Suppose you write to your child and then remember he can’t read?
By Jon Rappoport
You wouldn’t want to be that kind of parent.
But schools can preempt you. They can bring your child along, all the way to graduation from high school—and it turns out he’s illiterate.
I want to describe several levels of illiteracy that afflict the young. There are more, but I’ll focus on three.
One: At age 16, he can’t read words and understand them beyond, say, a fourth grade level. He can’t read an article. He can’t read a food label. He can’t read a sign at a pond that says swimming is dangerous.
Two: He can read a newspaper article at a 10th grade level. He knows what most of the words mean. But he doesn’t know what the author is saying—he doesn’t know and can’t explain what each paragraph is stating. He can’t articulate that.
Three: He can read the same article and tell you something about what it means. He can articulate the meaning of most paragraphs. But he doesn’t know and can’t tell you what final point the author is making. Perhaps he isn’t even aware that the author is trying to make a point. And he certainly can’t explain HOW the author is reasoning, how the author is moving through a series of inferences to arrive at a conclusion.
The number-one level of illiteracy is easy to spot. But the other two aren’t, because people (including many teachers) never make proper inquiries of the student. They don’t ask what each paragraph of an article SPECIFICALLY means. They don’t ask for the overall point the author is making. They don’t ask how the author is arriving at his conclusion. So these aspects of literacy are shrouded in darkness.
You can find estimates of the amount of illiteracy in your home country, but these assessments, gloomy as they are, don’t cover all the basic issues I’m raising here. This is called a clue. The researchers themselves don’t recognize all the aspects of a literate person.
If you had access to a high-school class, and you started asking students pointed questions about the issues I’m raising here, with respect to a particular newspaper article, you would discover a giant hole in education.
“Look, here is an article about White House foreign policy. You just read it. What is author telling you? What basic point is he making in the article?”
Then stand back and watch what happens. Very little. Lots of blank faces.
Now, if you, as a parent, want to go even deeper, if you understand the article about foreign policy is driven by an agenda and the author is biased…what chance do you have? The students can’t even grasp what the author is SAYING.
A school teacher—or better yet, a home schooling parent—could undo all this damage. He could gradually take children through the three levels above and make sure the students emerge with a firm grasp of what it means to be literate. Not “in general,” but specifically.
When students are up to it, go over one article a dozen times (or more). Home in on each sentence, each paragraph, until the meanings become clear. Search for the conclusion the author is driving at. Finally, examine in detail HOW the author is arriving at his conclusion. Dig in. Dig in deep. Teach literacy as if you’re teaching anatomy, piece by piece.
The devil is in the details, as they say. Train students to find, appreciate, and understand details. Train them to be able to articulate the details. Don’t go for gloss and vague surface.
Over the course of a year, analyze a dozen or two dozen articles and watch what happens. Light bulbs go on. Students catch on. They begin to see through the fog. They turn into detectives. The glazed look in their eyes disappears. They move from passive to active. They show excitement. They’re alive. They’re alive to real education. Goofy transforms into sharp.
The potential ability was there. It was always there. It just needed to be brought out, step by step.
And then there is this: all the indoctrination that had been unleashed on students, all the training in “values” begins to vaporize. The students no longer accept it as a substitute for learning. They realize it was fluff and vapid generality.
They can find better values. They can find values based on the self-realization that they’re now alive and inquisitive and discerning—they’re capable, they’re not disabled. They don’t need fake learning and fake teachers and a fake system to push them along to graduation on a smooth river of pretense.
The conspiracy of pretense is gone, like a fever that the immune system demolishes.
Out of the vague and confusing mist, a literate person emerges.
Two basic cover stories permeate education these days. One, cooperative learning. In this setting, small teams of students are assigned projects. No individual student is responsible for his own work (a disaster). Two, the teacher asks students for their opinions about an article, an issue, a book. It’s assumed (by moral and cultural relativity theory) that students will have different and equally valid ideas about what they read. This skirts the fact that the students don’t truly understand what they’re reading in the first place. Therefore, what value do their opinions have?
All sorts of acrobatics are performed in the classroom to avoid the core fact of illiteracy.
This is a catastrophe. Every society and civilization has language. If the young aren’t taught that language successfully, they can’t function in many areas of life. Yes, some of them will succeed anyway, but the majority won’t. They’ll founder on the rocks of ignorance. The “culture” will concoct all sorts of reasons to support and excuse that ignorance, but the effort doesn’t wash. It merely postpones a day of reckoning.
To make true literacy come to pass, teachers and parents have to be literate themselves. This is a major issue, too. But a start needs to be made somewhere. To execute a course correction, somebody at the helm of a ship has to be able to steer. Somebody has to learn how.
Any person who has looked into the history of education in America soon learns—from authors John Taylor Gatto and Charlotte Iserbyt, for example—that the system has been intentionally rigged and degraded, because who in power wants millions of independent, literate, logical minds out there questioning and analyzing what elite power is really doing?
The way back from the swamp of incompetence and futility isn’t a short journey. But it can be accomplished, one teacher and one student at a time. One class at a time.
If not in a school, then at home.