A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why an educated citizenry is so essential: Petitions to secede are filed for 23 states since election - Washington Times

Petitions to secede are filed for 23 states since election - Washington Times

The divisions between blue states and red states parallel the divisions in our classrooms between haves and have-nots. In the United States of America, education is compulsory. Reading is a national priority. Yet, despite vast sums of money, too often Johnny cannot read, and worse, Johnny does not want to read. But that is only part of the story.

Gunning cited Stanovich in identifying a root cause of reading difficulties, "the Matthew Effect," i.e., "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," an allusion to Matthew 25:29. Gunning concluded that children who read well and have bigger vocabularies will read more, learn more, and read better. (Gunning, p. 543, 2010). In order to "read to learn," the major shift in reading instruction that occurs around 4th grade, students are expected to have already "learned to read." The national "achievement gap" is, in many ways, a by-product of students being herded into making the shift from learning how to read to reading to learn before they are ready. Like me, my son Joe learned how to read at age 3. Unlike me, Joe "hates to read,"

Last Sunday, my son Joseph, who is taking a 9th grade honors Biology class came to me after dinner and asked, "What is APA format?" At around 2 am, I finished helping him cite three journal articles and two web publications regarding his research question for his project for his school's science fair to be held this February. The research question he chose is similar to the one raised in the film Super Size Me. Joe was required to summarize journal articles and web publications to evaluate their relevance to his research question, which involves the relationship between the availability of sweetened drinks in school lunches and vending machines to childhood obesity. We have always pushed Joe when it comes to education, not to the extreme of the Tiger Mom I described in an earlier post, but enough to the point that he "hates to read." Joe never reads for pleasure, although I noticed him reading his Halo 4 instruction manual the other day, because he "needed" the information. Without parental intervention, Joe could easily spend 15 hours per day gaming. Without Joe's mom checking his school website for homework assignments, without her making him clean his binder every night, Joe would be totally lost, instead of earning straight A's.

Having worked with self-contained 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students in an English class during my internship last Spring, many of whom were reading at 4th, 5th, and 6th grade reading levels, and seen how lost they were as a group when it came to turning in their research papers and doing their citations, it became evident that the Nation has made little progress since Nation at Risk. The scary thing is many of these same students who I was teaching a unit on The Great Gatsby will be eligible to vote in a few years, eligible to vote on Constitutional Amendments, such as the one on Virginia's ballot regarding the restrictions on the governments ability to invoke "eminent domain." One of the students, Johnny, an 11th grader who had been assessed at a 4th grade reading level, with coaching, was able to read Tim O'Brien's novel about Viet Nam, and enjoyed working with me, having come to the realization that he was required to register for the draft.

The other day, I stupidly accepted a two day job with a Kindergarten class for 3 hours each day in the middle of the day, which made it impossible to work elsewhere that day. Another thing that made the job terrible was the way that the teacher was in the building, often in the room, and never bothered to ask my name, and all I did was observe. It was weird.

I accepted the job because it was an arts and science magnet school. The population was mostly children of hispanic descent of low socio-economic status, side-by with students of high socio-economic status. In those 6 hours over two days, these students were engaged by a master story teller, who comes once per year for her grandson, and by a dance teacher who taught the concept of vertical lines through dance. My notes are very extensive. Judging by what I saw in the student's writing journals on the second day, the story-telling "stuck." Having observed 5 and 6 year old children held to a high standard by the dance teacher as they acted out "vertical lines" with their bodies in various ways over a 45 minute period, I am quite certain that, despite a language barrier, every one of those children, who were engaged in a multi-sensory learning experience, came away with a "connected" understanding of the world vertical.

Lacking answers, despite universal access to education, after a divisive election, over 72,000 citizens in Texas have made the radical request for permission to secede from the United States. The constitutional question being raised, without being raised by name, is the "social contract," and the very basis for government. The purpose of government, the basis for a government, and the purpose of education are not the kind of questions routinely being raised in schools, because these are open ended questions, whereas all questions in standardized tests are of closed construction. Reality is not of closed construction. A high percentage of students nationwide are exiting schools unprepared to handle open-ended questions. Ironically, the fate of our nation rests on the ability of an educated citizenry to make informed choices every 4 years, and continue a tradition of peaceful transitions of power.


Gunning, T. (2010). Assessing and Correcting Reading and Writing Difficulties, 14th Ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon