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February 7, 2008 |
A Note from GK:
This website is all about an old radio show and its listeners but sometimes the real world butts in and this week we're attaching a sheaf of responses to a column I wrote
for the Tribune Syndicate and salon.com which touched on the sensitive issue of public education and lousy reading scores among fourth-graders. I was aware of the "reading wars" phonics vs. whole language philosophies but I wasn't quite prepared for the ferocity of responses to a column that wanted to make a few basic points that seemed rather sensible to me:
- Teaching children to read is a basic moral responsibility of our society and it is not acceptable that 27% of Minnesota fourth-graders seem to be in danger of growing up functionally illiterate.
- The whole-language approach does not work for all children some children are much better served by phonics (my child included) and educational poobahs who have a big personal stake in the prevailing whole-language philosophy are not serving my child and other children like her.
- Democrats who throw away No Child Left Behind and the Reading First program because they are a legacy of the Current Occupant, even though there is merit to the idea of accountability by way of testing, are putting politics ahead of the real needs of children. The interests of teachers' unions and the interests of schoolchildren are not always synonymous. And when you place yourself between parents and their children, you are in a dangerous place. Parents are ferocious in advocating for their children.
I've made the same points in a couple of speeches to groups of Democrats and it was interesting how quiet the room got when I said a good word for No Child Left Behind. I don't care. Parents are pretty trusting of schools and teachers, and reverence for education runs very deep in this country, but we spend plenty on education and taxpayers have a right to an accounting. I'm all for unions but when you do lousy work, you have to accept some responsibility for it.
That's basic. If the orchestra sounds terrible, it's not good enough to fight for job security. I'm sorry, but that's the truth, Ruth.
That's my position as a lay person and father of a fourth-grader. For other views, you can click here