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03.26 Natural gas leaks from power plants, refineries, 100 times greater than thought

03.25 THE PLANT NEXT DOOR

03.25 Colorado Youth Score Decisive Legal Victory Against Fracking Industry

03.25 Keystone XL: Trump issues permit to begin construction of pipeline ["Stupid is as stupid does." –Forrest Gump]

03.25 Rotavirus vaccine could save lives of almost 500,000 children a year

03.24 How Corruption Fuels Climate Change

03.24 ‘Moore’s law’ for carbon would defeat global warming

03.24 A river of rubbish: the ugly secret threatening China's most beautiful city

03.24 Europe poised for total ban on bee-harming pesticides

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03.27 PBS is the only network reporting on climate change. Trump wants to cut it

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03.28 The Feuding Kleptocrats

03.28 Trump signs four bills to roll back Obama-era regulations

03.28 A white supremacist slew a man in Manhattan. Why is the president silent?

03.28 Is the US facing an epidemic of 'deaths of despair'? These researchers say yes

03.28 The Trump Administration’s War on Science

03.27 How the Disappearing Middle Class Threatens Our Democracy [Citizen's United ruling is ruining America]

03.27 How the Disappearing Middle Class Threatens Our Democracy

03.27 'Whoa, Whoa, Whoa': Sanders Says Democrats' Intransigence Is Solution, Not Problem [videos]

03.27 The DLC Lives: "Third Way" Democrats Are Trying to Push the Party Rightward

03.27 Donald Trump's dizzying Time magazine interview was 'Trumpspeak' on display

03.27 Protesters target Connecticut's uber wealthy with 'tax bills' in bid to end loophole

03.27 'People aren't spending': stores close doors in 'oversaturated' US retail market

03.26 'Follow the Facts': Top Dem Demands Independent Trump-Russia Commission

03.26 Nearly 15% of female undergraduates at UT Austin report being raped [does sociopathic behavior come from right-wing media?]

03.26 Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing revealed his hidden similarity to Trump

03.26 The showdown that exposed the rift between Republican ideology and reality

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03.24 TRUMP’S RUSSIA PROBLEM IS FAR FROM MARGINAL

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03.26 Iraq suspends Mosul offensive after coalition airstrike atrocity

03.25 The US Is Bombing Syria So Much That Watchdogs Can't Keep Up

03.25 Mosul's children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

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03.25 Wall Street First

03.23 Bank that lent $300m to Trump linked to Russian money laundering scam

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03.28 Negotiations to ban nuclear weapons begin, but Australia joins US boycott

03.27 Two Years of Uncertainty: Europe Prepares for Tough Brexit Negotiations

03.27 Left Behind: Germany's Race to Catch Up in the Startup World

03.27 A Wounded Metropolis: London in the Age of Terror and Brexit

03.26 Foreign companies flock to build nuclear plants in the UK [what could go wrong?]

03.26 Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 policemen as violence grows

03.26 Africans are rising - we can hold our leaders to account and build a better kind of future

03.26 Rise of Hindu ‘extremist’ spooks Muslim minority in India’s heartland

03.26 Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron face off for the soul of France

03.26 'A runaway crisis': Argentina activists aid shanty towns state has left behind

03.26 In war-scarred Gaza, water pollution behind health woes

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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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