Nos relations avec le Core Knowledge Imprimer Envoyer
Pédagogie Explicite - Historique du courant
Écrit par Form@PEx   
Samedi, 01 Juillet 2006 00:00

Nos relations avec le Core Knowledge



Dès le printemps 2006, lorsque nous avons découvert l'Enseignement Explicite, nous avons essayé d'entrer en contact avec l'ADI (Association for Direct Instruction) et avec le Core Knowledge. Seul ce dernier nous a répondu favorablement et nous avons très vite établi des relations avec les responsables de ce courant pédagogique. Je reproduis ci-dessous nos interventions dans Common Knowledge, la Newsletter du Core Knowledge. En février 2007, nous nous sommes rendus à Washington pour assister à la 16e conférence nationale du Core Knowledge où nous avons pu rencontrer E.D Hirsch Jr. Nous nous sommes ensuite inspirés de ce modèle pour tenter de construire un réseau d’écoles explicites dans le cadre de l’association “La 3e voie…”, et pour rédiger des brochures récapitulant ce qu’un élève devrait savoir à la fin de chaque niveau du Primaire. Après 2007, nous avons cessé nos relations avec le Core Knowledge, puisque nous nous sentions fort logiquement plus proche du Direct Instruction de Siegfried Engelmann.

Françoise et Bernard Appy




Common Knowledge - The Newsletter of the Core Knowledge Foundation - Vol. 19, n° 1, juillet 2006

Core Knowledge in France

Core Knowledge


The following letter was submitted to Core Knowledge by a teacher in France, whose complaints about her country’s education system closely parallel many of the comments we receive from American teachers. Although certain content in a French curriculum may differ markedly from the equivalent content-based curriculum in the United States, Françoise Appy and her husband find the basic concepts behind the Core Knowledge Sequence and the work of E. D. Hirsch, Jr., to be applicable in many ways to the French educational system.

Years ago, Hirsch pointed to the traditional French education system as a shining example for American educators. Ironically enough, the same system that influenced Hirsch in the early 1980s was upended by the same progressive practices and theories against which Hirsch and others were reacting.

Please note that they are eager to hear from Core Knowledge teachers in America, so feel free to send a deluge of emails and please visit their website. Great things can happen when great ideas are able to leap across oceans.

My name is Françoise Appy and I am a teacher in a primary school in the south of France. Until the 1960s, France had a good educational system that was the envy of many countries. However, a pedagogical revolution then occurred, which transformed our system — previously based on transmitting knowledge — into a new system based on constructivism in which the child was supposed to “build his own knowledge.” The French experts then introduced a new discipline called Education Sciences, which in turn brought on more bad ideas that have since proven to be bad. Today, the French educational system is in its worst state ever, yet it seems that only a few teachers are struggling for to make improvement. They gather in different groups and try to spread their ideas through various media. We had some little victories like, recently, the official return to syllabic reading as a learning method.

My husband Bernard, who is also a teacher, and I have created our website in order to reach people, present our ways of teaching, give advice to beginners, and inform others of what is going on in the educational world. We recommend a way of teaching similar to Direct Instruction with an ambitious curriculum.

We would really like French schools to become leaders in the twenty-first century world. American teachers seem to have realized the failure of their educational system about fifteen years ago and are now trying new ways. I’ve recently discovered E. D. Hirsch’s book, The Schools We Need. The analysis and proposals are very rich and accurate, and this how I found the Core Knowledge Foundation. We would like to contact teachers who practice Core Knowledge methods, exchange ideas with them, and start spreading these ideas around France. We invite teachers to visit our website and publish their temoignages [case studies or anecdotes] in our special page about Direct Instruction (pédagogies explicites).

Please visit our website.
Please contact us at the emails below. We will be happy to translate your writing for you!
Best Wishes to our colleagues in the U.S.!





Common Knowledge - The Newsletter of the Core Knowledge Foundation - Vol. 20, n° 1, janvier 2007

The Third Way: Direct Instruction in France

Core Knowledge


Françoise Appy and her husband, Bernard, have become regular contributors to Common Knowledge. Their enthusiasm for reform of teaching methods and standards in France should serve to motivate all of us and remind us of our core mission. Françoise and Bernard will attend the 2007 National Conference in Washington, D.C.

Primary education in France is influenced by two movements defined by very different conceptions of instruction — the traditional approach and the constructivist or progressive approach. Because of the ideological connotations, movements, and politics behind each method, various controversies between them lead to endless and often abstract debate. As a result of these quarrels, the future and wellbeing of French children becomes secondary.

Our Route

While considering the reform of education in France, our first question was, “do we want to formally teach children or do we want them to build naturally on their knowledge?” Because educational progressivism has been deemed inefficient and unsuccessful since the 1970s, the first option seems more logical. However, in the traditional Ecoles Normales1, soon-to-be teachers are only taught one model for teaching: the well-known and officially recognized Progressivism. Today, despite poor classroom results, “hands-on” constructionist methods are still defended by many, resulting in noisy, exhausted classes that learn little in the way of knowledge or skill. Discovery learning, which is more or less imposed by the teachers, is responsible for much of this educational chaos. Also to blame are the absence of redoubling, cycles,2 misdirected input from parents, and, at times, teachers’ decision-making powers.

Simply put, primary school no longer prepares children for further education. Aside from the intellectual damage it causes, a lack of education keeps entire social groups from advancement, the tools of power, and the intellectual capital necessary to become productive “éclaire” citizens. What are we to think of a society that abandons some of its members?

Why a third way?

In our daily practice as educators, we continually improve our teaching and make changes according to real results. Desiring to teach in the more successful, traditional manner, one is stuck between effective teaching and reverting back to schools as they were in the 1950s. French traditional teaching has always been strong, but reproducing this older style would be an anachronism. Certainly it would mean “yesterday teaching about tomorrow,” but another aphorism should be added here: “tomorrow can’t be the mirror of yesterday.” In order for teachers to effectively deliver knowledge to their students in a way that reflects a new style and a new culture, teachers need modern abilities and methods. Formerly, traditional teaching focused on the teacher and long, magisterial lessons, placing students in a secondary, passive role in which their understanding was neglected. Responsive exercises were few and feedback on progress was scarce. As most current teachers were themselves taught using this method, they know firsthand that this cannot be recreated in today’s schools.

A few years after we started our reflection on problems in education, we discovered Direct Instruction, which embraced goals, methods, and philosophies similar to our own. We contacted proponents of Direct Instruction in the United States and Canada and read as much as we could on the subject. When I read The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them (1996), I was sure that it revealed education’s new path. Thanks to this book and the work of E.D. Hirsch, Jr., we were introduced to Core Knowledge. We also read the works of Clermont Gautier and worked with educators in Switzerland who are reforming their educational system in a similar manner. (See also TASIS article.)

Our Third Way is a route to the future that doesn’t refuse new technologies or sciences and allows young French people to begin their secondary studies in the best conditions. Our approach focuses on efficiency and pragmatism — words long forgotten in our educational system.

Our ambitions

We began our website [] in December of 2002 and were introduced to Core Knowledge and Direct Instruction in Spring 2006. In the summer of 2006, we started a Yahoo user group to build a community of interested individuals. Our contacts at Core Knowledge helped us publish a newsletter, and, since then, we’ve been communicating with teachers in the United States.

Our next steps include

  • studying research and applying our findings in class
  • defining a specific curriculum for each grade
  • organizing visits with Core Knowledge schools and teachers
  • attending a Core Knowledge Conference
  • translating and adapting textbooks
  • creating a new website Troisième voie
  • writing a book about our method
  • creating an official network, establishing legal existence

We would like to see a real “liberté pédagogique.”3 You are free only when you can choose. Proposing Direct Instruction in teacher’s training colleges would be a major step toward that kind of freedom. Far from imposing our will, we desire to spread knowledge of our methods and make them available to all.


1. Normal schools where, as in the U.S., students learned the “norms” of teaching. Now, in France, they are called IUFM—Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres.
2. Since 1989, classes in France have been grouped into “cycles.” One cycle is composed of three grades.
3. Freedom to choose any method with which to teach.





Common Knowledge - The Newsletter of the Core Knowledge Foundation - Vol. 20, n° 2, juillet 2007

The French Connection Visits the Conference

Core Knowledge


French educators and regular “Common Knowledge” contributors Francoise and Bernard Appy attended the 2007 National Conference in Washington, D.C. Francoise has written several articles about her views of the current state of French education, to which Core Knowledge has a special connection since the traditional French system was held up as a shining model in The Schools We Need (Hirsch, 1996). Here, Francoise details — with anecdotal help from her husband, Bernard — how her quest to fix French schools has led her (back) to Core Knowledge. As she mentions, Francoise has made new friends and professional contacts thanks to “Common Knowledge.” Please visit her at

It’s a long way to Core Knowledge — it’s a long way to you. I could say it another way: it’s a long distance to meet people we feel very close to. Close to you, members and teachers of Core Knowledge, because we share the same ideas about Education. And, as you know, ideas have no frontiers.

