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09.03 Bill to divest state's public pensions from coal heads to Gov. Jerry Brown [Better too late than never!]

09.02 In Alaska: Too Many Fires, Not Enough Snow

09.01 Up to 90% of seabirds have plastic in their guts, study finds

09.01 A Lot of American Catholics Have Never Heard of Pope Francis' Most Important New Message [Why?]

08.31 Nature's last refuge: climate change threatens our most fragile ecosystem

08.31 Citi report: slowing global warming would save tens of trillions of dollars

08.31 Young Hands in Mexico Feed Growing U.S. Demand for Heroin

08.31 Why a Mediterranean diet is good for your brain

08.31 Why a Mediterranean diet is good for your brain

08.31 Eni discovers largest known gas field in Mediterranean [will encourage replacing coal power plants faster]

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09.03 Republicans vs. the Constitution: Would-be presidents endorse Kim Davis’ brazen illegality

09.03 Selling plasma to survive: how over a million American families live on $2 per day

09.02 Bernie Sanders Lays Down 2016’s New Electoral Math

09.02 Video shows Texas officers shooting man who appears to have his hands up

09.02 Georgia police shoot man and kill his dog after responding to wrong house

09.02 ‘Hillary 2016’ Has Never Made Sense for Democrats

09.01 Bernie Sanders’s Surge in Iowa from Attractiveness of His Ideas: Poll [3:42 video]

09.01 The West Point Professor Who Contemplated a Coup

09.01 Republicans are digging themselves a hole over immigration

09.01 Paranoid history of the GOP: How conspiracy theories poisoned the Republican Party

09.01 Walmart Decides to Drop Sale of AR-15 Assault Rifles [sanity happens!]

09.01 Sen. Warren's Criticism Of Joe Biden Complicates Vice President's 2016 Plans

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09.02 Special report: How US police turn drivers into moving targets

09.02 Ex-police chief who shot unarmed black man avoids jail with plea deal

09.01 Murder Rates Rising Sharply in Many U.S. Cities

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09.03 US Special Forces May Have Gone On a Murder Spree in Afghanistan—Did the Army Cover It Up?

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09.03 Quantitative Easing for People: The UK Labour Frontrunner’s Controversial Proposal

09.03 US Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry [A scary summary. We must find smart ways to minimize public costs/deficits and debt at minimum public expense. Single-payer healthcare and pensions are obviously part of the solution. And Wall Street must be made aware that they now stand on their own. Public banks are obviously required too to end paying debt interest to private banks.]

09.03 Fossil Fuel Executives Are Making Obscene Amounts of Money for Wrecking the Planet—and Their Own Companies

09.02 Robert Reich: Economic redistribution isn’t enough

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09.03 Neo-Nazi Arsonists: Officials Concerned by Growing Far-Right Networks

09.03 Hengameh Golestan’s best photograph: Iranian women rebel against the 1979 hijab law

09.03 Migration crisis: Hungary PM claims Europe is in grip of 'madness' [1:00 video]

09.02 10 Responses to Iran-Deal Skeptics

09.02 Gaza could soon become uninhabitable, UN report predicts

09.02 Migration crisis: bid for united EU response fraying over quota demands [0:52 video]

09.02 Rob Ford and Canadians dismiss Scott Walker's 'off-the-wall' border idea

09.01 Dark Germany, Bright Germany: Which Side Will Prevail Under Strain of Refugees? [Atheists more welcome]

09.01 Dark Germany, Bright Germany: Which Side Will Prevail Under Strain of Refugees?

09.01 A predictable warmonger: Dick Cheney name-checks Hitler & launches credibility-free attack on Iran deal

09.01 What the Arrest of Two Journalists Tells Us About Turkey—and Vice

09.01 Republicans are digging themselves a hole over immigration

09.01 How Christchurch used the earthquake to return the city to its cycling roots

09.01 Mr. Erdogan’s War Against the Kurds

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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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