Keep Their Toes to the Fire

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It is time to stoke the fire under that smelly, bubbling cauldron known as the public school system, and hold the toes of progressive educrats ever closer to the flames. In order to accomplish this we must ‘gather fuel for the fire’ — meaning that we must understand exactly why the schools are failing; know which instructional methods dependably bring about success; and prepare ourselves to criticize but suggest viable alternatives.

We must learn the facts and the flaws behind: reading mis-instruction, whole language, new-new-whole-math, rewritten history, dumbed-down curriculum, progressive educational philosophies, and the other illogical foolishness with which teachers are brainwashed during their expensive ‘methods’ classes at college; at inservices and workshops conducted by the schools.

Once we have gathered this fuel, we must relentlessly speak the truth to all who will listen, and we must do it calmly, boldly, without compromise. Those of us who have already rescued our children from the grasp of public education need to stay actively involved. The children left behind in those schools need our advocacy, as well.

America cannot begin her recovery until the present school system implodes, clearing the way for neighborhood schools to reappear and accept the challenge. America needs those 200,000+ individual school districts of yesteryear with small neighborhood schools run and supported by the people of small geographic areas. America will begin to heal, and will again educate its children, once it re-establishes the natural rights of parents and neighbors to run their own schools without involvement — neither financial nor legal — from any government entity beyond the boundaries of autonomous neighborhoods, townships, villages.

My own personal mission to end the travesty of public miseducation began in 1992 after reading the article, “That’s Right — They’re Wrong” written by Regna Lee Wood. Mrs. Wood is the Director of Statistical Research for the National Right to Read Foundation, and her work has appeared in National Review, Destiny, and The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs ‘Perspective’. I recommend that parents and other advocates begin their own educations, as I did, by reading the work of Regna Lee Wood.

Speaking with the directness and strength that we all must bring into play as we attempt to educate others regarding the actual errors and agendas behind the fraud of public schooling, Regna boldly states, “Nothing can be done with our schools until the basic problem is solved — and no one even sees what it is.” We must join Regna in seeing the problem and planning for a solution. With “That’s Right — They’re Wrong,” Regna Lee Wood provides strong fuel for the fires of change as she addresses:

Literacy rates —

“Official” literacy rates, published after the Census every ten years, have been as fictional as Little Red Riding Hood ever since 1940. Through 1930, Census takers counted readers — by giving reading tests if necessary. But starting in 1940 the Census no longer counted readers. Instead, it counted as literate, adults with a certain number of years of school attendance.

Correctly interpreted, the official 1980 and 1990 literacy rates of 95 percent and 95.5 percent indicate that 95 to 96 out of 100 U.S. residents have attended American schools for at least five years. This may be valuable information, but it has little to do with literacy. Schooling for any length of time no longer equals literacy.

Reading Grade Levels —

Reading grade levels (RGLs) have been similarly disguised. Since World War II they haven’t equaled skills that students must have to read lessons in particular grades. Instead, reading grade levels have equaled skills that students in each grade do have — as demonstrated by average scores on standardized reading tests. And the difference in reading skills that students must have and those they do have is like the difference between Mark Twain’s “lightning” and “lightning bug.” It’s a big one.

Regna does not mince words. She supports her assessment of America’s public education problems by using reliable statistics, and she pinpoints exactly when the problems began:

So, someone should have noticed that there was trouble in more than River City long before the 1983 National Commission on Excellence in Education report. For the average SAT verbal scores fell 24 points — from 500 to 476 — in the 11 years from 1941 to 1952, and AFQT scores indicated that illiteracy (defined by the War Department as inability to read 4th-grade lessons, or today’s 5th-grade lessons) among millions of prospective recruits with at least four years of schooling soared from almost zero (0.004 per cent) during World War II to an unbelievable 17 percent during the Korean War.

But apparently no one did notice. No one wondered why virtually all World War II recruits with any schooling could read, whereas 17 out of 100 Korean War recruits could not read. If anyone had investigated, the difference would have been obvious. Nearly all the 12 million young men who served in World War II had learned to read in phonics classes. Between a third and a half of those registered for service in the Korean War had received only “whole-word sight repetition” reading instruction.

The massive failure of our schools did not start in 1963 or 1952 or 1941. It started just when Rudolph Flesch said it started in his 1955 best seller, Why Johnny Can’t Read. It began in 1929 and 1930 when hundreds of primary teachers, guided by college reading professors, stopped teaching beginners to read by matching sounds with letters that spell sounds, and started teaching them to recognize the 1,500 most commonly used words simply by seeing them printed over and over in the new “see and say” readers…

It is also the reason 10 million of the nation’s 40 million public-school students in all grades — 25 per cent — are struggling with grade-school lessons in thousands of very small, very expensive special and remedial education classes. Struggling, even though 9 of the 10 million in these classes for the deprived or disabled have normal sight, hearing, and intelligence.

Regna Lee Wood began teaching soon after World War II, and in a 1994 Right to Read Report she added, “These grim statistics show that 80 percent of the Special Education students were born seventy years too late. For virtually all…with normal intelligence and no limiting physical disabilities could and would have learned to read in regular first — and second — grade phonics classes in the Twenties and early Thirties. Proof is in the scores on 17 million academic military tests taken by World War II registrants who could read at today’s fifth-grade level.”

In the 11 years since Regna wrote, “That’s Right — They’re Wrong,” the number of illiterate American adults and schoolchildren has continued to rise, and the information presented in this article is but a small part of the research that Mrs. Wood has conducted; the facts she has gathered. I encourage you to use the links below to read more, learn more, collect the fuel you will need to feed the fire and roast the toes.

The time has come to close all public schools and replace them with small neighborhood schools taught and supported by those wise enough to use the methods that have, since the invention of the written alphabet, successfully taught reading early, thereby establishing the foundation necessary for the development of thought; for learning and retention of information and knowledge; for fostering the ability to discern and make wise decisions.

Links to other articles by Regna Lee Wood:

For an excellent collection of policy papers and articles, written by Regna Lee Wood and other fine educational researchers, visit the Education Page of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.

Linda Schrock Taylor Archives

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