Author’s Note: Please pardon the length of this article. Like so many others of late, it took on a life of its own. However, this topic deserves full-length treatment due to how it lies at the heart of America’s future and the quality of life for our nation as a whole. Many commonly held perceptions about the current state of public education will either be turned on their head or cemented for all time.

Hat Tip: Aerogramme Writers’ Studio

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” — James J. Harvey —

Wandering through some links in the course of last weekend’s investigative work, I chanced upon this interesting article with it’s somewhat irritating infographic about children’s books. Let’s face it; a timeline about “The Most Loved Children’s Books” that omits any mention of A.A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh” but lists the more recent “Twilight” series definitely cannot be firing on all cylinders.

Nevertheless, that infographic still contained these unsettling statistics:

· Middle income neighborhoods: 13 books per child
· Low income neighborhoods: one book per 300 children
· Absence of parental involvement can lower reading scores by 74%
· 1984: 9% of 17-year olds never read for pleasure
· 2004: 19% of 17-year olds never read for pleasure
· 2007: Only 30% of 13-year olds read every day
· 2008: Only 13% of 13 and 17 year-olds report reading on their own for fun

The otherwise useful article also managed to cite (and misquote) a far more disturbing Forbes magazine piece by Steve Cohen titled, “A $5 Children’s Book vs. a $47,000 Jail Cell — Choose One. It provided a few insights regarding illiteracy and crime that, for the uninitiated, might prove a little shocking.

· Texas uses fourth grade reading scores to project the number of prison cells they’re going to need 10 years later.
· 60% of America’s prison inmates are illiterate; and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.
· Today, fully 67% of American fourth-graders can’t read at the fourth-grade proficiency level; and 33% score below the basic competency level.

While the method that Texas uses to anticipate prison construction is more nuanced than what is shown above, it demonstrates a clear connection between illiteracy and crime. The fact is that the average American prison inmate’s reading skills are below those of the typical fifth-grader. All of which means that if you are not reading at grade proficiency by age ten, incarceration probably will be a feature of your adult life, if not a whole lot sooner.

One of my responses to the Aerogramme Writers’ Studio piece reads as follows:

In the course of my morning’s research I came across this prophetically damning quote from “A Nation at Risk”, (the 1983 report of American President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education), that is attributed to James J. Harvey:

“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

The above quote, when taken in combination with the following two, paints a particularly bleak picture.

“Consider that a 12th-grade student who scored well enough on the verbal portion of the SAT to get into a selective college has a vocabulary somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 words. Do the math: acquiring such a sizable vocabulary by rote would mean learning 10-20 new words every day until freshman orientation, assuming you came home from the delivery room having learned your first few dozen words.”Robert Pondiscio

“The most secure way to predict whether an educational policy is likely to help restore the middle class and help the poor is to focus on the question: ‘Is this policy likely to translate into a large increase in the vocabularies of 12th-graders?’ When questions of fairness and inequality come up in discussions, parents would do well to ask whether it’s fair of schools to send young people into a world where they suffer from vocabulary inequality.”E.D. Hirsch Jr.

Quite clearly, we are at war with an academic mediocracy whose insistence upon social conformism (e.g., Political Correctness), has amounted to a war against America itself.

———————— End of Comment ————————

As many readers of this blog know, academia in America and Europe rank among the most enthusiastic advocates of Cultural Marxism. The Great Leveling that has been going on in America over the past fifty years now threatens the very core of this country’s foundations. This catastrophic process requires an electorate flush with intellectually stunted and enfeebled minds to vote in an incompetent buffoon like Barrak Hussein Obama. His administration’s categorical assault upon America’s constitution could only occur in the sight of a populace blinded by abject ignorance.

When one considers how a primary objective of Political Correctness is to reduce individual vocabulary, the impact of this insidious policy upon society as a whole becomes unavoidably apparent. In his appendix to “1984”, this is what author George Orwell had to say about vocabulary. From “The Principles of Newspeak“:

“To give a single example – The word free still existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in such statements as “The dog is free from lice” or “This field is free from weeds.” It could not be used in its old sense of “politically free” or “intellectually free,” since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.” [emphasis added]

A classic example of Newspeak is its use of modifiers like “un”, “plus” and “doubleplus”. Accordingly, if something is bad, it is “ungood”. If it is worse, it is “plus ungood. The very worst becomes “doubleplus ungood”. What is vital to notice is that there is no longer anything that is actually “bad”. There are now only various shades of “good”. A world stripped of polar opposites loses its dualistic perspective of thought. The detriment that this poses to general intelligence and critical analysis cannot be overstated. Orwell knew this with crystal clarity and we are all damned by our collective inability or unwillingness to perceive the evil of Politically Correct speech for what is.

In his Wall Street Journal article Hirsch also notes how:

“All verbal tests are, at bottom, vocabulary tests. To predict competence most accurately, the U.S. military’s Armed Forces Qualification Test gives twice as much weight to verbal scores as to math scores, and researchers such as Christopher Winship and Anders D. Korneman have shown that these verbally weighted scores are good predictors of income level. Math is an important index to general competence, but on average words are twice as important.” [emphasis added]

Got that? The ability to read, write and give or receive an order is twice as important as accurately counting ammunition or performing range finding for an artillery piece. Imagine that? What does it say when the military—as in those who are first in harm’s way—places more importance on the ability to communicate clearly? In turn, just how dim are the survival prospects for a society that cannot convey or precisely record its own thoughts, much less even think them in the first place? Especially when Politically Correct thought has the explicit intent of destroying that already diminished capacity.

In another article, Robert Pondiscio cites Hirsch’s observation that:

“there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age six is the single highest correlate with later success”.

Pondiscio rightfully implores us to note that Hirsch specifies “general knowledge AND vocabulary” and not vocabulary alone, but the connection between articulation and literacy cannot be denied. There appears in the comments appended to this piece a pair of particularly succinct remarks. The first is by reader and educator, Peter Ford:

When I go to the nearest Apple Store in Manhattan Beach, CA, you can hear distinctly how parents communicate with their children: complete sentences, thoughtful sentences, rich vocabulary.

Now, let me go to the Wal-Mart at the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza in LA, and you hear a completely different type of conversation: “SHUT THE H@LL UP!” “GET YOUR A@# OVER HERE!” “PUT THAT DOWN, DAMN!”

No teacher should be surprised when that child is 11-13 years old and talking that same way in school, and even worse can’t read a grade-level textbook.

There’s your achievement gap, and it would take a 7-8 year continuum of stellar teachers and schools to make up even half of it, which is simply not the reality anywhere let alone our urban cores.

To which another participant named John Webster, in part, replied:

Peter (comment 13) distills the achievement gap into two sentences, and renders superfluous tens of thousands of pages of books, articles, essays, and dissertations. I’ve made the same observations for at least 20 years, although in many quarters it would be very un-PC to verbalize those thoughts.

Very “un-PC” indeed! As our schools, textbooks, literature, mass media and popular culture are increasingly flooded with Politically Correct Newspeak, the concomitant shriveling of personal vocabulary is not just unsurprising, it is to be expected. As an example of this, in his article “Vocabulary is the New Black”, Pondiscio notes how:

Even the simplest texts tend to have more rare and unique words than even the richest spoken language (the language of children’s books is more linguistically rich and complex than the conversation of even college graduates).

Later in the previously mentioned thread, Ford makes yet another interesting contribution:

A student during the school year spends less than 5% of their time in my presence in a classroom; if you include the summer, it drops to well under 4%. If a student spends only 24% of their time around teachers, and the other 76% is chaos and dysfunction, 7-8 years of Marva Collins’, Ron Clarks, and Jaime Escalantes would not have most of them applying to UCLA or Stanford.

I do not consider it ‘culture’ that accounts for at least the tone and tenor of your conversation with your children. My grandparents had barely a HS education but did not talk that way around my parents, who both had college degrees. They may not have read Shakespeare, but I know they read the King James Bible, which is very language rich. The real (and avoided for many) issue is ETHICS, which of course we don’t engage well at all in public schools.

To expand upon Ford’s laudable assertion, just as with ethics, neither do we want our public classrooms teaching morals. Equally important is the fact that, while ethics can be legislated, morals cannot—regardless of repeated efforts to do so by Left and Right alike. Schools have been attempting to teach morals for decades now and they’ve made an unspeakable dog’s breakfast of a task better left to parents and community. This remains the central issue throughout America today. Like any good revolution, ethics, morals and education all begin at home. If they are not put in place—at least to some nominal extent—before school age then, through default, that task devolves to educators or, worse yet, the schoolyard. With the necessary abdication by educators—who suffer from an overload caused by massive student teacher class ratios—the schoolyard now mentors our children in this race to the precipice.

As Hirsch points out, “Analyses of schoolbooks between 1940 and 1960 show a marked dilution of subject matter and vocabulary.” Concurrent with a drastic reduction of complex content and rich language in American public school textbooks, there has also been a sharp decline in this nation’s ethics and moral fiber. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the halls of state and federal government. What are the implications of allowing such morally and ethically void politicians to vote upon funding and approve the curriculum of America’s public schools? Can anyone blame parents for enrolling their children in private academies or resorting to the arduous task of home schooling?

In an article by David Shenk titled, “The 32 Million Word Gap”, he describes the findings of Kansas psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley as they investigated why—despite being funded to the tune of $7 billion annually—America’s federal preschool program Head Start barely manages to improve the academic success of its three and four year-old wards. While it does keep a small percent of low-income children out of poverty and steer them away from a life of crime, it shows only marginal gains in literacy or vocabulary and zero impact on mathematical skills.

The following three excerpts illuminate just how severe the “culture gap” is with respect to parental involvement in the stimulation and encouragement of learning in their own children.

The differences were astounding. Children in professionals’ homes were exposed to an average of more than fifteen hundred more spoken words per hour than children in welfare homes. Over one year, that amounted to a difference of nearly 8 million words, which, by age four, amounted to a total gap of 32 million words. They also found a substantial gap in tone and in the complexity of words being used. As they crunched the numbers, they discovered a direct correlation between the intensity of these early verbal experiences and later achievement. “We were astonished at the differences the data revealed,” Hart and Risley wrote in their book Meaningful Differences. “The most impressive aspects [are] how different individual families and children are and how much and how important is children’s cumulative experience before age 3.”

In 2003, a national study reported the positive influence of early parent-to-child reading, regardless of parental education level. In 2006, a similar study again found the same thing about reading, this time ruling out any effects of race, ethnicity, class, gender, birth order, early education, maternal education, maternal verbal ability, and maternal warmth.

Hart and Risley also found that, in the first four years after birth, the average child from a professional family receives 560,000 more instances of encouraging feedback than discouraging feedback; a working-class child receives merely 100,000 more encouragements than discouragements; a welfare child receives 125,000 more discouragements than encouragements. [emphasis added]

Backing up this “culture gap” in education is the following article, “Smart vs. cool: Culture, race and ethnicity in Silicon Valley schools”. An excerpt:

Using surveys of 90,000 secondary-school students, Harvard University researchers found that white students were more popular when they had higher grade-point averages. But black students’ popularity sharply declined when their GPAs reached a B-plus. For Latinos, the price of good grades was even costlier: Popularity peaked at a C-plus, then plunged.

Any rational person knows that education is the sole route out of poverty. How insanely toxic is it for Blacks and Hispanics—or any culture at all—to ridicule the value of scholastic achievement? There springs to mind, in all its racist glory, the concept of “acting White”, a theme that will reappear in this essay soon enough. However, this time—regardless of what the media would have you believe—it is racism against Whites being demonstrated by this hideous disdain for education. What other explanation is there?

The incarceration statistics back this up with rock-solid fact.

Should anyone doubt these numbers, consider this. While making up a bare few (as in 2 or 3) percentage points of the American population—and with nearly one million of them already behind bars—Black males between the ages of 14 and 35 are responsible for over 50% of all violent crimes such as murder, rape, battery and sexual assault. The illegitimacy rate among Blacks is a staggering 73%. If they are not sucking on a crack pipe, imprisoned or cavorting with their player gangsta boyfriends, how many honest hardworking Black women have the spare time to read their children bedtime stories, much less provide them with a continuous narrative of daily activity that enhances learning and vocabulary? Black America stands as stark testimony to the importance of parental involvement with childrearing, learning and education in general.

Another excerpt; this time from “Playing Catch-Up”, by Robert Pondiscio:

“Among students who were ‘far off track’ in reading in 8th grade, only 10 percent achieved college and career ready standards 4 years later. In math and science, the percentage was even lower. And over 40 percent of African American students taking ACT’s EXPLORE exam in 8th grade scored ‘far off track’ in reading–as did 50% in math and 74% in Science. Put that together and you can’t like those odds.”

“’Far off track’ 8th graders who attended schools in the top 10 percent of performance were roughly 3 times as likely to get back on track by 12th grade as the total sample,” Mead observes. ”But even looking at the top 10 percent of schools, the percentage of ‘far off track’ students getting back on track never exceeded 30%.” [emphasis added]

Clearly, the literacy rates of America’s Black community, especially in the most vital category of being “proficient”, are dismal at best. In fact, between 1992 and 2003, the percentage of actual proficiency did not change at all. The ratio of proficiency between Blacks and Whites—9:1 in 1992 and +7:1 in 2003—shows an almost direct correspondence to the historic ratio of incarceration for Blacks, traditionally about six or seven to one, when compared to Whites. In this matter, literacy itself is not the sole issue. Much to his dismay, Hirsch discovered this while taking time off from his research a University of Virginia to conduct a class at the local community college:

Hirsch’s awakening began one day in 1978 in a community college English class in Richmond, Virginia. He had conducted most of his research on reading comprehension and writing at the University of Virginia. On this day, however, Hirsch was testing reading assignments at the community college. The community college students, most of them black, read with roughly the same fluency and comprehension as their U-Va. peers. But to Hirsch’s surprise, the students “became baffled when they had to read about Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox. That passage was as incomprehensible to them as a Hegel essay on philosophy was to the U-Va. students.” [emphasis added]

The article goes on to note:

Hirsch’s book grew out of his concern with the decline of literacy in America. Our schools, writes Hirsch, have produced a generation of “cultural illiterates.” To press his point, he cites a recent study showing that half of the 17-year-olds in this country can’t identify Stalin or Churchill, and three-fourths don’t know that the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900.

According to Hirsch, real literacy depends on an “acquaintance with one’s national culture” — thus the term “cultural literacy.” He likens cultural literacy to the kind of knowledge that allows a person to pick up a newspaper and comprehend what he or she is reading. It is that shared body of information about mainstream culture that every American must possess to communicate efficiently and participate effectively in society. [emphasis added]

The counter-arguments from this same article, posed against Hirsch, are equally revealing:

Not only is the method Hirsch promotes suspect by critics, but also the content of the curriculum he prescribes. Among the concerns frequently voiced is: “Whose form of knowledge, culture, vision, history and authority will prevail as the national culture?” In other words, who will be asked to compile this list of core contents to be taught to every student across the nation? Will they, like Hirsch, be white, middle-class males? Forcing every student to accept the “national culture” that Hirsch advocates is a subtle form of racism and sexism. It is an attempt to force on all citizens the values implicit in the culture of the dominant social class. As such it is [socially] unjust. [emphasis added]

Notice those favorite playthings of the Liberals—racism, sexism and Social Justice—rearing their ugly little heads? A more frank assessment of their protests might be termed as “acting White”, and contain far more truth.

Of course, nowhere will these same Liberals ever admit that part of “acting White” means not breaking the law or earning an honest living. This is something that Liberals, and the media that they control, would rather die than ever have come to light. Perish the thought that “Law & Order: SVU” would ever show some minority individual committing a heinous crime—a vast majority of the show’s perpetrators are White males. Nor will these same Liberals disclose that spending more money on schools is not the solution. Some charts: (click following links to enlarge)

America spends an average of over $10,500 per student (in some districts the actual figure exceeds $20,000), each year and yet—in 25th place—barely manages to keep up with Iran in terms of improving test scores. Compare this miserable performance with the tiny country of Poland—flourishing in 7th place—that spends less than $5,000 per year on educating its pupils. Contrary to what Liberals would have you believe, throwing money at this problem will not make it go away.

Thankfully, Robert Pondiscio has the courage to mention “Dead White Males” in the face of “identity quotas” that demand schoolroom curricula follow a “… system whereby the representation of authors must mirror the population in race and gender”. While the Left can be counted upon to screech and wail about their precious Social Justice, several generations of semi-literate, innumerate and vocationally incompetent high school graduates or dropouts—not to mention critically overcrowded federal penitentiaries—all furnish grim testimony as to the efficacy of a Liberal-controlled public education system.

Finally, it’s time for a little global perspective. Considering the abovementioned “culture gap”, try to imagine how monumental that difference is with respect to Muslim majority nations and other cultures where women are intentionally denied access to schooling or literacy. Who will ever read their kids a bedtime story? What chances are there for a Saudi mother to provide her child with a continuous narrative of daily life when she cannot even go out of doors without an older male relative escorting her. Likewise, here in America, many inner-city minority children are also prisoners in their own homes because of how drive-by shootings can turn an outdoor stroll into a fatal excursion.

As it has ever been, real education—and not indoctrination with Liberal pap or rote memorization of the Qur’an that currently is being fobbed off as such—provides the only functional path out of poverty or closes the culture gap. Time will tell if American parents are sufficiently outraged over public schools being turned into minimum-security detention centers whose sole function is to prepare their children for a lifetime of burger flipping. How many more generations will chant the dolorous refrain of, “Would you like fries with that?”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Edward Spalton May 28, 2013 at 3:41 pm

In England the system was wrecked by “comprehensive” education. Previously things varied a little from one area to another but there were usually three sorts of secondary schools – grammar schools, technical schools and a more general type called Secondary Modern. There was an exam , called the “eleven plus” because it was taken at that age which decided which sort of school you went to.

I was at school in the mid Fifties in Leicestershire which was the first county to go comprehensive (abolish selection by ability). The Leader of the local council rather gave away the real motivation. He was a Labour Party politician and was reported in the local paper as saing “Good working class lads go to grammar school, get good jobs and vote Tory (Conservative). We’re going to put a stop to that. ”

Our teachers were horrified. They were in the job to provide opportunities not levelling. Whilst they never told us their politics, I guess that many were Labour supporters , regarding that party as the party of equality of opportunity. But some Labour politicians were also keen that there should be equality of outcome. Working class children “should rise with their class not out of it” was the meaningless slogan, I later learned.

All my subsequent experience as a parent and (for a short time) as a school governor suggests to me that the system has deteriorated ever since. There are good state schools which tend to be in the better-off areas with ambitious parents. There are good teachers working miracles in spite of the system. The National Union of Teachers is very left wing and you only have to see the reports of its national conference to know what is wrong – plus, of curse, the teacher training system which is largely influenced by cultural Marxism too.

2 Zenster May 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Edward Spalton: But some Labour politicians were also keen that there should be equality of outcome.

This is, perhaps, one of the most frightening developments in the past few decades. These Liberal loons simply do not seem to comprehend what, in a moment of uncharacteristic prescience, ex-President Gerald Ford warned of when he said:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

Any political body capable of satisfying your every whim would necessarily have to be of such immense power that tyranny could only be the next logical outcome. I think that Brits discovered this with the National Health. Already, that organization is rationing health care and even relatively urgent treatments according to whom they feel is most deserving. Surely a prime opportunity to carry out an agenda if ever there was one.

As to schools and “selection by ability”, we in America had something similar that was then known as “tracking”. Subject classes were split out into tracks I-IV with the track IV class essentially being remedial. After outcries over the track IV classes being little more than basket weaving sessions, tracking was abolished and schoolrooms full of well-performing students were invaded by the disruptive thugs and cretins who continue to drag down everyone else’s learning process to this day.

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