dressing.

Reading and writing are learned through doing them. Just as I learned, over a long time, to like and to choose the broccoli that wasn’t slathered in sauce, children can learn, and often do, that books and reading and the written word are choices that are worth choosing. But only if they actually experience them.

So let’s minimize the salad dressing, okay?

34 thoughts on “Let’s Skip the Salad Dressing

  1. Kevin Slick says:

    I was having a discussion with someone the other day related to this – they were saying that we should be using a wider range of reading materials for kids who are reading below grade level. In particular they said graphic novels that more closely resembled the violent video games and movies these kids sometimes (or most times) watch. I’m not sure myself. Some of the talk about reaching the “digital natives” through video, web presentations, programing that matches their shorter attention spans etc. strikes me as “giving up” and not doing the real work of reading or writing.

  2. Hey Bud, I’m new to your site and really enjoyed this latest blog. I’m a SPED teacher in a inclusion English III class. I see everyday the lack of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in my students. We have a lot of work to do in order to get them ready for the upcoming writing assessments. I don’t think the latest ” golly gee whiz” will be the answer. A love of learning (broccoli) is definitely the key.

  3. Great post! Innovation can only happen if people are willing to experience it. I love the analogy as well – I think we’ve all had that problem with something at some point in our lives, whether it’s pedagogy or vegetables!

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