Ken DeRosa and Facts

Ken DeRosa asserts that I am being "crafty" when I talk about his use of "facts". He writes:

"The accuracy of this statement depends on whether the reader can fill in the missing "knowledge" (not facts)... Notice the crafty substitution of "facts" for "knowledge" -- A lovely misleading rhetorical flourish..."

I will be polite and not tell DeRosa what kind of crock that is, but it's a crock, as a look at DeRosa's own words shows clearly:

  • Ken DeRosa, February 7, 2009 "The conventional wisdom is that that learning facts in a domain will improve the ability to reason in that domain."

  • Ken DeRosa, September 20, 2007. "Here are a few of the facts, rules, and perspectives that are developed in Reading Mastery III."

  • Ken DeRosa, October 9, 2006. "During that time he's probably worked at least a thousand actual math problems and is starting to develop some real procedural fluency with simple addition and subtraction facts."

  • Ken DeRosa, September 12, 2006. "'By fourth grade, the report says, students should be fluent with "multiplication and division facts" and should start working with decimals and fractions'...To think that this is in any way controversial boggles the mind."

  • Ken DeRosa, April 19, 2006. "As you'll see from the upcoming story and independent work exercises, the facts taught in these articles will be used by the students and must be known by them"

  • Ken DeRosa, July 19, 2008. "To the rest of us, this is superficial understanding. History without historical facts or understanding of those facts. See the way that works?"

  • Ken deRosa, April 14, 2009. "For purposes of instruction a facts is a true and verifiable statement that connects one specific thing (Constitution) and another specific thing (Philadelphia)."

  • Ken DeRosa, April 15, 2009. "In the last post, we discussed the six forms of knowledge: ... * verbal associations - facts and lists: (this one thing goes with that one thing);"

  • Ken DeRosa, Auigust 8, 2008. "I think that Murray overestimates the ease at which facts can be taught to and retained... facts are difficult to learn because facts must be mostly learned on a case by case basis which is not readily amenable to acceleration."

  • Ken DeRosa, June 27, 2008 (quoting Daniel Willingham) "The student who does not have simple math facts at his or her disposal will struggle with higher math."

  • Ken DeRosa, September 12, 2006. "a science teacher may want students to know a set of facts about certain species so that she can introduce an important abstract concept concerning evolution that depends on these facts."

  • Ken DeRosa, September 22, 2006. "What happened to "quick," as in "quick recall" of basic facts. I'm sure many hours were spent arguing over that term. Odd, that you would forget to include it in your email to the troops. Idiot."

  • Ken DeRosa, September 21, 2006. "This means that students have to keep less facts in their head to solve the problem. This benefits kids who do not have quick recall of the multiplication facts and prevents them from over-taxing their working memory."

  • Ken deRosa, July 1, 2008. "so long as the child is able to use finger-counting operation or a number line, what motivation is there for learning facts?"

  • Ken DeRosa, March 5, 2009. "Knowledge is defined as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation."

  • Ken DeRosa, April 9, 2009. "This level assumes that students have mastery of a wide range of math facts and operations."

  • Ken DeRosa, July 21, 2008. "We all can agree that history instruction should not be a parade of facts; however, facts will need to be learned"

  • Ken DeRosa, October 20, 2006. "It's also not sufficient for you to have some facts for the analytic cognitive processes to operate on. There must be lots of facts and you must know them well."

  • Ken DeRosa, September 7, 2006. Schools do a miserable job at teaching facts, if anything they deride the entire process and consciously avoid teaching facts in favor of teaching students how to "learn how to learn," which you know, if you've read the articles I linked to, is a crock.

  • Ken DeRosa, April 15, 2009. "facts and Lists Facts and lists (statements that connect specific things) are learned by simply memorizing the connection."

  • Ken DeRosa, January 7, 2007. "There's a great post up at TextSavvy about how students found it easier to recall facts from a complicated reading passage"

  • Ken DeRosa, January 7, 2009. "Shallow understanding requires knowing some facts. Deep understanding requires knowing the facts AND knowing how they fit together, seeing the whole."

  • Ken DeRosa, May 13, 2006. "The problem with Core Knowledge is that it only sets forth a body of information that it wants kids to learn without specifying how kids are to learn it or if that amount of facts is even learnable."

There's many more, but I think I make the point.

I take this as irrefutable proof that DeRosa has either had a midnight conversion experience, or that 'facts' play a central role in his argument, as I assert.


  1. That's a false dichotomy, Stephen. There's a third option" you have (intentionally) parsed my argument incorrectly.

    I argue that you (and your fellow travelers) have (dishonestly) redefined content/knowledge to be "only facts." My position is (as it always has been) that content/knowledge includes not "only facts" or, more specifically, facts plus concepts, procedures, and all the rest. Importantly, my definition (and it is the standard dictionary definition, as one of the above links demonstrates) is "facts plus more" It also follows that a student, in order to aqcuire knowledge/content, needs to learn facts plus the more. It's the "plus more" part that you conveniently ignore and which makes your argument a dishonest rhetorical flourish, as I indicated, and as this current post of yours amply demonstrates once again.

    Most of the above quotes properly use the term "facts," such as in math and history, where there are important facts to be learned (addition, subtraction, multiplcation, division facts). A few reflect more casual usage.

    If you would have searched the term "knowledge" you would have gotten a similar number of hits reflecting the usage as I've defined above, i.e., facts plus more.

    So, what exactly was your point?

  2. The 'plus more' part of your argument is irrelevant. It's just a smokescreen. Your argument regarding facts is what makes your position objectionable. You consistently say that the teaching of knowledge includes facts, must includes facts, and cannot succeed without facts. Do you deny this? If not, quit deflecting the issue with smokescreens and own your own words.

  3. Your characterization of my views is nonsense. Clearly, you haven't been reading the posts I've made directly on this topic this month and back in April.

    I defined the broad categories of knowledge (relevant to K-12 learning)as including verbal associations, concpts, rule relationships, and cognitive routines.

    Only the first category, verbal associations, includes facts (a statement that connects one specific thing and another specific thing) and lists (a statement that connects one specific thing and more than one specific thing) So, by definition, learning a verbal association requires the learning of facts.

    Concepts, sensory and high order, do not necessarily require the learning of facts. Concepts can be learned by the learner observing (perceiving) a range of examples to see the common feature (which defines the concept) and to cover the range of variations (which define the boundaries of the concept). Since the defining features of higher-order concepts, however, are spread out it is helpful for the learner to be provided with a definition (that states the common, defining features) and then the learner observes examples and nonexamples to substantiate the definition. Of course, such a definition need not be provided to the learner up front; the learner may derive the definition inductively. (The provision of the definition upfront is the primary difference between instructivism and constructivism; nonetheless, the leaner must still observe a range of example and non-example to substantiate the common feature(s) and boundaries of the concept.)

    Rule relationships are statements that connect not specific things but whole groups of things (concepts or categories). To understand the relationship, the leaner must learn the rule. The rule can be taught deductively in which case the rule is given as a verbal association (in which case facts will be presented) and then the learner observes examples and nonexamples (as with the learning of concepts)(the rule is learned when the learner can discriminate the rule) or the rule might be taught inductively such that the learner observes a range of examples then the learner compares the examples to identify their sameness (no facts need be taught). For example, a rule or proposition may assert how one kind of thing (concept or category) changes with another kind of thing (concept or category), for instance whenever temperature increases (one kind of thing), pressure increases (another kind of thing). The learner can be showed a demonstration showing that a rise in temperature is a sufficient condition (by itself) to cause an increase in pressure, thus substantiating the proposition/rule for the learner.

    Cognitive routines are sequences of steps that usually must be done in a certain order. Solving math problems, sounding out words, and stating a theory or making a logical argument (each proposition in the theory or argument is like a step that leads to a conclusion). As, you yourself point out, facts (a list of the steps)are often useful in learning a routine but are not strictly required because the learner can learn the routine by observation.

  4. (continuing past blogger's ridiculous length limitation)

    Facts and lists are learned by simply memorizing the connection. The memorization could be long term or short term depending on how long the knowledge is needed by the learner. If the knowledge is important, it is often useful for the knowledge to be practiced (rehearsed) so that it retained in long term memory. Otherwise the knowledge will have to be reactivated every time it is needed.

    In contrast, in the case of concepts, rules or propositions, and routines, the learner has to figure out the general idea that is revealed by the observed examples. The student gets from the examples (specifics) to the general idea embedded in the examples by inductive reasoning. In other words, the learner performs a sequence of logical operations, beginning with examples and ending with a general idea. That is, the learner:

    (a) observes examples and nonexamples (examples of concepts, or rules/propositions, or routines);
    (b) performs a series (a routine) of logical operations on what it observes; and
    (c) arrives at (induces, figures out, discovers, “gets”) the general idea (the concept, rule, or routine) revealed by the examples and nonexamples.

    So, my own words, in fact, demonstrate not that "the teaching of knowledge includes facts, must includes facts, and cannot succeed without facts," as you contend. In the instances where knowledge is predicated on learning facts, the connection(s) inherent in those facts must be learned. However, where knowledge is not predicated on learning facts, then no facts need be learned. This is most readily seen in my description of the learning of higher order concepts in which it is often desireable to offer the student the definition of the concept to circumscribe the boundaries of the concept, but the student need not memorize the definition. Knowledge of the concept is acquired when the learner can discriminate examples and non-examples of the concept.

    I'm interest to see how you will invariably misinterpret these words. Do your worst.


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