Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teachers Group Redefines Literacy - Again

Being a compulsive reader, I feel as if I have been hit squarely in the gut whenever I encounter another young person, including 20-somethings, who can barely read. As an individual who has a deep appreciation for understanding the origins/foundations of one's culture or civilization, I grieve at the thought of multiple generations of Americans who will find  it too hard a task even to learn about events and individuals who were crucial to the development of Western Culture. These are no longer taught in our schools, and the consequence of enforced illiteracy is that it is too difficult a task for many to attempt to learn on their own.

My first post on this immensely important subject treated the crime of the wholesale abandonment of the use of our alphabet to teach children to read. Word Recognition, Whole-Word, Dolch System - all of these are euphemisms for creating functional illiterates:

My second post consisted of comments, along with excerpts from an outstanding source, on the Leftist-inspired origins of the Whole Word system. Those who introduced this system made it painfully clear that being able to read was overrated, and I am not kidding:

The third concerned the lowering of acceptable literacy rates for black students in Florida schools. This one was the most sickening of the first three:

This post treats an essay in The American Thinker from the same source that I quoted in the second. Bruce Deitrick Price runs a website that is dedicated to detailing the failures of our current educational models, exposing the advocates of the dysfunctional programs, and providing tools to overcome the restrictions imposed on our children by our educational system.

In this essay, Mr. Deitrick Price outlines one of the most recent moves by a teacher's group that purposely cheapens to very term "literacy". In the statements quoted below, literacy is said to mean almost anything. We are also assured that, due to the advances in digital technology, not only do young people already have sufficient knowledge that dwarfs that of their teachers, it is also of greater importance to ensure that they are more capable of readings tidbits dished out to them by their handlers on electronic media than to be able to research on their own:

Bolding and bracketed statements are mine.

"The National Council of Teachers of English recently announced: "Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. [Isn't that just a precious claim] As society and technology change, so does literacy." [Catch that. literacy "changes"]

These people give good sophistry. Presto, literacy can now be defined any way they want. When these Teachers of English get through, it's a safe bet they won't spend as much time teaching English.

The NCTE states: "[S]uccessful participants in this 21st century global society must: develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology; build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose [sic] and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought; design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes; manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information; create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts; attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments."

A bunch of school teachers presented the NCTE's thinking in a video titled "What Does It Mean to be Literate in the 21st Century?" They concluded: "[N]ew media in a technological world is shaping the lives of youth and that as a result, redefining the literacy skills that will be necessary for youth to be able to function successfully in the world they are growing up in. [Teachers dangling prepositions]  The latter implies, by necessity, that the how, what and why of teaching literacy must also change."

These teachers, not too literate themselves, expect that the "static, print-centric notion of literacy" will be discarded.

So here's the unfolding plan. Concoct dozens of phrases containing the word literacy. Insist that kids must have them all: computer literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, social literacy, visual literacy, critical literacy, financial literacy, entertainment literacy, health literacy, etc.

My favorite bit in this video is when a teacher says: "There is no way teachers know a fraction of what the kids know. Most of the kids in the higher grades know way more than we do." This is capitulation. Teachers (now called facilitators) aren't expected to teach, so they don't have to know a lot. All the things the kids know by using iPhones and iPads will define a literate person. Students walk into school almost a finished product.
Skill with computers is a wonderful thing. But does it follow that traditional skills become trivial?.........

Keep in mind that the stats on literacy have been declining for 80 years. Way before anyone heard of computers, public schools routinely neglected the basic skills. Clearly, progressive educators never considered literacy a top priority. Now, they have a new excuse for giving it even less attention. Instead of emergency action on the reading front, which we desperately need, the people in charge of teaching English are saying no, don't bother with that old-fashioned stuff..........."

My computer is terribly slow tonight, so I will be brief.

GPS systems are great. In the wilderness they can pinpoint your location and that of your destinations, provide you with a direction and length of travel, and and often have many other neat tricks such as beacons that can be used when injured. What they cannot do, though is be a substitute for knowing how to use a compass and a map, including all the field-expedient methods for determining direction and distance. Batteries die, satellites systems go on the fritz, excessive cloud cover or heavy tree canopies block signals, and broken GPS units will leave one lost beyond measure if the basics have not been learned. If a hiker cannot break out a full-sized map and be able to understand the meanings of the colors, elevation lines, or azimuth adjustments, let alone find what one sees in the actual terrain on the map itself, then he is not a hiker at all and has no business going it alone in the woods. 

If a student cannot read as well as his grandfather, then he was not taught how to read. He will not be able to make his way in the world without an excessive reliance on electronic gadgets (as great as they are if used properly) and other people.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reflecting on my article about literacy in the 21st century.

    There were a lot of great comments on American Thinker; but a teacher in England, on another forum, sent what is perhaps the perfect, ultimately scary response:

    "I have had students who were seen as computer competent; they were able to use a search engine, produce an eye pleasing document, email it, turn it into a PDF or post it on a website. Yet when asked to read the content of their work, they were unable. In my opinion being able to 'cut and paste' does not make a student literate. More and more students are able to use technology to mask their reading difficulties, which results in more students being let down by the educational system." WL


    So the kids "mask" their problems. And the school pretends that the masking is itself a sign of brilliance. I think this is a nightmare that nobody really anticipated.

    Thanks for your interest. Good luck with your own crusade.

    Bruce Price