Beth Fine

Educational Fiction Author – Serious Thinker – Child at Heart

Johnny (Still) Can’t Read

Remember the adage Johnny Can’t Read. Honestly, Janie did little better? Baffling as it was, we still have the same problem … only the names have changed. We now produce Kristins and Kevins…Keishas and Kyles…Kellys and Kennys…Kendras and Kalebs who still cannot read!

Degreed educational doctors and curriculum specialists annually wrestle over new acronyms to describe the latest pedagogical methods to create effective, inspired, and comprehending readers. The method changes names every year: but again, the results remain about the same.

Even with improved college training, pay incentives, career ladders, and new curriculum materials, teachers still see scores sag. An unknown, unseen, unanalyzed gaseous mixture keeps bubbling and backfiring?

Some blame working parents; others point to insufficient government funding. The rest condemn the governmental attempts at public education as social-engineering.

But how we got here is not as important as how we can move away from this failing paradigm.

While teaching developmental English in community colleges here in the States, I often had students who were unable to research an idea or to write coherent sentences on a subject about which they obviously felt great passion. It broke my heart but sharpened my focus on how to direct their lessons.

When old ideas like Western Civilization, IQ↑ tests, and college entrance exams get shelved as passé, unfriendly, or discriminatory, the right to higher education has transformed into a government-mandated goal whether it fits a person or not. For many, that false goal becomes a stumbling block rather than a door to develop their uniqueness. Subsequently, failure to finish a degree becomes a self-esteem issue.

Whether or not pop culture and social agendas have replaced a classical academic approach to education, schools have definitely suffered in their own reputations. Parents have lost confidence in the public schools’ ability to crank out productive, informed citizens who can think critically and function in a world of evermore complexity. Critical thinking is a necessity not a course to ace, but rather it is a life skill.

Maybe parents can offer a bit of critical thinking to this conundrum. For over 40 years, we have had to adjust our views and accept an ever-in-flux curriculum of multicultural studies, new math, creative spelling, revisionist history, and pass/fail grading. Combine those innovations with the fall-out of self-esteem issues, social media, Internet fatigue, nervous system overload, and the latest drug addiction, and you have an almost insolvable dilemma. Perhaps this monster truck needs an NASCAR-level engine overhaul … rather than another oil change.


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