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Well this should just scare the feces right out of the American Public. Though I am sure with so many things to knock our socks off, this may not make it into an adequately high, priority of concern.

High School Students with English as a First Language, who are not suffering a medical issue, should be reading much higher than at the 5th Grade level.
You can read the whole story here:

To give you a hint, when I was active duty, most military instruction manuals were written for people who had the reading comprehension and decoding skills of at least an 8th Grader.

Let that sink in a moment. Because I took a lot of abuse for that fact alone. The running joke suggested that the 8th grade level was the maximum reading level an enlisted person could reach. And 8th Grade reading comprehension is nothing to crow about.

All the signs have been here for a while.

Remember years ago when Harry Potter books hit the shelves. Many conservative parents hated those books. But the teachers were very clear that they had problems getting children to read, to find joy in reading. And the Potter Books intrigued many young-non-readers, into reading.

“The Harry Potter craze was a very positive thing for kids,” said Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who has reviewed statistics from federal and private sources that consistently show that children read less as they age. “It got millions of kids to read a long and reasonably complex series of books. The trouble is that one Harry Potter novel every few years is not enough to reverse the decline in reading.”

Basically the message I heard was: Let them read whatever they want, just get those kids to read! Damnit!

That should have been a wake up call right then and there.

But the NYT story goes on to point out:

“Unless there are scaffolds in place for kids — an enthusiastic adult saying, ‘Here’s the next one’ — it’s not going to happen,” said Nancie Atwell, the author of “The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers” and a teacher in Edgecomb, Me. “And in way too many American classrooms it’s not happening.”
Now we have literacy programs in place encouraging new parents to read to their infants and toddlers and to read with their younger children in order to foster this practice of regular reading for pleasure as a habit.

Only problem is:

And it's the same problem I encountered as a child.

Many children who are taught to read before Kindergarten go on to have problems in the early grades.

They are bored, and the teachers do not necessarily have the resources to accommodate advanced readers who are ahead of the class. So those children regress in their reading skills, develop behavior problems due to boredom and negative feedback, and it just goes down hill from there.

This isn't the whole of the problem, but I suspect that it is a large part of this problem
Read more below the squiggle

This is an excerpt from the Well Trained Mind. I thought perhaps my issues being an early reader were unusual. I was shocked when I read this book. Not only is this not a rare problem, but it has been institutionalized in a dysfunctional system.

To set you up for the story, basically the parent, one of the authors of the book prepares her son for school, by teaching him phonics as a pre-schooler.

We are encouraged to do this. Good parents interact with their children. Bad parents plant their kids in front of tv sets or in front of video games. So many parents, including mine, and I--myself took this basic instruction to heart.
Children's Literacy Foundation Commercial
Electric Company Literacy Commercial PBS
Ad Council Literacy For Life

 She repeated this with her daughter as well.

Her son started developing behavioral problems in school. He was bored, he had been stigmatized by his skill and being moved back and forth between the first and second grades. "Everyday, Bob got off the bus with a handful of bad papers, and he was either fighting mad, or crying. "

"At this point, Jay and I realized that were spending most of our time with this child trying to undo what has happening to him when he was at school. And we were afraid that our second child, Susan, would go through the same metamorphosis. Susan had just started Kindergarten, and the teacher was already protesting to us that she would be a social misfit because she wanted to read during free time instead of playing. We were experiencing firsthand the terrific leveling pressure applied in so many schools: the effort to smooth out the bumbs by bringing well prepared kids down to the level of the rest. (Bauer and Wise pp 5, The Well Trained Mind). "
To me this issue is simply because we have too few teachers and too many students crammed in each classroom.

The teachers are forced to trade the best parts of their craft for the convenience of crowd control. They suffer, the kids suffer, and years down the line, we all suffer. If for this problem alone, I would advocate for much smaller classrooms. We need fewer children per teacher.

"Just this year, the best private preschool in our area agreed to stop teaching four year olds beginning reading skills. Kindergarten teachers in the local public schools had complained that the children turned out by this preschool were bored in kindergarten because they already knew the material. The schools demanded that the preschool quit turning out such well-prepared five year olds so that all the kindergarteners would start at the same level of ignorance. I was appalled with the preschool buckled and went back to teaching colors and "social skills (Ibid).""
This is the part that echoes in my brain: "The schools demanded that the preschool quit turning out such well-prepared five year olds so that all the kindergarteners would start at the same level of ignorance."

Not too long ago, while listening to National Public Radio, All Things Considered was covering A Wrinkle In Time.

The Unlikely Best-Selling: 'A Wrinkle In Time' Turns 50.

One of my personal all time favorite books as a child. And when my eldest was 6, she read it and really enjoyed it. She has since read it for fun a couple more times and followed that up with A Wind in The Door and Swiftly Tilted Planet.

So imagine our surprise when we heard that a class was reading a Wrinkle in Time, and it was 8th Graders. Sure it's not the end of the world and it's a great book, but it sort of blew our minds. Scholastic lists the grade level of a Wrinkle in Time to be 5.8.

We can do better for our children. But the only way to do that in a public school setting is to adequately fund our schools and to do it intelligently.

Just throwing money at a problem won't make things better. We need to push back--not just as parents, but as citizens. The educational success of our children will directly affect our prosperity as a nation, and it will also directly affect our qualities as a culture.  

 This isn't the only problem that our schools have currently.

I still encourage people to teach their children to read early. I am a big fan of phonics. I love Hooked On Phonics programs, which you can buy with DVDs to use on a computer now. You can even check these programs out from some public libraries. There are also free programs and games you can find online that are based on phonics. This teaches your child to be a better decoder, and in my opinion gives them a better foundation that leads to better reading comprehension skills.

You can learn more about decoding here:

We desperately need smaller classrooms. We are setting our teachers up for failure. If you give someone a large problem and then remove their access to adequate resources to alleviate that problem, then yes, you are setting that person up for failure. Some might succeed in spite of that, perhaps a combination of fabulous talent and luck--but for the rest of those mere mortals, we should make these educational issues bite sized instead of planet sized. A class crammed with 25 to 40 kids guarantees that the teacher will be teaching to the most disruptive children while ignoring the kids who can sit still, who want to learn.

We shouldn't be relying on luck for quality classrooms. We should be supporting our teachers with reasonable, logistically sound policies and material.

We shouldn't be punishing children for being ahead, anymore than we should punish other children for being behind, or those kids who are right on time. The One Size Fits None paradigm needs to be thrown out the window in favor of something that works.

This is just one facet of the challenges facing our culture today in terms of educating the next generation of leaders. I would emphasize, regardless of your confidence [or lack thereof] in these children or their parents, eventually the kids you see today will be the ones calling the shots, while we are dragging ourselves along in our walkers.

The kids you blow off today, will be the adults calling the shots for you, in your sunset years--tomorrow.

