Why Reading Instruction Must Be Addressed First

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Why Reading Instruction Must Be Addressed First!
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The title of this book tells it all...Retarding America:  The Imprisonment of Potential.  This study on juvenile facilities finds that the most common denominator among all those incarcerated is poor reading skills ... not single family homes or any other socioeconomic factor.  Proficient readers perform well in school. This builds true self-esteem which cannot be taught in a "course."  Success in school leads to success in life.

Reading is the most basic component of education.  Yet, reading instruction has fallen victim to Progressive Education that replaced Traditional Education in the 1960s.  With the social tumult of the 60s, the Department of Education was founded and peopled with educators intent upon succeeding in bringing about a social revolution.  As the result, social justice took a first while actual education took a back seat.  Unfortunately, as the result of using our schools as cultural laboratories, those children this ideology intended to help have been those most harmed.

 It has been about ten years since I "gave up" trying to "fix" education in my hometown.  The effort was sadly defeating and depressing.  I retreated to my garden and cried thinking of all of those bright eager children I had taught who came to me in the 7th and 8th grades unable to read regardless of the fact that their elementary records showed As and Bs.  Their  schools had failed to teach the most basic educational skill.  I thought of all the children who would continue to fail who were bright, eager children who deserved better than the destiny that awaited them because of their poor basic skills.  Why had this happened?

Saddened by the state of our schools and the lack of openness in debate, I retreated to my garden, pulling weeds and planting seeds that would actually show results.  Today I see little green signs popping up throughout my neighborhood promoting a new thrust toward improving our schools.  I cringe with every one I see remembering the demonization that came with stepping up to offer programs that have proven effective.  I remember "friends" walking on the other side of the street so they would not have to speak.  I recall the letter to the editor that accused me of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan. 

(Now in 2010 I must note they have abandoned block scheduling...after spending lots of money with the "innovation" and its promotion.  Who befitted?  The administrators that promoted it.)

And then I remember those children who motivated me to get involved.  My students (Black and White) with eager faces and trusting eyes who wanted to learn, but could not read their 7th grade textbooks.

 I knew their future.  I tried to do something about it.

So sad.  I understand this "new reform" movement is more of the same Outcome Based Education I fought long ago, repackaged with a brand spanking new name. 

And so I write this article and add this Education section to my website. With little hope that anything will change.

Sharman Burson Ramsey