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08.15 RIDE FOR THE OVERRIDE

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

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Books, Films, Arts & Education

08.26 Diane Ravitch to Readers: Don't Let Charter Industry Silence John Oliver

Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

08.26 Fatigue, Migraines Linked to Fracking as Case Builds for National Ban

08.26 In Effort to Kill Pipeline, Groups Call Directly on Obama to Oppose Permits

08.26 NHS plans closures and radical cuts to combat growing deficit in health budget

08.25 EpiPen Uproar Highlights Company’s Family Ties to Congress [punish price-gougers by canceling patent rights, allow generic production]

08.25 Global warming is melting the Greenland Ice Sheet, fast

08.25 High birth rates and poverty undermine a generation of African children – report

08.25 Nigeria cannot overcome its gathering humanitarian crisis alone

08.25 Delhi schools offer safe space for children to speak up about sexual abuse

08.25 Liberian nurses learn to spot danger signs in babies as healthcare gets shot in arm

08.25 Climate change is thawing deadly diseases. Maybe now we'll address it?

08.24 HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED AFTER PORTUGAL DECRIMINALIZED ALL DRUGS, FROM POT TO COCAINE

08.24 Air pollution threat hidden as research 'presumes people are at home': study

08.24 Politics is killing mothers in Texas

08.24 Zika damage to brain goes well beyond microcephaly, research shows

News Media Matters

08.26 The newspaper ad collapse: Bad news for readers

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

08.25 Could urban farming provide a much-needed oasis in the Tulsa food desert?

08.25 A sense that white identity is under attack’: making sense of the alt-right

08.24 Ties to Clinton Foundation are a knotty problem for Hillary’s campaign [more bad judgement]

08.24 BREAKING: ARMED WHITE SUPREMACISTS STORM NAACP OFFICE IN HOUSTON

Justice Matters

08.26 Mississippi Parents Demand an Answer: Are Charter Schools Constitutional?

08.26 Democracy Wins as 'Biggest Gerrymandering Case in Generation' Moves Forward

08.22 Mapping 'Pre-Crime' in Rio

High Crimes?

08.23 UK in denial over Saudi arms sales being used in Yemen, claims Oxfam [US too...]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

08.26 Stiglitz Blasts 'Outrageous' TPP as Obama Campaigns for Corporate-Friendly Deal

08.24 PHARMA CEO GAVE HERSELF AN $18 MILLION RAISE AFTER HIKING EPIPEN PRICES

08.22 As Resistance Mounts, TPP Becoming 2016 Election's Third Rail

08.21 The death of neoliberalism and the crisis in western politics

08.21 Trump and Clinton's free trade retreat: a pivotal moment for the world's economic future

International

08.26 The Guardian view on Turkey’s incursion into Syria: Ankara’s biggest concern is containing the Kurds

08.25 Italy in shock after Amatrice earthquake: 'This used to be my home'

08.25 US warns Europe over plan to demand billions in unpaid taxes from Apple

08.24 Acceptable Losses

08.24 Turkish troops enter Syria in major operation against Isis

08.23 Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia

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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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