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12.17 World Bank will stop financing oil and gas exploration and production

12.17 Brazilian police foil million-dollar fraud to export precious wood to China [clear-cutting forests harshly impacts all life above and below ground-level for decades; it decreases oxygen production and seguestration of CO2 and increases area, frequency and duration of drought]

12.16 How investing in solar energy can create a brighter future for Africa

12.14 Global warming made Hurricane Harvey deadly rains three times more likely, research reveals

12.14 The long read: A different dimension of loss’: inside the great insect die-off

12.14 After years of toxic oil spills, indigenous Peruvians use tech to fight back

12.13 The US is penny wise and pound foolish on the climate

12.13 Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever, US climate study finds

12.13 Drugs Don't Kill People, Neoliberalism Kills People

12.13 English rivers polluted by powerful insecticides, first tests reveal [Are similar tests of U.S. waters conducted by the EPA anymore? We think not...]

12.12 Ophelia Dahl’s National Health Service

12.12 Overfishing and climate change push seabirds to extinction

12.12 Macron awards US scientists grants to move to France in defiance of Trump

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12.17 A Report to Our Readers

12.15 Net Neutrality Fight 'Not Over': Groups Launch Internet-Wide Campaign Pushing Congress to Overrule FCC Vote

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12.17 'Making America Stupid Again': Outrage Over Forbidden 7 Words You Can't Say at Trump's CDC [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

12.16 Poverty in US set to increase due to Donald Trump's policies, says UN official [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]

12.16 The crisis ahead: The U.S. is no country for older men and women

12.16 Republicans Despise the Working Class [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]

12.16 Rep. Adam Schiff Warns Republicans Are Moving to Shut Down House Russia Probe, Target Mueller

12.15 The Growing Partisan Divide Over Feminism

12.15 A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America

12.15 Health program for 9 million kids falls victim to partisan squabbling

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12.17 Venue of last resort: the climate lawsuits threatening the future of big oil [something else Republicans are packing the courts for...]

12.15 Who Pays for Judicial Races? The Politics of Judicial Elections 2015-16 [desperately packing the courts at all levels to protect white power & unregulated capitalism]

12.13 US Concern Over 'Pervasive' High-Level Corruption Surging Under Trump: Poll [anyone surprised?]

High Crimes?

12.17 Trump’s Misuse of Intelligence on Iran [immoral behavior that could lead to War]

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12.17 How a Philadelphia nun became the unlikely face of conscientious capitalism [Why don't we teach morality in Law & Business schools?]

12.16 The Republican Tax Bill Provides Huge Benefits to People Who Don’t Work. But Only if They’re Rich. [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]

12.16 The United States Is Now as Unequal as Russia. And That’s Before the Tax Bill. [oligarchy-controlled countries are wonderful for the very rich]

12.16 EU to force firms to reveal true owners in wake of Panama Papers [what are the chances oligarchy-controlled countries (esp. America and Russia) ever agree to fight tax evasion and money landering? International agencies must all mandate common regulations as a condition for UN membership, trade agreements, world bank loans, etc.]

12.15 FCC Chair Ajit Pai 'Shows Just How Dumb He Thinks Americans Are' With Video Mocking Net Neutrality [he won't discuss how giving more monopoly power to cable ISPs will increase consumer costs and stifle innovation]

12.14 World's richest 0.1% have boosted their wealth by as much as poorest half

12.14 Inequality is not inevitable – but the US 'experiment' is a recipe for divergence

12.13 How big oil is tightening its grip on Donald Trump's White House

12.13 The “Death Tax” Cargo Cult [we lack for morals and sanity in U.S. media & politics]

12.12 Who Broke the Economy? [might the recent template legislation from Koch bros.’ ALEC be implicated?]

International & Futurism

12.17 Africa’s new elite force: women gunning for poachers and fighting for a better life [a good model that converts victims of abuse and cruelty into positive activists with good jobs...]

12.14 Mexico: murders of women rise sharply as drug war intensifies

12.14 Estonia, the Digital Republic

12.14 Israeli undercover soldiers seen arresting Palestinian protesters [Palestinians need more and better weapons for a fair fight]

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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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