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Health Care & Environment

10.26 Big Pharma Preps to Spend Hundreds of Millions to Keep Drug Prices High [less corrupt countries have price controls...]

10.26 'Get the Insurance Companies the Hell Out' of Healthcare System

10.26 Australia's coal seam gas emissions may be vastly underestimated – report

10.26 What is causing the rapid rise in methane emissions?

10.26 What is causing the rapid rise in methane emissions?

10.26 Dutch unveil giant outside vacuum cleaner to filter dirty air

10.25 Stand Up to Big Pharma Greed. Vote Yes on Proposition 61

10.25 Report Shows 'Bold New Vision' for Carbon-Free Transportation System Is Possible

10.25 Antibiotic waste is polluting India and China's rivers; big pharma must act

10.25 Renewables made up half of net electricity capacity added last year

10.25 Standing Rock: Police Arrest 120+ Water Protectors as Dakota Access Speeds Up Pipeline Construction [11:00 video]

10.25 Actor Shailene Woodley on Her Arrest, Strip Search and Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance [10:00 video]

10.24 Inside big pharma's fight to block recreational marijuana

10.24 We sent a vegetarian to see if meatless burgers can convert carnivores

10.23 Dear Donald Trump: I'm an OB-GYN. There are no 9-month abortions.

10.23 China’s Wind Co. Profits, share price soar by 60%: 2 Turbines an Hour being Installed

10.23 The world’s first tidal energy farm could power 175,000 homes [similar project is underway in the Bay of Fundy]

10.22 Law to cut sex-selective abortions in Armenia 'putting lives at risk'

10.22 US energy shakeup continues as solar capacity set to triple

10.22 A three-bed house with £500 energy bills? How you too can slash your costs

10.22 Highlighting Damage of Lack of Clinic Funding, CDC Says STDs at All-Time High

10.22 Three Massive Mergers—Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate

News Media Matters

10.26 'Fascination with sex': Megyn Kelly and Newt Gingrich in angry clash over Trump coverage [3:47 video]

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

10.26 More than just the guns: Poverty and inequality should be blamed for America’s gun violence

10.26 Rising Student Debt Places Living Wage Even Farther Out of Reach: Report

10.26 'Terrifying': AT&T Spying on Americans for Profit, New Documents Reveal

10.25 Free to Plunder: The Case Against Gary Johnson and Libertarianism

10.25 This Atlas of Racial Equity Just Keeps Getting Better [map graphics]

10.25 Elizabeth Warren: 'nasty women' will defeat Trump on election day [videos]

10.23 AIR TRUMP: A SHORT PLAY [parody]


Justice Matters

10.26 Enough is enough: we've reached a tipping point on sexual assault

10.26 Pussy Riot celebrate the vagina in lyrical riposte to Trump [4:30 video]

10.25 Chris Christie Is Over

10.25 Officer who shot Samuel DuBose faces murder trial as city braces for protests [4:51 video]

10.24 Police and hired assassins are killing land rights defenders. Let's end this violence

10.24 Tunisian coalition party fights for women's rights with gender violence bill

High Crimes?

10.25 Islamic State atrocities reported around Mosul, says UN

10.24 Philippines senator calls for Duterte to face crimes against humanity inquiry

Economics, Crony Capitalism

10.26 Donald Trump has close financial ties to Dakota Access pipeline company

10.25 Already an Oligarchy: Corporate Dominance Negates Democracy

10.24 How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul

10.24 Elizabeth Warren Warns Democrats Not To Cave On Corporate Tax Reform

10.23 Super-size my superyacht: the quest for bigger boats and gadgets



10.26 In Iceland, Women Leave Work at 2:38pm to Protest Gender Wage Gap

10.26 Human Rights Defenders Face 'Unthinkable Spiral of Violence' in Latin America

10.26 Why Hillary Clinton's plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke US-Russia conflict

10.26 Spain reviews plan to let Russian warships refuel en route to Syria

10.26 Threats of death and violence common for women in politics, report says

10.26 Can we secure the internet of things in time to prevent another cyber-attack?

10.25 Study says 850,000 UK public sector jobs could be automated by 2030

10.25 Quetta attack: Pakistan reels as more than 50 die in assault on police academy

10.24 The Turks want Mosul and Aleppo "back."

10.24 Diary

10.24 Young, female and determined: how millennial social entrepreneurs are changing the world

10.24 Q&A: what happens now to the Calais refugees?

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  It Takes Government to Create a Reading Crisis


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 ( 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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