This week in the Huffington Post, I write about an interview I heard recently with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor that made me reflect once again about the haphazard program of study many American kids have to endure.

It made me remember a scene in Hope in the Unseen, a 1999 book that followed a very bright young man’s progress from a poor, isolated childhood in Washington, D.C., to Brown University. Like Sotomayor, Cedric Jennings did not experience the kind of coherent, comprehensive education that would have permitted him to understand important conversations. And so the first time he walked into the Brown University bookstore and saw stacks of big, thick books with the name Churchill in bold letters, he was left to wonder whether he should recognize the name.

In Jennings’ high school, as is typical of many schools that serve large numbers of low-income children, he had spent much more time writing personal essays about his experiences and his hopes than learning about World War II and the key figures who helped save the world from a totalitarian nightmare.

Kids like learning stuff that makes them smart, and it is a puzzle to me that we don’t do more to organize schools around helping them do just that — instead of leaving them to wonder what everybody else is talking about.