So near, so far
The populist talker Michael Savage, who often runs along the same path as Polistra, has taken the same path today but veered off at just the wrong point.
In discussing Rev Wright's view of black/white learning methods, Savage understands the difference in rhythm and the difference between concrete-first and abstract-first learning, but he then says "There's only one way to learn astronomy or trigonometry. You just have to sit down with the textbook."
This simply isn't true, and it's NOT a matter of black/white, nor is it a matter of progressive vs conservative.
All good teachers through the millenia have known that there are several ways to learn. Some kids learn best by starting with the concrete, some by starting with the abstract, some by example, some by story-telling. All good teachers have also known that learning requires work, that the only way to solidify your skills is to spend lots and lots of time practicing. All good teachers have also known that some type of objective evaluation is needed at the end of the process.
These basic facts are not controversial, or shouldn't be.
My father, who was pure Teacher from stem to stern, taught me these things early in life, and applied them when possible in his occupation. He didn't think of himself as Progressive; he was old-fashioned.
The controversy and problem arises because American "Progressive Education" insisted on using only the concrete, and ALSO insisted that evaluation is a bad idea because it damages "self-esteem".
In blind reaction to the latter error, American "Conservative Education" insisted on using only the abstract reading method (Just the Basics, Ma'am), conflating method with evaluation.
Because public schools are rigid and bureaucratic institutions, they have to choose only one way of learning. There just isn't the time or resources to handle each kid differently, and discrimination laws further limit the range of operation. A teacher who tries to treat the concrete kids differently will end up dividing mainly, though far from exclusively, along racial lines.
The solution is simple: Vouchers. We've seen that inner-city schools run by gutsy and independent principals have been able to match teaching styles with learning styles, with excellent results because they don't skip the practice and evaluation steps.
As in most areas of life, if you decentralize, if you avoid one-size-must-fit-all requirements, everything works just fine.