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College illiteracy stuns educators

By Samuel L. Blumenfeld
web posted January 23, 2006

Shocked, stunned, and appalled are American educators as they study the recent report from the National Center of Education Statistics, which reveals that only 31 percent of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. "It's really astounding," said Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association. "That's not saying much for the remainder," he added, meaning that 69 percent of our college graduates cannot read at or above a "proficient" level. By the way, "extrapolate" means being able to arrive at conclusions "by hypothesizing from known facts or observations." (Webster's New World Dictionary, 1988)

Absolutely appalled by the results of the survey was Mark S. Schneider, commissioner of education statistics, who remarked, "The declining impact of education on our adult population was the biggest surprise for us, and we just don't have a good explanation. What's disturbing is that the assessment is not designed to test your understanding of Proust, but to test your ability to read labels."

The Boston Globe (12/26/05) explained that the test measured how well adults handled basic reading tasks—such as figuring out costs per ounce of food items, comparing viewpoints on two editorials, and reading prescription labels. Of graduate students tested in 2003, 41 percent were classified as "proficient" in prose—able to read and understand information in short texts—down 10 percent since 1992. As for college graduates, only 31 percent were classified as proficient—compared with 40 percent in 1992. The results were based on a sample of more than 19,000 individuals 16 or older, who were interviewed in their homes. They were asked to read prose, do math, and find facts in documents.

Of course, this writer predicted the decline of literacy in America in my first book on the subject, The New Illiterates, published in 1973. In that book I analyzed the methods of teaching reading in our schools and concluded that children subjected to the prevalent whole-word or look-say method would become reading disabled. I had also discovered that this teaching method was invented by the Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet back in 1830s as a means of teaching the deaf to read at his school in Hartford. He believed that this method could be adapted for use by normal children. And so, it was tried experimentally in the primary schools of Boston in the early 1840s, and the result was massive reading failure. The deaf-teaching method was thrown out of the schools but was brought back by the progressive educators at the turn of the last century as a means of dumbing down the American people so that they could be easily led to accept socialism as a new way of life.

After confirming the damaging effects of look-say, I created an easy-to-use phonetic reading program for parents so that they could teach their children to read at home and therefore avoid the misery and frustration that the public schools were inflicting on millions of children. Thousands of parents took advantage of the program and have had great success in producing highly literate children.

In other words, my work and the work of the Reading Reform Foundation, which advocated a return to phonics in the schools, were available to educators for over thirty years. And, of course, I was not the first to draw attention to the reading problem. Today's educators, in their self-induced amnesia, forget that Rudolf Flesch wrote his famous book, Why Johnny Can't Read in 1955, a half-century ago! He explained what the problem was and told them how to cure it.

Thus, when educators tell us "we just don't have a good explanation," they are lying through their teeth. Not only are they aware of the teaching methods debate, but they do all in their power to keep intensive, systematic phonics out of the schools. And they shamelessly continue to be "puzzled" by the decline of literacy in America.

Having been on the front lines of the "reading war" since 1973, I can state categorically that we are dealing with a liberal-socialist teaching establishment that has its own social and political agenda which it has imposed on public education. Everyone knows that the public schools have been in the hands of the liberal left since the 1930s, and that the politically powerful National Education Association has a radical leftist agenda, which it promotes among teachers and teachers of teachers. The school curriculum, the teaching methods, the philosophy of education they promote is the cause of our literacy decline. And there is no one in state or federal government capable of doing anything about it.

That is why the homeschool movement continues to grow. More and more parents have come to the realization that the public schools are controlled by those who want to impose their social philosophy over the entire nation. It is now called "political correctness," and it permeates every aspect of our lives.

The need for educational freedom is now greater than ever. A free society cannot survive without it. If you would like to help teach your own children to read at home, you can get my reading program by emailing me at slblu@netway.com. And if you would like to join the movement for educational freedom, contact the Alliance for the Separation of School and State. Just type in the name of the organization on Google, and you'll be directed to it.

Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education, including, "Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers," "The Whole Language/OBE Fraud," and "Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children." These books are available on Amazon.com.

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