Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why Can't Jamal Read

This is a question that has plagued the US education system for at least 60 years. The reasons are many and various but it comes down mainly to expectations. Many years ago a book called “Why Johnny Can’t Read” caused an uproar and began the inexorable degradation of the public school system. Of course this was not the intention and the real point was missed.

Among the solutions proposed and adopted was to throw money at the problem. This is the American Way. It was thought that teachers didn’t really know how to teach so they were required to get degrees in education (pedagogy is the term today) and pay was increased. All to no avail, things only got worse. Statistics showed that on the whole students in the US were way behind the rest of the world and when minority (African-American) student statistics were taken separately they were the worst.

Initially it was thought that black meant low intelligence, then there was cultural bias, then there was racial prejudice, then again not enough money, inadequate buildings, not enough money for teachers.  What was the problem and what is the problem now?

Somehow the nation got educated during the years of one room school houses, the use of public libraries, but most important the families emphasized education.  This was certainly true of George Washington Carver, W.E. B. Dubois, and many other African-American scientists and scholars who overcame their obvious disadvantages to rise to the top of the culture. The impetus is different today due to the culture of entitlement and absence of responsibility.

The education system in the US today expects poor children to fail and one normally gets the results one expects.  The minority culture has an aspect that encourages failure by the mainstream standards.  Don’t be like whitey is a refrain that is heard over and over again, even among Hispanics.  This dumbing down brought the phenomenon of Ebonics, the theory being that black children are so alienated they can’t learn to  speak English correctly.  That idea demonstrates the capitulation made by “educators.”

The schools are, in the main, directed and managed by people who start out to do good and end up damaging society.  An education is more than good self-esteem, it has end points that must be considered, set out, and met.  Simply wanting everyone to feel good about themselves and their comrades is ludicrous. Poverty is not an excuse for the school administration’s failure.  Families matter and must be part of any child’s successful education.

There are many college graduates that are not fully educated.  They have no social graces, are selfish, inconsiderate, and many cannot really read and write especially to their certified level.  The elites in this country actually want the masses to fail so that the competition for upward mobility, so roundly touted, will be much less and easier to cope with.  There is a very subtle but very strong streak of anti-intellectualism in the United States and this alone is enough to make certain that Jamal won’t ever learn to read.  That is unless his parents insist upon it.

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