Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Regna Lee Wood on literacy

From surfing Lew Rockwell I read this article by Linda Schrock Taylor:

Keeping Their Toes to the Fire

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

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

Literacy rates

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

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

Reading Grade Levels

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


Literacy is a touchy subject, and it is measured in different ways by different people.

The following comes from an outfit called Pro Literacy Detroit:

Functional Illiteracy Defined

Functional illiteracy refers to the inability of an individual to use reading, speaking, writing, and computational skills in everyday life situations. The functional illiterate person cannot process written material. Quite often, this person is unable to understand basic mathematics.

The impact of functional illiteracy is tremendous. The health, safety, and welfare of entire families are compromised. Illiteracy tends to be intergenerational, resulting in poor academic performance, and higher school dropout rates among school-age children in homes where caregivers cannot read. The inability to read dosage information on over-the-counter and prescription drugs is life threatening.

Now get these statistics from the same site:

The Scope of Functional Illiteracy in Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck, Michigan Adult literacy estimates, complied by the National Institute for Literacy in 1998, for Detroit , Highland Park , and Hamtramck , defined illiteracy rates, among adults as follows: Detroit 47%, Highland Park , 56%, Hamtramck 38%. The social and economic impact of illiteracy in these cities is staggering.

Those stats are an eye opener. One thing I have to beg though, isn't that a run-on sentence in bold? Couldn't they clean that up a bit? I shouldn't throw stones about English composition, but they are a literacy site. That said, half of the city of Detroit being functionally illiterate is staggering. Where is the outrage?

Back to Regna Lee Wood:

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

But apparently no one did notice. No one wondered why virtually all World War II recruits with any schooling could read, whereas 17 out of 100 Korean War recruits could not read.

I should add for further reading an article by Gary North "The Good Old Days". I think it is a classic and one of my internet favorites. It touches on historical literacy as well. It is tough to quote it without quoting too much of it so check it out...

From John Taylor Gatto, Intellectual Espionage

"Looking back, abundant data exist from states like Connecticut and Massachusetts to show that by 1840 the incidence of complex literacy in the United States was between 93 and 100 percent wherever such a thing mattered. According to the Connecticut census of 1840, only one citizen out of every 579 was illiterate and you probably don’t want to know, not really, what people in those days considered literate; it’s too embarrassing. Popular novels of the period give a clue: Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826, sold so well that a contemporary equivalent would have to move 10 million copies to match it. If you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a dense thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can handle it nowadays. Yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of. Could those simple folk have had more complex minds than our own?

By 1940, the literacy figure for all states stood at 96 percent for whites, 80 percent for blacks. Notice that for all the disadvantages blacks labored under, four of five were nevertheless literate. Six decades later, at the end of the twentieth century, the National Adult Literacy Survey and the National Assessment of Educational Progress say 40 percent of blacks and 17 percent of whites can’t read at all. Put another way, black illiteracy doubled, white illiteracy quadrupled. Before you think of anything else in regard to these numbers, think of this: we spend three to four times as much real money on schooling as we did sixty years ago, but sixty years ago virtually everyone, black or white, could read

I always wondered why anyone thought it was a good idea to put the government in charge of educating our children. Sphere: Related Content

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