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Comment Preferences

  •  well, if you had been in education (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, sunny skies, Sylv

    for 24 years like me, you would realize that these reports come out every year or so and have for a long time. The results are probably not accurate, but assuming they are,it's still an average; there are kids lower, but there are kids higher too. I believe newsprint is written at the 6th grade level. And anyway, there are whole swaths of people who believe the president is a mooslim and that man never actually went to the moon. And the planet is getting warmer.  And so on. How can we expect the kids to read when the adults are a bunch of dumb shits?

    •  Or, "how can we *NOT* expect kids to read..." (7+ / 0-)

      If we want any hope in hell of reversing the "Age of Stupid" it has to start with the young. When I hear one of those rightwind loons worried about "teh gayz" or birth control screech, "What about the children?! Won't somebody please think of the children?!" After I roll my eyes the response is along the lines of "I am, I want them to grow up with a real education, respect for others, and hope for a better tomorrow. What about you?"

      "What profit a man, if he gain the world, but has to pay taxes on it?" Paul 8:36

      From the Gospel of St. Ron Paul in the Teachings and Misunderstandings of the Words of Adam Smith

      by ontheleftcoast on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 02:29:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And that is sad (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I know that even literacy cannot make every cultic milieu disappear, but I am sure it would help to some degree.

      So are you happy then with large classrooms, or is that not an issue in your school?

      •  I'm not inthe classroom (0+ / 0-)

        I'm a social worker, and I have a caseload that approaches 100 when you consider referrals and so on. And i am not happy about it. When I taught 20 years ago I had 35-40 in a classroom. It was impossible to keep track of everyone, let alone teach.

        •  I cannot imagine that becoming a Social Worker (0+ / 0-)

          was a step in an easier direction.

          Honestly I think that Social Workers need to unionize for lots of reasons.

          •  we are in the teachers union (0+ / 0-)

            and any gig in the schools is less frustrating than teaching, though social work is more stressful on a different level, you worry about lawsuits and parents taping IEP meetings.

            •  I know that some Social Workers (0+ / 0-)

              are trying to unionize. That it's mostly because the state refuses to hire more workers, but insists on piling on the cases, and then blames social workers when things go wrong with impossible caseloads.

              Another *Setting people up for failure scenario.

              With respect, I don't blame parents for recording meetings.

              Not every call that comes in is legit.

              Be Safe.

  •  I read the HuffPo piece as well. The piece (21+ / 0-)

    focused on the level of the books that kids choose to read, not their actual reading level. I am a pretty good reader. I am a college professor with an Ivy League PhD, and I have written and edited over a dozen books. When I sit down to read something for fun, it does not have to come from PLoS or the Journal of Archaeological Science. I enjoy sitting on the beach and reading a junk novel. Most of the junk novels that I choose to read are not terribly challenging, but that does not mean that I can't sit down and read and understand something from PLoS.

    •  I can understand that (3+ / 0-)

      To me the Twilight stuff would qualify, but a lot of people loved the books and the movies.

      So to each his or her own

      I am not sure what that series has to offer kids.

      I can understand directed  readings of  books like Animal Farm and The Jungle, 1984, or the Handmaid's tale, etc.,

      To me these are important works that explore issues about contemporary society: Power structures, pecking orders, institutionalized abuses, workplace safety, etc

      To Kill a Mockingbird--explores the notion of a Fair Trial and who gets one. Institutional discrimination, racism, gender roles, southern cultural mores.

      Harry Potter seems more or less like fluff to me. But once again, if the kids will read it and become engaged, I am sure there are teachable moments all throughout the books. Lots of good stuff about class, bullying, and the ethical use of power I suppose.

      The classics are interesting when taught with passion for their lessons.

      I don't see why Twilight or the Potter books should ever replace Sinclair or Atwood, or even Mark Twain or any of the other great voices in literature.

      Being at school is not the same as reading junk-novels at the beach.  Sure there should be fun at school, but not to the point that fun displaces substance.

      •  But substance is not simply measured by the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stellaluna, Odysseus, Sylv

        level of the vocabulary used. I think that Animal Farm is a powerful novel. The reading level is listed as 7.3, but the concepts addressed may be far more appropriate for high school students. Steinbeck is also simply written, but it is great literature. Night, which appears on the list, deals with the Holocaust. Many states, including mine, mandate the teaching of the Holocaust, so that the book may be a good fit with both English and Social Studies/History.

        I would add that your title is very misleading.

        •  These are not fastfood concepts (0+ / 0-)

          like some other books that perpetuate sound bite culture.

          Perhaps by slowing down a bit and taking time to really explore subjects and books, we could allow older children and advanced readers to grasp some of these concepts.

          Or we could just keep forcing fluff down their throats and wonder why our culture is so shallow.

      •  The classics have their place (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sillia, Heart of the Rockies, Sylv

        But there are lessons for kids in Harry potter as well. Bullying and bigotry for example is dealt with to some extent, both in how Harry is perceived in several parts when the kids think he's behind the trouble, and how Muggles and Hermione are seen by some of the 'pure bloods'.

        Also, comparing kids reading Harry Potter and kids reading Animal Farm is a lot of times apples and oranges. My son was interested in reading Harry Potter in late elementary grades, the books started when Harry was 11 after all. I don't think Animal Farm is an appropriate book for most 11 year olds so far as the concepts go. Nor would 1984 be except perhaps for the most advenced 11 year olds. I think they would miss the political messages in those entirely and just be disturbed.

        I know reading Lord of the Flies gave me nightmares when we were reading it in middle school, and I was reading Stephen King novels at that point. I won't read books like Hunger Games to this day because of memories of Lord of the Flies.

        Really it depends on the child, and what they are ready for. And if we're talking about pleasure reading, than it should really be child directed.  Yes, by all means encourage the classics and leave them around, my son reads Sherlock Holmes for pleasure reading. But any reading is good reading with some. All reading increases comprehension, fluency, and critical thinking, which then will benefit the child for a lifetime in school, at work, for information and for fun.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 07:06:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't say forbid Potter or the fluff books (0+ / 0-)

          Just be sure that the reading material actually teaches something of value.

          Most of the kiddie-books are about bullying, or haven't you noticed? And bigotry.

          How to eat Fried Worms,
          Diary of a Wimpy Kid


          Which could be a whole diary in and of itself. Those are fine if one is doing a unit study on Bullying.

          Lord of the Flies is culturally relevant.

          The Jungle--People who work in slaughter houses exposed to pig slurry with brains and spinal chords are dying of some kind of CFJ type variant. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and then later, in Iraq--the burning oil/ vaccines, and then later the burning trash heaps are getting ill--CULTURALLY RELEVANT! A big deal.

          1984-- I don't know about you, but listening to all these barely post-pubescent internet users blithely ignore the complete erosion of our personal privacy just makes me want to bite something. I kick in my sleep!

          How many read Orwell's 1984? Do they even get the reference?

          Girls take for granted that they have access to Birth Control and other freedoms as women etc., How many read the Handmaid's Tale? Because even though it is fiction, it is coming to pass.

          I wish the schools could cover Thoreau, Ingersoll, Wollstonecraft and Walt Whitman.

          But instead it seems that we are just happy that they read whatever is written on the bathroom wall! Oh well.

          And then we get pissed when these kids grow up as ignorant citizens, who if they vote, vote on emotion rather than comprehending the issues.

          Comprehension starts with a foundation in education. Potter isn't a foundation. Loved the movies, but it's not that big of a deal.

          If children don't understand why education is important, then I have to ask if they will grasp why THEY are important, and why they will be important as adult Citizens?

    •  I read junk novels for relaxation, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, Sylv

      rather than watching TV.  My educational/vocational background is similar to yours.

      Having said that, when our kids hit school in the mid 70's, they were persecuted by teachers and fellow students alike for being accomplished readers.  Makes me think of the front page piece today on the movie Bully.

    •  Yes! (0+ / 0-)

      My granddaughter is in second grade, tests at a reading level at the last half of fifth grade but she reads books throughout a spectrum.

      She enjoys reading books that although are at a level lower than her reading level are at her life experience level.  She also reads higher level books, but other than nonfiction the higher level novels often discuss many things that aren't germane to her life at this point.

  •  Rec'd (6+ / 0-)

    Though I disagree about phonics. I got a perfect verbal on SATs and did not use phonics at all. I'm a 'whole language' guy with maybe a hint of phonics here and there.

    I think the important thing as you say is just to get kids reading, really, anything, and as much as possible.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 02:29:18 PM PDT

    •  Two possibilities come to mind (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You have excellent aural processing abilities, and didn't need instruction in phonics to get the sound/symbol connection, or you have terrible aural processing abilities, and that sort of instruction wouldn't do you any good.

      Very fluent readers tend to chunk words (sometimes sentences or even paragraphs) rather than sound things out, but this skill develops with practice. Most average readers do well to start with a base in phonics, but should not be held there past their need for it.

      The "whole language" teaching movement threw a lot of babies out with the bathwater when they dismissed the value of phonics and went with trying to teach beginning readers by a word recognition approach.  

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:50:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or, an alternative (4+ / 0-)

        is someone who learned to read by being read to, and sounding out words and just digging in. I learned back in the Pleistocene, before there were buzzwords like phonics being thrown around.

        I could read by about the age of 3. So could my sibs. My mother used to send each of us off to first grade and wait. After a day or so, the message came, in aggrieved tones: "Mrs. Osyne, your child knows how to read!" She'd shrug her shoulders and say, "They teach themselves."

        Not something our educational system is set up to accommodate, then or now. I've always suspected its format was designed to produce assembly-line workers for the industrial revolution.

        Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

        by Mnemosyne on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:37:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  A good teacher can deal with this diversity. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mnemosyne, Odysseus, Orinoco

          Son 1 was quite a good reader before he entered kindergarten. The kindergarten teacher let him read stories to the rest of the class. Son 2 was motivated to teach himself to read. He could not stand it when Son 1 could read but he couldn't.

          •  My kindergartner taught herself to read because (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Odysseus, Orinoco

            she didn't want to be left out. Her school has done a great job adjusting to her skills. She spends a couple of hours in a different class for reading and enjoys it tremendously. No problems with boredom and her skills are improving.

            “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you...” - Maya Angelou

            by stellaluna on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 08:36:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  That seems to fall into the luck and Fabulous (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Heart of the Rockies, Orinoco

            talent category.

            That being said, I am glad your son's kindergarten teacher had the presence of mind to effectively capitalize on these differences in the children's reading levels.

          •  We older kids taught my 4 year old sister math (3+ / 0-)

            so that we could have a fourth player for Monopoly.  We played that game nearly every night for nearly 10 years.  School work was ridiculously simple.

            -7.75 -4.67

            "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

            There are no Christians in foxholes.

            by Odysseus on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 07:12:43 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I don't remember learning how to read (4+ / 0-)

          but remember both mom and dad reading to me a lot.

          I know I could read the simple stuff they taught us in first grade right from day one.(Kindergarten had no actual reading instruction that I can recall.) We had three groups for reading in all my elementary grade classrooms. I guess we kids thought of them as fast, medium, and slow. The only way I felt at all cramped in reading in those days was the strict rule, always intoned by the teacher when we first opened our new reading books at the beginning of the year, NOT TO READ AHEAD.

          That, and my third grade teacher's doubts that I could read books from the sixth grade shelf in the school library. Well, I showed her.

          My elementary school days were in the mid-1960s. I don't recall phonics, whole-word, or anything very methodical about reading instruction.

          Reading came naturally to me, I guess, but it might not have if my parents hadn't read to me, if we hadn't regularly visited the public library, if I hadn't occasionally received books as gifts. There was certainly not much to inspire enthusiasm for reading in the elementary reading text books.

          I wonder if reading levels have really declined all that much. For decades newspapers have been written to a sixth-grade level, so that they'd be understandable to most people.

          It's always better to have smaller class sizes, and the flexibility to tailor instruction to different levels at least a bit. But comments here just reinforce the notion I'd already formed by the time I was a high school student -- if there are problems in education, it's usually administration that's most detrimental to real learning.

          "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more." - Popeye the Sailor Man

          by congenitalefty on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 08:38:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  what I don't get is: why all this either/or? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        debedb, Heart of the Rockies, Orinoco

        Phonics OR whole-language...?

        Why not and/both?

        Humans have varying priorities in terms of how they organize their sensory and cognitive worlds.  Connect words to all the senses that are relevant, connect them to the way they look, sound, pictures or other representations of what they mean, other words that are related in some way, etc. etc.  Encourage them to try different sensory representations, different points on the scale between somatic and abstract, etc.  

        One size doesn't fit all.  Theories of learning tend to work for subsets of the population, so put all of them together and get something that works for everyone.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 10:05:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Learning Phonics gives one the foundational (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          elements of our language.

          How we use letters in English, to create sounds, that form recognizable words.

          If you understand the rules that govern our alphabet and how those letters form different sounds, and blends, etc., then unless you are reading a word borrowed from a very different language, you will be able to sound it out.

          I also strongly advocate teaching Greek and Latin Root words, because that also helps the reader increase their reading comprehension by at least having a clue as to what the word means [even if it's only in the ballpark].

          •  I'm with you on the Greek and Latin (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            My wife and I homeschool, and my kids do a lot of reading.  I'm big on vocabulary and try to emphasize the Greek and Latin roots.  I studied classical Greek in grad school, and one of the things that I loved about Greek was the way the abstract language springs directly out of the concrete language, so it's easy in Greek to move back and forth between abstract and concrete.   In English, unless you have that grounding in Greek and Latin, that movement between the abstract and the concrete is more difficult, since our concrete language and our abstract language come from different linguistic places.  

        •  Reading (0+ / 0-)

          is a process of translating visual input (symbols on a page) into internal aural signals (hearing words inside your head.)

