Acton Institute Powerblog

What is the Most Important Factor in Improving Education?

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elementary-school-student-and-teacher-look-at-computerWhat is the key to improving education in America? Stuart Buck says that Barker Bausell’s book, Too Simple to Fail: A Case for Educational Change, provides the answer:

His main thesis: that the only thing that improves education is spending more time on instruction at a given child’s level. In his words:

All school learning is explained in terms of the amount of relevant instructional time provided to a student.

That’s it: more time + suitability for a child’s level.

This may seem too simplistic at first glance, but Bausell marshals evidence that his theory explains, well, a lot. Possibly even the achievement gap. Studies of home behavior have shown that middle-class families spend much more time talking and reading to their children at a high level. This is the most elegant explanation for why those children do better in school — they have had much more time devoted to their learning.

Read more . . .

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • The author’s ideas sound reasonable, but American children spend too much time in school as it is. Americans put far too much emphasis on education, especially math and science because socialists have convinced us that they will lead us to nirvana. Except for a few jobs in physics and engineering, nothing more than algebra and basic science is even useful.

    As Hayek wrote in “Counter-Revolution of Science,” atheist socialists determined to make mathematicians the heads over a committee of scientists that would dictate policy to the ignorant masses and make socialism work. Gullible Americans are still buying into that nonsense.

  • Dylan Pahman

    As long as we admit that we’ve had enough “more time” and terribly lack “suitability for [each] child’s level” then I’m okay with that equation. But more time of bad curriculum will only create more jaded students. People of all ages know when their time is being wasted and generally respond with proportional apathy and/or cynicism.