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02.22 To solve its pension crisis, Maryland should change how its funds are invested [as California and other states have discovered...]

02.21 Baltimore public schools face $129 million budget deficit, plan mass layoffs [city needs more help from businesses and the public!]

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02.25 Revealed: thousands of children at London schools breathe toxic air [you can't see the most dangerous pollution, the particles are too small which makes them dangerous]

02.24 OMG measurements of Greenland give us a glimpse of future sea rise

02.24 Dutch minister calls on UK to join safe abortion fund after Trump ban

02.23 BREAKING: Exxon to Leave Up to 3.6 Billion Barrels of Tar Sands/Oil Sands in the Ground [Yay!]

02.23 Lancet Study on Life Expectancy by 2030 Confirms Poor US Performance

02.23 Climate scientists face harassment, threats and fears of 'McCarthyist attacks' [sociopathic behavior...]

02.23 The Case for a Fracking Ban

02.22 Federal judge blocks Texas attempt to defund Planned Parenthood

02.22 'Medicare for All' Only Way for Trump to Keep Healthcare Promises

02.22 'This building is its own power plant': your stories of renewables in the city

02.22 What next for renewables in cities? – the expert view

02.21 Norway Pledges Millions to Growing Anti-Trump Global Abortion Fund

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02.25 Donald Trump press ban: Guardian, BBC and CNN denied access to briefing

02.21 ‘With Such a People You Can Then Do What You Please’

02.21 'Last night in Sweden' was a figment of Trump's Fox News-inspired imagination

02.21 Freedom of the press isn't guaranteed. Especially when it's labeled the 'enemy'

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02.25 Wanted: Three Principled Republicans to Save America From Trump

02.25 REPUBLICANS ACCUSE VOTERS OF USING TOWN HALLS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES

02.25 Resistance Recess Puts Congress on Notice for Supporting Trump’s Agenda

02.25 Steve Bannon: Trump is 'maniacally focused' on executing promises [videos; will increasingly unregulated and immoral capitalism save us?]

02.25 Donald Trump vows to 'get the bad people out' of US – as it happened

02.24 Police remove last Standing Rock protesters in military-style takeover [our government supports polluter rights over the public rights]

02.24 'I was naive': after losing healthcare battle, factory workers fear next blow [4:38 video; sociopathic CEOs don't care about workers]

02.24 Islamophobia grows louder in North Carolina: 'Can we not kill them all?' [sociopathic groups uniting in hate]

02.23 Why Kansas' Fiscal Implosion Is Bad News for Trump ["Stupid is as stupid does." – Forrest Gump]

02.23 “Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important”: Sen. Tom Cotton faces angry constituents at town hall meeting

02.23 Manafort faced blackmail attempt, hacks suggest

Justice Matters

02.25 White House confirms conversation with FBI about Trump and Russia

02.24 New Law Would Let Arizona Treat Organized Dissent as Organized Crime [to suppress non-fascists only, perhaps?]

02.24 French human rights 'at tipping point' as state of emergency continues, says Amnesty International

02.24 Trump admin rescinds plan to reduce private prison use

02.24 Uber accused of 'calculated theft' of Google's self-driving car technology

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02.25 Just as neoliberalism is finally on its knees, so too is the left

02.24 Michael Hudson: Why Failing to Solve Personal Debt and Polarization Will Usher in a New Dark Age

02.22 Donald Trump's Mystery $50 Million (or More) Loan [will our nation's bookkeeping become more like Trump's?]

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02.25 CHINA’S NORTH KOREA PROBLEM

02.25 TRUMP, PUTIN, AND THE NEW COLD WAR

02.25 Marine Le Pen refuses to be questioned by French police

02.24 A Global Counter-Trump Movement Is Taking Shape

02.24 UN: $4.4bn needed to prevent 'catastrophe' of famine

02.24 Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent, say Malaysian police

02.22 WHY FACTS DON’T CHANGE OUR MINDS

02.22 Like Shoplifting: Israel gives Azarya 18 mos. for Killing subdued Palestinian Assailant

02.22 Palestinians must hang on to the green line, whether the aim is two states or one [We mustn't let fear trump morality]

02.22 EUROPE’S CHILD-REFUGEE CRISIS [We mustn't let fear trump morality]

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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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