Here is an in-depth report on the problem of functional illiteracy:
Published July 04, 2009 09:00 pm –
Literacy: 1 in 7 adults has problems
By Dave Stafford, Herald Bulletin Staff Writer
ANDERSON — Nearly 14 percent of Madison County residents lack basic literacy skills. It’s a disadvantage that dramatically raises their likelihood of incarceration and lowers their chances of earning a living.
It’s also a problem that affects people of all ages and in all stations in life.
“There’s just no rhyme or reason as to why people don’t learn to read,” said Ginger Mills, executive director of the Madison County Literacy Coalition. “So many of our learners have high school diplomas. … We have a lot of learners who have retired from General Motors.”
On the other end of the age spectrum, new emphasis is being placed on babies, pre-kindergartners and the building blocks of learning.
This is how a tough, insightful, professional journalist usually works: Present the hook (a social problem); quote an expert who gives an authoritative opinion, but don’t cross-examine them; then change the subject to how the government will make everything better by starting a new program that ignores the problem.
In this case, the problem is adult illiteracy. That is, the entire population is required by state law to attend school, or obtain an equivalent education (not really the same thing), through age 16. Most of them graduate from public high school. A majority of the population has the capacity to read at an eighth grade level, but some don’t read at the eighth grade level, even though they attended public school for at least ten years and may even have graduated.
What are we to make of this? “There’s no rhyme or reason” why the system could possibly fail. It’s a mystery, and it’s best not to look too closely, or you might see something you don’t like. So, instead let’s talk about how to make sure that toddlers are better prepared before they get to public school; maybe that way they will accidentally learn something later on in the “black box” of public school. It’s a black box because we can’t actually know what happens inside it, so we must control what happens outside of it, in the home. The parents are the cause of the public schools’ failure to teach children how to read, but nobody is blaming them; the government is going to help them prepare their children for the black box, since they are understandably incompetent and irresponsible.
The reporter goes on to point out how parents can help their children learn to read while they are in public school. Sometimes journalists even quote schoolteachers saying how necessary it is for parents to help, because without the parents’ help they can’t educate children at all. So, apparently parents’ help is necessary for the licensed teachers to perform the function of education, which only the licensed teachers are authorized to do, since it is so hard that parents cannot possibly do it. Right, I got it now.
What is the single greatest thing that public school teachers can do to help children learn how to read? Should they take more graduate classes in the discourse of early learners in proactive settings enabled by interactive technologies that affirm positive multicultural role models? Er . . . no. Here is the surprising new idea:
A key to Robinson’s success was individual attention and monitoring student progress. “It’s indescribable, really,” Cassaundra Day said of the importance of individual tutoring. Day was a reading buddy at Robinson and is also director of literacy services at the Madison County Literacy Coalition. “It makes an incredible difference.”
Day said that even schools’ reading recovery programs can sometimes fall short because students might receive individual attention for only a limited amount of time during the school day.
Although this strategy seems to work in some public schools, it is not recommended for an unlicensed, unqualified parent to try this at home. It might be dangerous for the child’s self-concept as a worker drone dependent on the beneficent government bureaucracy to compensate for the ideological shortcomings of his parents.
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