          The process usually starts small, translating individual letter symbols into sounds, and we call it phonics, then gradually expands to whole word symbols, which investigators of adult fluent readers called whole language.

          Different people get this skill at different rates, and require different amounts or types of instruction at different stages of the process.

          I believe the "whole language/phonics" wars started when the investigators of fluent adult readers noticed that adults used whole word symbol recognition, and speculated that the appropriate way to teach children was to use whole word symbols. They recommended that any instruction in phonics was either a waste of precious instructional time, or was actually counterproductive.

          Experienced teachers at the time did not jump on this bandwagon, but many new teachers coming out of university at the time were convinced by the research that abandoning phonics was a good thing. Thus the whole language vs phonics war began.  

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 01:40:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Three years ago, when I was still working for a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, Odysseus

    hospital, I was preping documents for the new system.  The documents were 'patient take home instructions'.  The nurse that I was working with and I were instructed to make the language to a 3rd grade level.

    I didn't really start reading all that early, back in the mid-late 60's.  But, I loved reading.  One of my past times on the weekend was to go get the container of cereal and crawl back into bed and read until my parents got up for the day.  I was under the age of 10 at the time.  Then we moved back to the States and went into 5th grade.  Something happened there..... because at the beginning of 6th grade I was still at low to mid 5th grade level.  But, I had a great teacher that year.  By the end of the school year, I was tested at 12.6 level reading comprehension.

    My sister never really liked reading for pleasure, but has 'changed' since adopting the girls and is putting effort into reading generally.  The girls are at the "Little House", JuneB., and oh my.... what are the books kids are reading these days.  The girls are enjoying reading and I hope it continues.

  •  This Is Silly (7+ / 0-)

    This report is complaining that high school students are reading Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Night. In other words, it's complaining about something that is not a problem and is in fact awesome.

    "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

    by Reino on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 02:46:37 PM PDT

    •  Yup, one of the books on the list is (8+ / 0-)

      Animal Farm. Its reading level is identified as 7th grade. When I was in high school (back in the Middle Paleolithic aka the mid-60s) we read it in 10th-grade Honors English. And, just for the record, I attended one of the best public high schools in the nation.

      •  Reading Level (4+ / 0-)

        is determined mainly by a statistical process that looks at length of words, number of words in sentences, and number of sentences in paragraphs. Shorter words, shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs generally means a lower reading level.

        It says nothing about the content or the ideas embodied in those short sentences using small words written by talented and painstaking writers such as Hemingway or Orwell.  

        This comment, by the way, has a Gunning Fog index (number of years of formal education that a person requires in order to easily understand the text on the first reading) of 11.60.

        (The instructions for using the online Document Readability Calculator is 12.84.  Heh.)

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 05:14:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  gee, I just said (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue jersey mom

        I learned in the Pleistocene, because it sounded like a good time. But I've no idea when that actually was, and you, as a gen-u-ine bona fide archeologist, probably do. Especially if you can identify Middle Paleolithic. Heh.

        Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

        by Mnemosyne on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:40:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let me put on my pedantic college professor (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          hat here. The Pleistocene began about 2.6 million years ago and ended with the end of the last ice age, about 9600 BCE. The Middle Paleolithic is the stone tool industry generally associated with the Neanderthals, ca. 200-40k years ago.

          •  so, Middle Paleolithic (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blue jersey mom

            is sort of like the day before yesterday, in archeology terms? Thanks.

            Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

            by Mnemosyne on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:53:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  By global standards (8+ / 0-)

    ...the US is making no investment in human capital. This trend will continue because we no longer have money -- and the nation has no vision nor cohesiveness.

    We are on our own.

    Shortcomings of US schools pose national security threat

    Nearly 30 years after the landmark education report “A Nation at Risk,” a new report finds that America’s failure to prepare its young people for a globalized world is now so grave that it poses a national security threat.

    Some of the key factors that the report cites in linking education shortcomings and a weakened national security: insufficient preparation of children for the highly technical jobs that both the private sector and the military increasingly need to fill, scant and declining foreign-language education, and a weakened “national cohesiveness” as a result of an under-educated and unemployable poor population.

    “Educational failure puts the United States’ future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety at risk,” says the report, the result of an independent task force cochaired by former secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein.

    Noting that the “dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital,” the report concludes that “the failure to produce that capital will undermine American security.”

    It is in the best interest of the plutocrats to populate the nation with programmed wage-slave factory workers. China has announced it intends to move many of its factories here beginning within the next five years.

    "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

    by Pluto on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 03:01:06 PM PDT

    •  OMG---third time today I've replied "exactly" (5+ / 0-)
      It is in the best interest of the plutocrats to populate the nation with programmed wage-slave factory workers.
      Spot on.
    •  well, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mnemosyne, Pluto, indubitably, Avila

      Condoleezza Rice would certainly know about "underminin[ing] American security."

      That there is "insufficient preparation of children for the highly technical jobs that both the private sector and the military increasingly need to fill": this is good news. The American military is the single greatest threat to US national security. Until it is abolished, America, and Americans, will never be safe.

    •  It isn't the part about holding down a midlevel (4+ / 0-)

      job that bothers me, so much as it is used as an excuse to dehumanize and devalue anyone at a a midlevel and below job.

      That is what bothers me in this discussion.

      You want a ditch, you hire a ditch digger.

      you want food, find a short order cook or a chef.

      You want your house cleaned, hire a maid or some such.

      But each and every one of those workers are people who deserve a living wage and affordable healthcare and decent time off.

      Literacy is very important, but so is humanity.

  •  The average reading level (6+ / 0-)

    Of entering college freshmen isn't much higher.

    I have a slightly different take on it, however. I wholeheartedly agree that we have too many students in classrooms, that teachers are having to juggle way, way too much, etc.

    Several years ago, however, I realized that somewhere along the line, TPTB (DOE? local school boards? governments?? college education programs?? or ... ???) got the crazy idea that it was too stressful for kids to learn, even though little growing minds are designed to do exactly that: learn. So we began "dumbing down" elementary, etc., school. This dumbing down fed right into the anti-intellectualism (and coincidental elitism) of the right, and now we have a giant mess on our hands.

    Pity the poor teachers and students of today.

  •  I'm Not Sure That Literacy (0+ / 0-)

    Is really required for the 99%.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:05:12 PM PDT

  •  that happened to me, too (4+ / 0-)

    I was reading at age 4, and I became a bit of a problem in first grade.  Back in 1958, though, Mrs. Hodges, my 1st grade teacher, started pushing for me to be advanced a grade.  I skipped 3rd grade and, other than being a shy, chubby, self-conscious nerd, I ended up doing fairly well.  After all, virtually all my learning occurred at home, in my parents' library.  I was fortunate to be an only and very late child of HS-educated and very bright parents.  After a teen pregnancy-to-marriage, I eventually earned a Ph.D. in an experimental science.
    How dare anyone in schools advocate that children not be encouraged to learn as soon as they can, whatever they can!  Yes, we are problem students, but we can excel, and we can become tutors and mentors to other less advantaged students.
    Several of my university students brought their adolescents to my class, and we all learned from that experience -- the kids, that their curiosity mattered; my other students, that it wasn't uncool to be curious; me, how to teach better.
    Still a problem student, always "one who does not take direction well," I would repeat it all.  Especially the reading.  The first "real" book?  Tale of Two Cities, at age 6.

  •  Your final statement: (8+ / 0-)
    The kids you blow off today, will be the adults calling the shots for you, in your sunset years--tomorrow.
    That was something I repeated to my jr. high students often.  They'd ask why they had to do or learn something or why I was a teacher, and I'd tell them it was enlightened self-interest.  "I'm selfish.  When I am old, you will be in charge.  I need you to be as smart as you can be."

    My best teaching experiences were in multi-age classrooms with no more than 20 students.  It was good for everyone.  Older students could help the younger ones (you retain a much higher percentage of what you teach than of what you read or hear), and younger ones were motivated to try to keep up with the older ones.  I will never forget three little 4th grade girls who insisted on learning the 5th and 6th grade spelling words in addition to their 4th grade list.  They really got 'into' words.  Can you imagine the vocabulary those kids will have as they grow older?

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:17:13 PM PDT

    •  This is how my parents (0+ / 0-)

      went to school at the turn of the last century.

      multi-age classrooms with no more than 20 students
      They were one room rural schools (really, really rural) where they learned all the basics of history, literature, arithmetic, geography, writing, etc.  They went on to accomplished lives, with my father becoming a university professor and my mother a leader in our community.
  •  USA Today is pitched right at them (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mnemosyne, chimene

    A Ganett editor told me that USA Today is intentionally pitched to a 5th grade reading level, as that's what their market research told them their audience was capable of.

    My 1st grader was reading at 3+ in January, so I assume we'll be able to stop the reading instruction next fall sometime.

    "Take it easy-- but take it!" --Woody Guthrie

    by Mr Green Jeans on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:26:48 PM PDT

  •  GATES Teachers (6+ / 0-)

    complain that administrators require them to be on the same page as regular education classes. It's part of what teachers are evaluated on when administrators visit their classes. When they complain, they are told to simply teach the material "in depth" with no explanation of what that even means.

    The closest I've heard an administrator explain "in depth" to a teacher of gifted students was to design projects related to the material that would take the students a while to finish. In other words, have them do make-work while the regular ed students caught up.

    Gifted students are not stupid. That's part of why they are in gifted classes in the first place. They'll know if they get busy work or the teacher is just marking time.

    Even worse, from a legal standpoint, is that Special Ed teachers, who teach students with Individual Education Plans, are told exactly the same thing. Keep up with regular ed classes. Be on the same page.

    Their marching orders are not to teach their charges, but to "expose them" to the material, in the vague hope that it will look familiar enough during testing that Special Ed students will be able to make more educated guesses and thus raise their scores.

    As a Special Ed teacher, I sat in a conference with a GATES teacher while an Assistant Principal tried to convince both of us that this was best for the education of our students. The Assistant Principal retired the following year, citing in her farewell speech the stress of having to say increasingly absurd things on the district's behalf.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:41:39 PM PDT

    •  I am so sorry you had to go through that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, Orinoco

      It must have been very frustrating and demoralizing.

      I had a friend who went through the Troops To Teachers program. The things she told me just ---things I had suspected of my own school years ago, but never dreamed that this was the SOP nationwide.

      I wonder who this program will pan out. Military members tend to want to know what policy says. They want to know regulations and policy so they know exactly where the line is, what the rules are--where their individual command-decisions making power stops.

      That thoroughness made more problems for her--when it should have solved them.

      I feel bad for teachers right now. I do. When I was a child I was very angry and disappointed. Now that I have had to work in some dysfunctional workplaces, and can see and comprehend something of what they are facing, I mostly just feel bad.

      I cannot imagine racking up all those student loans and taking all those courses to do something you hate and don't believe in. But more and more when I talk to teachers--they love the kids, but often leave because of the system.

      That bodes ill for us all.

      •  It was frustrating and demoralizing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But I retired as well, so I no longer have to put up with the bullshit. I do my teaching nowadays in my diary series Number Sense, here at Daily Kos.

        "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

        by Orinoco on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 01:49:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not just reading (4+ / 0-)

    Writing is suffering, too.

    A few years ago, one of the high school interns who worked at my company was doing his school work during a lull (which was allowed and even encouraged under the rules!). A senior, he was writing an essay for his English class on Hamlet. This was a very important essay, he said, as it was worth about a quarter of his grade for the quarter.

    I asked him what he was going to write about; he mentioned the topic, and then handed me the assignment sheet. Reading the sheet made my heart sink. Included in the instructions was a recommendation that students follow the attached "outline." Unfortunately, the outline basically amounted to a template which the students could complete in a more or less fill-in-the-blanks manner.

    I was astonished that students could graduate from high school with no real clue how to even structure an essay. I'm not expecting miracles, but I would think the "keyhole" principle of writing an essay would have been mentioned and taught at least once.

    The decay in education levels amongst today's young Americans scares me to death. (There are exceptions, of course, but they seem to be ever more the exception, rather than showing signs of becoming the rule.)

  •  Please can I have examples of books thatg ARE (7+ / 0-)

    at or above the 12th grade level.

    According to the HufPo article I read they shoow the Hunger Games at a 5.3 reading level. Of Mice and Men a 4.5 reading level. To Kill A Mockingbird 5.6 reading level. Animal Farm scored 7.3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows scored 6.9

    Of coarse the data comes from Renaissance Learning, Inc. Geee I wonder what axe they have to grind and who will pay for it?

    I'm not saying reading and reading level isn't important, but I am saying you got to look beyond the graphics and charts and ask what the REAL agenda is of the people supplying this information.

    ...Just my dos centavos

    When I cannot sing my heart. I can only speak my mind.

    by Unbozo on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:51:26 PM PDT

    •  You can compare that to the Scholastic Site (0+ / 0-)

      I didn't. Perhaps there is a discrepancy between the two.

    •  Grapes of Wrath for one... (0+ / 0-)

      ..  and a damn good read too.

      During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. ~George Orwell

      by Derffie on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:41:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  ...and when has more complex sentence structure (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in a book made it more entertain or informative?

      IIRC the majority of people that graduated from High School 50 years ago had a reading comprehension at about the 6th or 9th grade level.

      When I cannot sing my heart. I can only speak my mind.

      by Unbozo on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:53:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Eliminate jargon too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenMother, Unbozo

        There's a reason why Dilbert is popular for mocking content free large syllable count words and their misuse.

        "Utilizing established paradigms" is no different than "using best practices".

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 07:20:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Jargon has its place (0+ / 0-)

          It can be abused like anything else.

          But Jargon is often language that is technically specific to a field or a function.

