Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Read This to an Illiterate Voter

The issue of reading is reaching a crescendo that American academics relish. The inability of Americans to read is reaching an alarming proportion of the population. so this is always an opportunity for the experts, and specialists, and politicians to dust off their 78 rpm records and sing along to the same old tunes that we've been practicing in education since Sputnik.

Like modern day Nikita Khrushchevs, they bang their shoes on tables loudly proclaiming that schools aren't teaching kids to read, write, do math, or practice science!And they produce all the manufactured evidence any good apparatchik knows by heart;the kids, parents, schools are to blame and the corporate nomenklatura are not happy, no not at all.

And so - and everybody knows the answer - WE MUST GET TOUGH! No, not TOUGH - TOUGHER! In fact, some politicians who oppose torture can't even define what it is and until such time, we must use whatever means are necessary short of torture, whatever it means, to get these kids to READ, DO MATH, and SCIENTIFICATE!

And so the media troughs flow mightily with these pronouncements. And boy do voters eat this stuff up. Yum, big heaping spoonfuls of pain, zero tolerance, and bigotry toward youth are just about as politically pleasing as Willie Horton ads. We Americans just love hating and baiting and disrupting public schools.

But behind these recipes for delusion, a few local writers are speaking out. Perhaps the psychological bullet to the head the Bush administration has fired at intelligent journalism failed to silence these guys or maybe Connecticut was just left for dead.

Read Rick Green here.
Read Stan Simpson here.
Read Bob Herbert here.

You see, politicians Like Joe Lieberman, who get so much political mileage out of beating up on kids and teachers for not teaching math oversees a Homeland Security Department that is missing billions of unaccounted for dollars. So, yes, math is important.

And just a few weeks ago, a Connecticut Department of Education function featured a Hedge Fund business owner who dutifully lectured the Department about how incompetent schools are and what a disappointment job seekers were because of their math and reading skills. This lecture just two weeks before the Hedge Fund malfeasances imploded on Wall Street bringing Wall Street and his company to its knees. So yes, math is almost as important as integrity, trust, and a few other things.

And let us weep big wet tears for science education as well. The Department of Education is so concerned about science that the dissection of frogs is no longer taught in high schools because they caved in to religious fundamentalist sentiments in designing science competency tests. The avenue toward stimulating an interest in doctoring, nursing, biology, and a slew of other scientific endeavors was slammed shut.

But the Department is in love with the idea of complaining about science education. Mostly because the word science seems to be important.

For educators, science is important to know so you never accidentally use it. You see, any actual reading of how children actually learn, when they learn best, and so on has been known and reinforced in scientific literature for over a half century. yet to acknowledge that every child is different, learns differently, matures differently, requires patience and nurturing, and so on violates the Orwellian Laws Against Educational Reform act. Good apparatchiks believe in uniform standards and the endless raising of expectations of children that Tantalus would suffer anew from.

Reading, math and science - to cure the problem would only serve to kill the goose that lays political golden eggs. Even a fool can read the writing on that wall.
The answer is not polite conversation about how schools need to work harder.
- Rick Green

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