To the Editor: Middle School Instructional Time


I never ceased to be amazed by the sagacity of our county educators. For example, these paragons of earthly wisdom have now discovered a new truth. For most of my life, I have believed the old saw that “practice makes perfect.” However, as described in your article “County Middle Schools Trade Core Instructional Time for Electives,” (August 2023) we see that such a principle is not true at all. What we thought was time-tested common sense has now been revealed as nothing less than utter nonsense. Our educational administrators have shown us the truth—the less students study something, the better they learn it.

Now that we have been exposed to such a prudent and sensible methodology, let us not stop with math, English, and other academic subjects. Let’s apply this wisdom to other disciplines. I think we should experiment to see how effective this could be. Please allow me a few examples to illustrate my point.

Consider the article about the WAHS student Thomas Heilman. Here is Heilman’s key to success. Practice less. Surely if he were to cut his practice time in half, he would beat any standing record set by Michael Phelps, or anyone else for that matter.

Also take into account your story of Eli Sullivan. Why settle for a world championship? If he were to spend less time throwing horseshoes, he would certainly go on to become champion of the solar system, maybe the galaxy.

Think of how this could make a profound impact on the arts. Ballerinas and other dancers, musicians, singers, painters, sculptors—all will benefit from less labor applied to their art. They should know that the core skills they must develop do not require repetitive work and much practice. Why waste their time?

What about the culinary arts? Why waste time in a classroom learning all those recipes, techniques, and gastronomic skills. Why learn to make a Béarnaise sauce when you have already learned Hollandaise? And in restaurant kitchens—this principle of less is more could greatly save on food costs. Chefs would only need to know how to make one half of the items listed on the menu. What a great boon to the food industry.

The medical profession would be significantly enhanced by this newfound wisdom. I know that I would have greater confidence and peace of mind facing a potential life-threatening surgery if… if I only knew my surgeon had studied less and spent fewer hours in the classroom. What a relief that would be!

Of course, the efficacy of this new approach depends on another revolutionary principle, as enunciated by our academic establishment. Redundancy is ineffective. To foolishly repeat something accomplishes nothing. I know this worked for me in my pedagogic career. I did not have to repeat multiplication tables endlessly. No. One glance, and I knew them immediately. Mathematical theorems, formulas, and procedures only required a single class, and they were mine for life. The same applied to English. A mere momentary exposure to rules of grammar, the ins-and-outs of punctuation, and tricks at writing well came with only a few classes. Indeed, I am sure I would be a better writer if only I had less training.

Indeed, now that the world of non-redundancy has opened to me, I see its potential in other areas besides education. Let us encourage airline pilots and astronauts to only check their instruments one time before taking off. Going skydiving for the first time? Be sure your instructor only tests your parachute once. That is enough. Is your teenager learning to drive? One lesson is all that is required. Please, please do not fall into the trap of repeating a lesson. See the possibilities?

As a minister of the Gospel, I now see that we can apply the principle of non-redundant efficacy to Holy Writ itself. We don’t need three Synoptic Gospels when one will do. Let’s jettison, say, Matthew and Mark. We’ll keep Luke, to pair with Acts. The book of Deuteronomy is in many ways the epitome of redundancy. Indeed, the very title means “Second Law.” The Ten Commandments are needlessly repeated here. And Moses covers much of the same material as found in the rest of the Pentateuch. Out with Deuteronomy! Jesus himself quoted quite a bit of the Old Testament. Why repeat these statements? God already spoke His mind once. We don’t need to hear “Love your neighbor as yourself” more than one time. Get rid of everything but the first mention. It would Bible reading so much more convenient when there is less to read. Again, less is more.

Yes, we owe a great deal to the educational elite of Albemarle County. They have shown us the way. By spending less time studying, and removing redundancy from our lives, we obviously would be more effective, happy, and productive. 

Victor Morris

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