A comment made by Janet to my Quick Tourist's Conversion between Fahrenheit and Celsius post inspired these thoughts, and it seemed better to give them their own post rather than to comment on that one.:

The Orlando Sentinel of January 31 contained an article by a pediatrician, highlighting the efforts of those in his field to combat illiteracy. It included the following sentence:

One in four children grow up without learning how to read.

I have grave doubts about that statistic.  If true, there should be rioting in the streets on behalf of the 25 percent, who, under our compulsory education system, have wasted at least ten of the most important years of their lives in school.  True, there are a few (very few) children who have handicaps that keep them from learning to read, but there is absolutely no excuse for confining children for most of their young lives if they can't read when they come out.  As certain as I am that the institution of school has serious problems, I simply don't believe that it can be doing that badly.

On the other hand, true literacy is more than the mere ability to read words on a page.  Understanding, and the ability to reason, are necessary for making sense of writing.  That we fail one in four school children that way is still unbelievable, but reading comments written to news websites and blogs (especially those where the subject is political, or controversial in any way) has made it a more credible failing.

I can't get out of my mind the question someone, alas long forgotten, once asked:  Is there any material difference between someone who can't read and someone who doesn't?  It's not surprising that the mantra among teachers and parents has long been, "I don't care what they read as long as they're reading."  But comprehension and logic are skills that must be honed with practice.  To that end, what we read is critical:  Garbage in, garbage out.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:30 am | Edit
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Oh, if we factor in people with zilch comprehension, I'm afraid that statistic isn't too far off. The majority of what is now taught in schools is not about learning, not about how to think. Most educators (and I speak from personal experience) are indoctrinated in their own education to teach children what to think. And nobody needs to read to think like they're told. Sad, and scary...

Posted by Brenda on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 7:21 am

I heard a really scary story recently. not only students, but teachers are being taught in school to have "no original ideas" but merely to copy what they've been told to do based on the thoughts of some "blessed" person with a Ph.D.

And yet people still come from all over the world to study at our colleges....

Posted by SursumCorda on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

I was teacher certified at my college, which is touted as a big deal among schools that uphold education. Future teachers were easily identifiable in any class, because they exemplified the qualties they wanted their students to have. They never talked in class. They never asked questions. They never contributed to class discussion. It was heartbreaking. I even had friends who complained about having to take "math for dummies", because they had chosen a career in education so they wouldn't have to think or learn.

What on earth!!!!

And I had a professor who considered me his worst student because I kept asking, "But, I don't want you to tell me how to think. I can do that. How do we present the information so the child will learn and use it?" Kids aren't in school to learn, silly girl. We're here to help them grow, not sprout wings.

Posted by Brenda on Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

That is terrifying. If there was any doubt that I wanted to homeschool . . .

Posted by Janet on Friday, March 01, 2013 at 3:41 am

A great deal of foreign students come from cultures where independent thought isn't the be-all end-all, where, in fact, the culture is more comfortable with a student-master format of education. So I don't fault them for still coming: they probably have the work ethic to succeed in a master-student situation and eventually reach and surpass the master's level. But can I fault the local lazybones who are quite happy being told what to do as long as the grades society says are a measure of their education meet their expectations?

Posted by Stephan on Friday, March 01, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I don't mind a student-master education. But I do mind signing up to take a class on lesson plans and being fed philosophy that encourages me to expect very little of a student. I think it's when the local lazybones becomes the standard, so the rest of the lazy folk have to set a new low that we have to move out of worry and into another country... :)

Posted by Brenda on Friday, March 01, 2013 at 3:10 pm

That bothers me. But, there is a difference in reading fluidly, well, and reading so slowly that you don't comprehend what you're reading. This was in a mainstreamed school in a normal class, and I was one of, 3 tops, who could read decently. Ok, I was a little slower than I'd have liked, but I was reading braille from a page. If I ever have children, they are being homeschooled. Or, if they must attend public education, they are getting a hefty dose of reality lessons as well, as age-appropriate and in the form of, this is what they told you. here's how it's gonna work in the real world. that way, they're not shocked when they get fired for, say, texting in class or backtalking their boss.

Posted by Sara on Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 5:32 pm
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