The Disrupting Class coauthors wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to David Brooks’s recent op-ed in the New York Times. Since the Times published this set of letters recently in response to the column, we thought we’d put our letter up here. It’s below.

Dear Editor,

In his July 29, 2008 column, “The Biggest Issue,” David Brooks points to a dire problem threatening the United States’ future: lack of educational progress.

The regression that he writes about afflicts many countries as they reach prosperity. As we recount in Disrupting Class, when countries reach prosperity, the extrinsic motivation for students and educators to tackle the hard subjects like science and engineering dissipates. The New York Times reported on this exact trend in its May 17, 2008 article, “High-Tech Japanese, Running Out of Engineers.”

To bring students back into the fold and into subjects like engineering, we must allow students to learn these subjects in ways that are intrinsically motivating. One way to do this is to customize the learning to the way each student learns best—something that computer-based or online learning has great potential to do.

Brooks is right that early childhood learning is vital. The problem, however, with many early childhood programs is that unless they employ an individual surrogate parent who has the instinct and aptitude to engage in hundreds of hours of face-to-face so-called “language dancing” for each child, the programs will not work and the result will be more wasted dollars.


Clayton M. Christensen
Michael B. Horn
Curtis W. Johnson

We did also have a letter published in the Washington Post today. You can read it here.


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.