Swickard: Forget time for students

Commentary by Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Three related questions about the academic skills: First, if we know that allowing academic skills to go unused typically causes said skills to atrophy, then why do we have summer vacations in our public schools? Obviously, three months of not using academic skills does result in some of their loss.  Secondly, why do students go for long periods of time during the school year without using all of their essential skills? Thirdly, why is there the notion that after high school graduation people do not have to use their academic skills to be able to retain them? Why indeed. It is my contention that the reason some high school graduates cannot read, write coherently or do math to an adequate level is not because they have not been taught these skills. Rather, students have allowed these academic skills to degenerate.  The students are victims of “forget time,” the gap between being able to use a skill and the subsequent loss of the skill. The measure of forget time presumes that if a skill is not used in a certain amount of time it will be lost. Naturally forget time is not the same for every student, some lose their skills in days, some in months. Importantly, everyone on Planet Earth will lose their skills if enough time passes without the skills being used. Read column



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