          The Jargon I use for Bee Keeping isn't the same as the Jargon I use for my computer or for the Weather, or math.

          Obfuscation and bullshit should not be allowed to be classified as Jargon.

  •  Confessions of a social misfit (6+ / 0-)

    I was one of those weird kids who wanted to read a book during recess in the 3rd grade.  The teachers called in my parents for a conference because of it.
       Years later my parents told me the story of that meeting.
    My father: is he bothering the other kids?
    Principal: Well no, but we want him to play in a group.
    My father (pointing a finger): You will not train my son like a dog!
    [end of meeting]

      I'm now a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching students in the Dominican Republic. The educational system here is a disaster that makes America's school system look like a glowing beacon of hope.
       Most people I work with, both adults and students, are functionally illiterate. Even the so-called college graduates.
       You see how this manifests itself in other ways, such as a short attention span, a lack of intellectual curiousity, and a limited view of the world.
       Kids not only can't find their country on a map, they don't even know what a map is for.

       The thing is that most homes you go into have only one book in them: the bible.
       The library here (and I'm lucky there is one) is full of new, unused books. No one goes to read them.
       I've gotten a whole new appreciation for reading.
    People here think I'm weird because I usually have a book in my hands. They associate a book with work, so they figure that I am always working.

    “Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” - President Thomas Jefferson

    by gjohnsit on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 05:11:59 PM PDT

    •  this part of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      your comment

      Kids not only can't find their country on a map, they don't even know what a map is for.

         The thing is that most homes you go into have only one book in them: the bible.

      sounds a lot like some parts of the U.S., however.

      Good for you for doing what you can there.

      Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

      by Mnemosyne on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:44:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I haven't found that to be true (0+ / 0-)

        I live in a very conservative state. And believe me these people do lots of things that annoy me, or that just freak me out.

        But it is rare that I find someone with children that has only one book, The Bible. Even amongst the very religious.

        I would advocate that if you want to criticize the NeoCons on something, make sure that it is a genuine issue.

        Attacking them over their child-rearing like this will only cause them to circle the wagons. And it doesn't address the real issues.

        The real issues are about legislating morality and religion, forcing their views on others who do not share them.

    •  Could you write more about (0+ / 0-)

      your experiences?  In diaries, perhaps?  Your comment is very thoughtful and interesting, and it would be great to hear more.

  •  One point that NO ONE wants to mention... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Praxical, Odysseus

    Part of the real answer--the part that NO ONE ever wants to suggest--is the simple notion that kids who can't do the work should not be promoted to the next grade.

    When you get down to brass tacks, you can't really expect a teacher to make more than one year's worth of progress (across the board, in all subjects) in one school year.  

    The knowledge that little Billy (or Sally) will repeat 3rd grade if they don't bring their reading/math/whatever skills up to par WILL motivate most parents to become more involved, utilize after-school programs, et cetera.

    For that matter, why not move primary education to independent subject classes, as we see in middle and high school curricula?  That would allow the 2nd-grade kid who struggles in reading repeat Reading 2 (or whatever we call it) while advancing to Math 3, English 3, and the like.  That would also allow the use of subject-expert teachers in primary grades, instead of expecting a single primary teacher to excel across all subjects.

    I'm utterly convinced that enforcing elementary-school standards for advancement and eliminating nonsense like social promotion are absolutely essential steps in the "fix it" process.  Yes, there will be outrage from some parents and a great hue and cry about 'stigmatizing slower learners'...but it's necessary.

    •  That is true, however-- (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chimene, FloridaSNMOM, Odysseus

      My parents being very poor, blue collar took time out to teach me to read, when they would have rather fallen into a coma at the end of their double shift.

      If other parents are doing this too, also in that blue collar or impoverished category--as per the literacy movement's instructions linked to above at youtube,

      and the schools are unable to allocate resources to these children who are ahead of their peers, then is it Sally or Johny's fault? Is it mommy or daddy's fault?

      And if [by some of the comments on this thread by people in the teaching field] are being given instructions from higher up, to focus on teaching to the test and keeping everyone at the same level in order to simplify testing and classroom management--then is it the Teacher's Fault?

      It seems that everyone is being punished for problems that start at a level much higher than the classroom.

      And Knowing how many impoverished parents who work hard and are determined that their kids have opportunities that they didn't--knowing how that motivates them to supplement their child's education in order to try and acquire that edge, it seems that perhaps we are overly fond of blaming the "poor Stupid people" or is it, the "Stupid Poor People" for a systemic issue.

      After all we cannot sit here in good conscience and place such a high value on the college education, and then consistently rip the rug from beneath the most vulnerable portions of the population. First by tracking at the 3rd grade like school is triage instead of an education.
      Secondly with the School to Jail Pipeline, and then thirdly, by placing the cost of a higher education so far out of reach that people like me have to go into debt for 50 to 100 thousand dollars just to acquire a 4 year degree. Are we really making more money than our blue collar parents, if we pay half our paycheck in Student loans for the next 20 or 30 years?

      It does make one wonder what is really going on. The military is quick to capitalize on the desires of the poor to go to college. But just try and utilize that GI Bill. That's a lot of fun and games too.

      •  We need to focus on K-12 (0+ / 0-)

        The need and value of a college education has been grossly over sold.  Literally over SOLD.  As a starer, take a look at the debt that is weighing down college graduates.  

        Furthermore, this college focus continues to undervalue other kinds of work that do not require more than a solid high school education and other ways of learning beyond formal school learning (apprenticeships, internships, etc).  

  •  This is marketing from Renaissance Learning, Inc (2+ / 0-)

    It's bad enough that it was swallowed whole by the HuffPo AOL conglomerate who knows how much crap this is, but this is now being regurgitated on DK?

    Really, do you think that a 7th grader can comprehend the themes of The Great Gatsby?!  I know some Ivy League educated Wall Street types who don't have a clue about how to interpret the Great Gatsby but can read bullshit economic jargon on the "12th grade level" i.e in Renaissance terms, "big words". The grasp of the complexity of ideas is what distinguishes a a grade reading level. The HuffPo "slide show" is just garbage.

    What would have been nice to have come out of this HuffPo whoredom would be an expose of who is behind Renaissance Learning and the other shysters in the testing/"learning" business.

    "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."

    by Glinda on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 05:46:06 PM PDT

    •  I looked at the grade level equivalents of these (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heart of the Rockies

      books at the Scholastic website.

      It appears that the 5th grade reading level was the average after adding up all the scores of the books.

      The Great Gatsby is listed as a 8.1

      There were several others that were 8th and 9th grade level books.

      But most were fifth grade level books, with the Twilight books being 4th grade. I can believe that too, after seeing the silly movies.

      You can do a search and compare scores here:

      Scholastic is also a business, so I am not sure where you could find a neutral noncommercial site that offers the approximate grade level equivalents for books.

      If you know of such a site, please share the link, I would like to know too.

      •  Scholastic is a book seller (2+ / 0-)

        They are in the business of selling books. And frankly not very good books.  I know of no teacher that would cite Scholastic as an arbiter of the grade level of any book

        The criterion of Scholastic is opaque.  There are other more generally accepted measures of the "reading level" of a book. But even these are highly subjective as this article states.

        But all of these fail since they are based on formulas as to the complexity of sentences and words. Not the complexity of ideas.

        That's where your Scholastic and Renaissance (who is vying to go after Scholastic's market share if you didn't surmise that yourself) argument falls completely apart. Their measures of reading level are simplistic and formulaic.  

        Think of it this way ... their claims of what is a linguistic 5th grade reading level appeal to people who have a 5th grade grasp of logic.

        "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."

        by Glinda on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:41:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yea Glinda, I noted that in my reply (0+ / 0-)

          That Scholastic is a commercial site.

          I just perceive that the fight over literacy should be focused on the issues afflicting the system.

        •  Scholastic published (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Heart of the Rockies

          the Harry Potter books after about a gazillion publishers had turned Ms. Rowling down.

          Although I admit to being surprised at what seems to be considered higher-level reading these days. As a freshman in high school, I studied Chaucer (including Middle English) and Shakespeare and all them other high-faulutin' Greeks.

          Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

          by Mnemosyne on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 06:47:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I read Chaucer in the 5th grade (4+ / 0-)

            I was not in an advanced class.

            I read Shakespeare all throughout school.

            I was not in a great school system, I was not in the G&T program.

            I read Chaucer again in highschool.

            Things that I noted that were missing after having gone to college:

            The Reconstruction period, and the issues regarding Black History were almost nonexistent. I didn't learn who Malcolm X was until after highschool, quite by accident.

            Women's suffrage--hardly a blurb if that. I had no idea that Elizabeth Cady Stanton had been drummed out of the movement after gathering female scholars to write the Woman's Bible and address the innate sexism found in the canon. I didn't even know who she was, since Susan B Anthony was the only one mentioned.

            All the really cool, interesting useful stuff I learned, came after primary school either on my own or in college. And yet some of it should have been there, because it was so basic. It gave context to other historical and cultural subjects that were so important.

            I could go on and on. :(

            I think that lifting someone up and then slapping them down is almost worse than not lifting them up at all.

            •  I too read Chaucer (0+ / 0-)

              And Gilgamesh.

              As well as Joyce's Ulysses. I especially relished the brilliant literary metaphor for the birth and evolution of the English language.

              But I digress.

              None of your literary accomplishments can hide the fact that you were snookered by a manipulative HuffPo article.

              Again ... reading comprehension does not translate to critical thinking.

              "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."

              by Glinda on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 07:36:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Did you read my entire post? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Heart of the Rockies

                I wasn't snookered by anything.

                Perhaps you are just being overly defensive.

                With a tagline like this:

                ""Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry." "

                Tell me are you a serf  just like me or are you one of the nobility?


                Are you happy with Americans being content with being serfs and peasants?


                How do you suppose they are conditioned to accept that status?

                •  Perhaps you don't recognize the quote (0+ / 0-)

                  It's from the Great Gatsby.  I changed my sig almost a year ago after seeing Gatz.  

                  I really don't pay  much attention to sig lines, my own or others, but I do find that when someone here comments on another's sig line negatively they are generally being defensive about a flawed argument.

                  I read your entire post.  It contained some well thought out, interesting ideas but your title is flat out flawed and the citation of the HuffPo article is laughable.  Your diary would have been much stronger without that pseudo-scientific statistic.

                  "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."

                  by Glinda on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 08:12:02 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No, what I sense from your conversation here (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    is the attempt to shut the discussion down entirely.

                    It won't work.

                    The cat is already out of the bag.

                    And you didn't answer my question. You picked that tag line for a reason.

                    Peasants and Serfs are generally uneducated, ignorant people who live mean lives. Small minds as it were, slaves--drones workers who don't think ahead or broader than the width of their shoulders.

                    Clearly that line resonated with you or you wouldn't have picked it.

                    If you see most of us as people content with being peasants and serfs, then it begs the question--Why?

                    Why would you perceive others in that manner?

                    If they are ignorant and small minded--where do they pick that up?

                    What elements in American life reinforce that ignorance and that small mindedness?

                    •  I have obviously made you defensive. (0+ / 0-)

                      I am not the one trying to shut down discussion on this subject. You are by focusing on an something immaterial to this discussion. Your comment above is a red herring fallacy. My sig line is not the point of this argument.  Your use of questionable statistics to headline an otherwise solid diary is. You have chosen to ignore that point.

                      Perhaps your next diary should be an analysis of my sig line. I will await it with baited breath!

                      "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."

                      by Glinda on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 08:43:56 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  If I thought it was immaterial, I would have (0+ / 0-)

                        ignored it.

                        It goes to a larger body of evidence.

                        However, I am not insulting you by calling your posts "laughable" or using any other language that ridicules your end of the discussion.

                        We clearly disagree.

                        That being said, however intelligent you may be, your unwillingness to examine why you do what you do is disturbing.

                        A person satisfied with the world and with society, would have chosen a different quotation to reflect that satisfaction.

                        Your choice expresses derision.

                        As for baited breath--well more sarcasm reflecting your derision.

                        I am so glad that I could amuse you with my snookered ridiculousness.

                        Have a nice day.

          •  Bloomsbury, in the UK, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Glinda, Heart of the Rockies

            published the first Potter book in 1997, and after it was a big hit in Great Britain Scholastic paid lots of money for the US rights (also changing the title from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone -- I guess because they figured American kids wouldn't touch a book with "philosopher" in the title.)

            Bloomsbury was the eighth or ninth publisher Rowling's agent offered the book to.

            "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more." - Popeye the Sailor Man

            by congenitalefty on Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 08:22:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Speaking of Shakespeare (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Heart of the Rockies

            My son really wants to read Shakespeare, but with his language delays he still has trouble with the language. I've been trying to find a decent version in modern english, at least of the plays, without the play being 'dumbed down'. He's been literally listening to Hamlet as he goes to sleep every night and while he sleeps trying to make sense of it. We've discussed it, and he gets the plot, but he can't understand the language without looking up way too many of the words for fluency. I'd love to find him a version he could read and enjoy, and hopefully use that as a tool to help him understand the Shakespearean English well enough to read it as it was meant to be read.
            Any suggestions would be appreciated.

            "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

            by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 07:22:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  There is a book: Shakespeare for Children (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Heart of the Rockies

              I just looked this title up on and there are a variety of books available for introducing children to Shakespeare. I would suggest you go and read the reviews and see which one you might be interested in.

              •  I've looked at that one (0+ / 0-)

                And a couple of others on Amazon, but they all seem to be dumbed down in plot as well. I was hoping someone had seen one that wasn't ;). Thanks though.

