Education: Forget It?

Soon after Marjorie McGill entered high school, she began to call on her father for help with homework problems. Occasionally, father & daughter struggled until 2 a.m. over the stuff, sometimes didn't get through all Marjorie's assignments even then. As a teacher himself (at the John Adams High School in Queens, N.Y.), father James V. McGill began to wonder: Was all this travail really necessary?

Teacher McGill persuaded four of his colleagues in the social sciences to join him in an experiment. He picked 185 pairs of students, each pair closely matched in ability. To one group the teachers gave the usual...

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