Education: A Jovial Insipid Subject

One of the pressures of entering fourth grade is an accelerated vocabulary. Most children find—and happily master—scores of big, new words in their textbooks. But for many inner-city children, whose parents do not use such words, the encounter can be agony. Unable to cope with their books, the kids often give up and quit learning.

In St. Louis last year, School Superintendent William Kottmeyer devised a new method for making new words alluring to 24,000 children, 68% of whom are black. For three grades (fourth through sixth), Kottmeyer isolated several hundred potentially baffling words...

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