                "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

                by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 07:29:27 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Hmm, Well does it help if your son (0+ / 0-)

                  Listens to the play? Some of these are on Books on Tape/CD

                •  would watching (0+ / 0-)

                  a tape or movie version help? There are any number of excellent performances available, and sometimes it helps to see the various characters moving around in relation to one another.

                  Also, in a lot of the orginal languge, a good Shakespeare text will have glosses, explaining the original meaning of what seems now an obscure word. That's a fun way of playing literary detective.

                  Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

                  by Mnemosyne on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 08:59:08 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  When I talk to Moms with boys (0+ / 0-)

                    Some come later into reading.

                    I will not claim to know the reason why. I am only expressing what others have told me. I don't have boys.

                    And if your child has issues with reading, then maybe backing things up by honing those listening and memorization skills would be a good choice.

                    That way, if his reading skills do not take off at some point, he has the ability to overcome that with other talents like listening, memorization and critical thinking.

                    Many of my male relatives have dyslexia. Their reading skills will never be that great. But they are still brilliant minds. They learn by utilizing other skills.

                    When my children and I are in our books, conversation is a big part of the process. I want the kids to contextualize what they are reading.

                  •  He has been watching the movie version. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    The problem is that he's autistic and language delayed from that. He still has some trouble with modern english vocabulary, when you put in archaic english he just can't follow it. We have an edition with the glosses and such, but when he has to look up SO many words, he loses track of meaning. He had a lot of trouble with Poe and we really pushed vocabulary with him for those, taking his vocab directly out of the short stories.  He liked Poe, but even that was almost out of his reach.
                    As for listening to the play he tends to zone out and lose auditory input (slow processor) so that doesn't work for him either.
                    I'm kind of looking for the NIV version of Shakespeare instead of the KJV if you get the analogy. Same meaning and plot, but updated language. I may have to just do it myself over the summer so we can study it next year.

                    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

                    by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 09:45:12 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  If there's ever (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      a life performance in your area, particularly of one of the comedies, he might enjoy. There's lots of action and shouting and slapstick, so that kids can enjoy without listening to each word.

                      Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

                      by Mnemosyne on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 12:39:52 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

        •  Unfortunately there really *is* a problem (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I understand your argument, but I've been in front of a few too many college classrooms with students whose reading levels have been rock-bottom to so easily dismiss the author's point.

          My first encounter with a functionally illiterate college student was almost 10 years ago in an advanced level writing course at a state university. At the time, I was stunned, but I run into it so often now that I routinely make bolstering reading skills a part of all my courses.

          Worse, some of the students were on honor rolls at the high schools.

          We have a serious, serious problem, and we only harm ourselves by denying or diminishing it.

  •  It's a shame. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    People can't only blame the schools for this, either.

    When I was in fourth grade, I started reading newspapers, and by the time I was in ninth grade, I was reading at a college level. I know most kids don't read newspapers, but small steps can make a huge difference in the future.

  •  Read to your kids - and forget the tests (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Read to your kids every day. Just a few minutes makes a difference. Don't use the television or computer babysit them. Have lots of books in the house that span a few years of their abilities. Surround them with books that struggle to read. Challenge them.

    Reading is a joy and should always be treated that way. It should never be a requirement that will be followed by a test or a book report.

    My kids loved to talk about books and have always done so without prompting - because they are excited about what they read.

    Between screens and standardized tests, reading has gone downhill and the that trend is generational - not just "kids these days."  

    Teachers up to 6th grade used to read to us. Do teachers still do that or are they too busy preparing for the standardized tests that their students must take to prove that teachers are doing their jobs? It's a travesty. Joy of learning and imagination has been stripped away from students and teachers alike for the sake of numbers that translate into $$ for districts.

    Read 'A Test You Need to Fail': A Teacher's Open Letter to Her 8th Grade Students

  •  Military service (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, Odysseus

    I don't remember if it was SECNAV or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who said it, but one of those guys recently expressed worry that some alarming percentage of America's youth were not physically or mentally qualified for military service.  I would add emotionally as well.  I've been an officer for ten years now and even in that short time I've seen a sharp decline in the quality of young people entering the Navy (that applies both to deck seamen and newly commissioned ensigns).  The implications are truly frightening, both because it reduces America's ability to defend herself, and also because the military may have the means to draw a large number of those who can still make the cut, creating a kind of brain drain that further diminishes civil society.

    I read Shakespeare and Homer in high school, and while I had to get to college to discover that I actually had a favorite translation of the Iliad, I still knew the book before I got there.  The same goes for every other subject.  It terrifies me what kids these days don't know, and while I know that people have been making this same complaint since Horace wrote his ode to a generation of young Romans, I think we can actually quantify what we've lost.

    I'm with Nietzsche on this one.  Education is literally the most important thing that a civilization must do.  More important than business or even defense.  Without education, there is no civilization, and the other things become moot.

  •  Bring back comic books, pulp and other crap (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    OK, I'll admit it.  I liked to read as a kid, especially non-fiction, especially directionless meandering in the Encyclopedia.

    But if I were to add up the sheer number of hours of reading, and the extent to which the kids and I knew talked passionately about things we'd read, I'd say 75% of it was comic books -- Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Silver Surfer, MAD Magazine even Archie.

    Then we graduated to crap like Conan the Barbarian.

    I don't see kids having enough CRAP to read.  You know stuff they can read secretly when their parents tell them, "DON'T READ THAT!!!"

    •  Big Wonderwoman fan right here! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I can make any book interesting. As long as I am given the time and materials to do so.

      I don't see our schools allowing teachers that kind of room to be creative and to go in-depth.

      Everything is so rushed.

      As I got older, watching movies in class got more and more popular rather than reading books.

  •  When my son was in public school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We used to send a book with him to read on the bus, because he was bored with an extended bus ride and nothing to do. The bus staff was supportive and loved it.
    His teacher took the book away from him and I had to go to the school to get it. Why? Because she declared it a 'distraction'. I asked her if he wasn't getting his work done, she said no, that wasn't a problem, but he'd asked her if he could read when he was done with his work and waiting for the rest of the class to finish up. She decided that allowing him to read for pleasure instead of sitting at his desk trying to be quiet while doing nothing was too much of a 'distraction'.
    This is also a child who is autistic and ADHD, and was in a behavioral class, who was trying to find ways to help him focus and behave in class (especially during those trying times after he was done with his own work but others weren't). This was a child they constantly labeled as "behind" in reading comprehension because he doesn't test well, despite other evidence that his comprehension was fine. This was a child who WANTED to read and learn and yet, was being discouraged by the very people who were supposed to be teaching him.  I was completely outraged, and neither the teacher not the principal understood why.
    I never go anywhere without a book, or my Kindle. I've always been an avid reader. I read to my children whenever I got a chance, bus stops, waiting in line at the store, while travelling. And yet, when my child tries to read for pleasure during down time at school, they'd rather he sit and fold his hands on his desk and do nothing (an impossible task for him in the first place) then read a book.
    I'm glad this isn't the standard practice of educators out there.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 06:55:22 AM PDT

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