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08.15 RIDE FOR THE OVERRIDE

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education

09.28 Life is richer when we talk to strangers

Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

09.28 Earth 'Locked Into' Hitting Temperatures Not Seen in 2 Million Years: Study

09.28 South Australia storms: entire state left without power after wild weather – live

09.28 New York City accelerates emissions efforts in face of daunting sea level rise

09.28 Lots to lose: how cities around the world are eliminating car parks

09.28 No fracking, drilling or digging: it’s the only way to save life on Earth

09.28 Greenland's receding icecap to expose top-secret US nuclear project

09.27 Germany Has the World's First Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Train [could aviation use hydrogen too?]

09.27 China tops WHO list for deadly outdoor air pollution

09.27 Can the aviation industry finally clean up its emissions?

09.27 US emissions set to miss 2025 target in Paris climate change deal, research finds

09.26 Africa's portable solar revolution is thwarting thieves

09.26 Time for Congress to Stop Hollering at CEOs and Take Action [The U.S. is the only 'advanced country' without healthcare price controls]

09.26 The Impact of Minimum Wage Changes on Infant Health

09.26 New Record Low Solar Price in Abu Dhabi – Costs Plunging Faster Than Expected [maybe Middle East wars will stop now]

09.25 Want to Slow Climate Change? Stop Having Babies

News Media Matters

09.28 Lester Holt Asks Zero Questions About Poverty, Abortion, Climate Change

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

09.27 The Trump Files: Donald's Creepy Poolside Parties in Florida [bunga bunga' parties like Berlusconi]

09.27 This week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress

09.27 Murders up 10.8% in biggest percentage increase since 1971, FBI data shows

09.27 Clinton stays calm while Trump loses cool during first presidential debate [videos]

09.26 The Lying Game

09.26 Why Donald Trump Should Not Be President

09.26 The government wants more offshore fish farms, but no one is biting

Justice Matters

09.28 Wells Fargo executives forfeit millions, CEO to forgo salary amid investigation

High Crimes?

09.28 Amnesty calls off launch of Thai torture report after police warning [something sick is brewing here]

09.26 African elephant numbers plummet during 'worst decline in 25 years’

09.26 Russia accused of war crimes in Syria at UN security council session [videos]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

09.23 Wells Fargo's toxic culture reveals big banks' eight deadly sins

International

09.28 Killing People, Breaking Things, and America's Winless Wars [war profiteers rake in huge profits, but countries never “win” wars]

09.28 Syrian troops launch ground offensive against Aleppo rebels [video of devastation; will there be profit from fossil fuel we cannot use?]

09.27 Saudi Arabia cuts ministers' pay by 20%

09.27 Thousands of Saudis sign petition to end male guardianship of women

09.25 Syria conflict: UN chief 'appalled' by Aleppo escalation

09.25 The Natural Gas War Burning Under Syria

09.25 Panic sweeps Calais camp as refugees await the bulldozers [an “empathy wall” blocks acceptance of children]

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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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