The school should focus on helping young people to develop the habit of using their minds well. …The school's academic goal should be simple: that each student masters a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge. The aphorism 'less is more' should dominate. 1
The curriculum motto 'less is more', one of Theodore Sizer's renowned, more demanding dicta, represents a central precept of his education reform efforts and his emphasis on the importance of learning quality over teaching quantity. Encouraging students to perform carefully limited, but critically vital tasks to a very high standard-'more with less'-epitomizes Sizer's challenge to schools to rethink priorities for educational goals and practices: to concentrate on intellectual and imaginative competencies which allow students to access more, not less knowledge; to be active, as opposed to passive learners; to exhibit motivation and curiosity, rather than apathy; to appreciate depth rather than shallowness, and to develop into respectfully sceptical and mindful, as opposed to mindless human beings.
Theodore Sizer, or Ted, as he is affectionately known, is an acclaimed educational reformer with a key role in putting forward a new vision for schools and schooling and in vigorously putting it into action. Sizer was born 23 June 1932 and grew up on a farm just north of New Haven, CT. He is currently Professor Emeritus at Brown University, where he served as chair of the Education Department from 1984 to 1989. He is the celebrated founder of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), the founding director of the Annenberg Institute for Education Reform (1993) and its director until 1996, and has been awarded honorary degrees from many universities, including Brown, Williams, Dartmouth and Connecticut College, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the James Bryant Conaut Award, and the Distinguished Service Award of the council of state school officers, among others.
After graduating in English literature from Yale in 1953, Sizer joined the army. Serving as an artillery officer, he was impressed by the army's determination to train all its recruits, even the school dropouts, and with its belief that this was an achievable goal. Following demobilization, Sizer taught English and mathematics (1955-56) at Roxbury Latin School, before entering Harvard where he was awarded his MAT in social studies (1957). This was followed by a teaching post in Australia, where he taught history and geography at Melbourne Grammar School for Boys (1958). His teaching experiences in this strictly traditional school had a profound influence on Sizer's conception of the role and impact of culture, school community and family expectations in the formation of a school.
Returning to the US, Sizer completed his Ph.D. in Education and American History at Harvard (1961). After a short spell as an assistant professor at Harvard, and director of its MAT programme (1961-64), he was appointed Dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education (1964-72). His concern with issues of equity in education became apparent during this period, with his celebrated proposal of giving vouchers only to low-income families. In 1968, while part of the White House Task Force on Cities, his