We came to meet our American counterparts and because of the current state of French schools. We realized that many people were surprised because traditional French schools were one source of inspiration for Core Knowledge.

Ideas have no frontiers — for better or for worse. American progressivism has reached the other side of the Atlantic, and it is still an official creed among our so-called researchers. Thankfully, our Minister of Education is more or less trying to do something: he’s officially allowed and recommended phonic reading in grade 1. We, the education resistance, are very pessimistic. Bad politics and bad faith people have spoiled the debate over education.

My husband Bernard, being a good teacher, likes to use comparisons. He has specially written for you two little stories to sum up the situation. The connection between wine and school might surprise you at first, but I think you’ll see his point when you finish the second story.

First story

French wines are known all over the world… At the end of the 19th century, a terrible blight of the grapevines ruined all the French vineyards. It was called phylloxera, and it was caused by a special insect known as the worst enemy of the grapevine. It can kill the plant within three years. The epicentre of the blight was situated in Gard department in 1863. Then, it spread to other vineyards all over the country.

In fact, this insect had come from the Eastern United States. It came to Europe due to the imprudence of some French nurserymen. At first, French winemakers felt helpless against the damages caused by the insect. Then, some of them had the idea of going to the United States to get some strong seedlings that would be naturally immunized against phylloxera. However, replacing all French grapevines by American ones would have meant the destruction of all our grape varieties. The solution was to use the American seedlings as stock (for graft). That’s what they did. Thereby, our vineyards were healed: we got the remedy from the very source of the disease!

Second story

French schools were famous all over the world... At the end of the 20th century, progressivism ruined our education system. The origin of this catastrophe is constructivism, a philosophy that believes that a child is able — independently — to build his own knowledge. These ideas came to France because of researchers who imported them from the United States. Since 1969, this new phylloxera has been damaging French schools. Pupils don’t learn much, teachers are disoriented. The disease touched primary school first, then spread to secondary school. Now, in the universities, you find students are almost illiterate. They can’t spell three words out of five.

Different solutions were attempted: get rid of grades, lower the level of assessments, avoid difficult tasks, lighten the curriculum, etc. But the progressive phylloxera was still spreading.

Then, teachers from “The Third Way” had the idea to go to the United States to get a remedy to this catastrophe. They found in Core Knowledge strong solutions and ideas immunized against constructivism, created by E. D. Hirsch.

Of course, we couldn’t replace our curriculum with Core Knowledge because of cultural differences between France and the United States. But we can use Core Knowledge philosophy as a stock (for graft) in order to rebuild the French school system... Once again, we must find the remedy in the place where the disease started.

Today phylloxera has disappeared, and all our vineyards have grafted plants. We just wish it could be the same with progressivism in our education system!

Our visit to your conference was very positive. We admire your organization and your results, your confidence, and your adherence to methods and programs that really work. We learned a lot about your education system, which works differently than ours but is touched by similar problems. And Washington, D.C., is such a wonderful place!

I am particularly thankful to E. D. Hirsch. Our “American adventure” started with him when Bernard bought me The Schools We Need. In this book I found familiar ideas, bright analysis, and a very honest and non-polemic way of speaking. All that I knew from my teaching experience was here clearly put together, plus all that I didn’t know about your educational system and its history.

After reading this, I understood clearly that progressivism is more than a way of teaching — it is a philosophy of life, and therefore incompatible forever with our philosophy of transmitting knowledge.

Unfortunately, Hirsch’s ideas are only known in France by some happy few. That’s why Bernard and I decided to use our website to spread them. I had several contacts with members of your Foundation and I felt very welcome. Thank you especially to Linda Bevilacqua, the president, and to Michael Ford, Diana Brewster, and Karen Baggiano, who have all been very helpful and patient. Thanks to your newsletter we developed a special contact with a teacher in New York City who now participates in our Third Way discussion list. And thanks, too, to everyone whom I don’t know personally.

What’s happened to French schools since 1969 is exactly what happened to your school system earlier. You probably know that many French consider the U.S. as a window for their future. I do hope it’s true when I see the success of Core Knowledge.

Une réalisation LSG Conseil.