Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education

09.19 Texas proposes rewriting school text books to deny manmade climate change

09.17 Do People Remember News Better If They Read It in Print?

Letters
Open Letters:

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

09.19 Texas proposes rewriting school text books to deny manmade climate change

09.19 Jarvis Cocker: Do I Really Have to March?

09.18 China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet

09.17 Americans' Waistlines Are Growing Ever Larger

09.17 Preventing Cancer Through Good Food and Exercise

09.17 The 100 Percent Renewable-Powered City: Too Good to be True?

09.17 We can avoid climate change, and boost the world’s economy – if we act now

09.17 World 'can cut emissions at low cost'

09.16 Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says

09.16 Beating Back the Risk of Diabetes

09.16 There's a Place in the World That Is Fighting Poverty with Solar Power

09.16 Obama to announce Ebola force of 3,000 US military personnel

News Media

09.19 How the Media Gets It Wrong

09.18 At Elite Media, ‘Scientific’ Racists Fit in Fine

09.17 How the media shafted the people of Scotland

Daily FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

Justice Matters

09.12 Sixteen Female Senators Pressure NFL to Adopt Zero-Tolerance Domestic Violence Policy

09.12 Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness

09.12 Men involved in Malala Yousafzai shooting arrested in Pakistan

US Politics, Policy & Culture

09.19 Police Have a Much Bigger Domestic Abuse Problem Than the NFL

09.19 Chris Christie lies yet again. Tells press conference that Sirota was fired by Pando over inaccuracies

09.18 The Occupy Movement Takes on Student Debt

09.18 US school districts given free machine guns and grenade launchers

09.16 Elections 2014: Make Your Own Senate Forecast [interactive map]

09.16 Greening Up in Burlington, Rocking Out in Allentown

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

09.18 Bill Black: The New York Times’ Coverage of EU Austerity Remains Pathetic

09.18 The Deficit Disaster That Never Was [charts]

09.18 Hey, FCC: do your job and stand up for net neutrality, not Big Cable schemes

09.17 A Public Bank Option for Scotland

09.15 Letting the Rich Take All The Money

09.15 The TTIP deal hands British sovereignty to multinationals

International

09.19 How Malawi Women Are Turning Waste Into Wealth

09.19 5 Key Themes Emerging From the 'New Science of Cities'

09.19 The rapid pace of technology is hollowing out the middle class

09.19 Scotland votes no: the union has survived, but the questions for the left are profound

09.18 Tests for a Still Broken Iraq

09.18 World briefing on US-led coalition to defeat Isis in Iraq and Syria

09.18 Putin's aggression has left Europe in pre-war state, says top Russian writer

09.18 House approves Obama plan to arm Syrian rebels

09.17 The Great Unraveling

09.17 How to make Isis fall on its own sword

09.17 How to prevent rape: it starts with awkward conversations with our teens

09.17 Isis video threatens White House and US troops

09.16 Europe's Deadly Borders: An Inside Look at EU's Shameful Immigration Policy

09.16 Migrant boat was 'deliberately sunk' in Mediterranean sea, killing 500

09.16 Joseph Stiglitz: Independence has costs and benefits

09.16 US steps up Isis fight with air strike near Baghdad

09.16 Religion and the American armed forces: One army under God?

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  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.

 


Public Service Ads: