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04.28 Small levels of air pollution may lead to premature birth

04.28 Commission fails to regulate new GMOs after intense US lobbying

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04.28 China's anti-pollution tech is booming, but it can't make dirty air go away

04.28 Workers face 'epidemic of heat-related injuries' due to climate change

04.28 Emma Thompson films Great British Bake Off spoof to protest fracking

04.27 Greenhouse in the sky: inside Europe's biggest urban farm

04.26 Ruined Chernobyl nuclear plant will remain a threat for 3,000 years

04.26 China signs historic Paris climate agreement – what's next?

04.25 Where Bernie Sanders’ Health Care Crusade Might Go From Here

04.25 Where is the riskiest place to live?

04.24 After Paris COP21: Top 6 Green Energy good News Stories Today

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04.28 Op-Ed: The battle for truth over Saudi Arabia's ties to 9/11

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04.27 Want to change 'politics as usual'? Make a viable multi-party system

04.27 Trump attacks Clinton as victories set stage for brutal election [detailed results]

04.26 The Deep Grooves of 2016

04.26 Flint and America's Corroded Trust

04.26 One of the most popular arguments against raising the minimum wage is getting demolished

04.26 How Can the U.S. End Homelessness? [Make use of abandoned houses using eminent domain to provide the homeless with fixed addresses, greater safety and health]

04.26 Can the Front-Runners Sweep the East?

04.26 Newsflash: being a millennial in New York City sucks

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04.28 Former Tax Lobbyists Are Writing the Rules on Tax Dodging

04.26 Don't Let Private Equity Keep California in the Dark

04.25 Trump and Clinton share Delaware tax 'loophole' address with 285,000 firms

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04.28 Utrecht's cycling lessons for refugees: 'Riding a bike makes me feel more Dutch'

04.28 Why so many Iranians have come to hate the hijab

04.28 Airstrike on Aleppo hospital kills at least 27 people – monitor

04.27 China Is Building a Robot Army of Model Workers

04.27 Lords try again to overturn Tory refusal to help child refugees in Europe

04.27 Europe’s failure on refugees echoes the moral collapse of the 1930s [pressures for wider stupid war keep growing]

04.27 Europe’s failure on refugees echoes the moral collapse of the 1930s

04.27 Number of civilians killed or injured by explosives rises 50% in five years

04.27 Venezuela announces two-day week as it battles energy crisis [solar- and wind-power can be a quick solution...]

04.27 Chobani millionaires: employees could split 10% of yogurt company windfall

04.27 Girl, 12, runs half-marathon by mistake

04.26 John Oliver just made the Puerto Rico crisis make sense [21:21 video; who benefits from inaction? who is hurt?]

04.26 The driverless truck is coming, and it’s going to automate millions of jobs

04.26 Saudi Arabia approves ambitious plan to move economy beyond oil

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  It Takes Government to Create a Reading Crisis

COMMENTARY:

It Takes Government to Create a Reading Crisis

by Sheldon Richman
Despite what the state's teachers and experts might imply, learning to read is not that difficult. Children used to teach themselves with only light guidance from a parent. It takes a government to create a national reading crisis.
When Horace Mann and his colleagues launched the public-school movement some 175 years ago, they made extravagant promises. Turn the education of children over to enlightened altruistic experts working under government auspices, they said, and illiteracy, vice, and crime will become things of the past.

I'm not kidding.

Most people don't know about these promises, so they don't know how badly the government's schools have failed by their own standards. Apologists for state schooling often defend their abysmal record by saying that no one should expect the government's teachers and administrators to efficiently educate children who bring all of society's problems with them to the classroom. But that's what the founders of what used to be called the "common school" pledged.

The broken promises continue. The schools have a hard time teaching reading. Consider the U.S. Department of Education's latest literacy figures. The department's press release began thus: "American adults can read a newspaper or magazine about as well as they could a decade ago, but have made significant strides in performing literacy tasks that involve computation, according to the first national study of adult literacy since 1992." Of course, this raises the question of how well adults could read a newspaper or magazine a decade ago. Therein lies the tale.

The department defines literacy as "using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential." Now let's look at what percentage of high-school graduates, college graduates, and graduate-school students and degree-holders qualified as "proficient" in the three kinds of tasks used in the study. The three tasks are "prose," able to perform tasks using continuous texts; "document," able to perform tasks using noncontinuous texts in different formats; and "quantitative," able to do computations with numbers embedded in printed material. "Proficiency" is defined as having the "skills necessary to perform more complex and challenging literacy activities."

According to the study, in 1992, 5.3 percent of the high-school graduates tested were proficient in the three kinds of tasks. In the latest study (2003) this percentage dropped to 4.6.

For college graduates the percentages were 36 in 1992 and 29 in 2003.

For graduate students or holders of graduate degrees, the percentage went from 45 to 36.

When the three kinds of tasks are broken down, we find no improvement in the ten years. The best that can be said is that in a couple of categories, the results were unchanged.

Results were slightly different for changes in the "intermediate" literacy category, defined as having skills to perform "moderately challenging literacy activities." The percentage of high-school graduates in this category declined slightly from 44 to 42 in the ten years. For college graduates and graduate-level students, there were increases, from 48 to 53 for the former category and from 45 to 50 for the latter.

When you look at the percentages in the basic literacy and below-basic categories for high-school and college graduates and graduate-level students, the results are downright depressing. In many cases the ranks of these categories have grown; in others they improved a little or stayed the same.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement of government schooling. Despite what the state's teachers and experts might imply, learning to read is not that difficult. Children used to teach themselves with only light guidance from a parent. It takes a government to create a national reading crisis.

These results will undoubtedly be used to justify more government spending on education. President Bush is proposing more than a $100 million to promote education in foreign languages--in the name of fighting terrorism. (Oh, please!) It is time we stopped being fooled by the people who are responsible for the education mess. As if we needed more evidence, this latest study shows that it's time to separate school and state.


Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation (fff.org) in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine.


Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on January 12, 2006.

 


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