Magazine article Insight on the News

For Whom the School Bell Tolls

Magazine article Insight on the News

For Whom the School Bell Tolls

Article excerpt

School days, school days

Dear ol' Golden Rule days

Readin' and writin' and 'rithmetic

Taught to the tune of --

Stop! Stop the music! That familiar song of the school yard has gone the way of the little red schoolhouse. The Golden Rule has been sacrificed on the altar of church-and-state separation, banished along with the reading of Psalms and Proverbs. Framed copies of the Ten Commandments no longer hang on classroom walls.

That's the old news. What's new is that we no longer can depend, upon the schools to teach our children to read, write or do math well enough to navigate in their own culture. From the first grade in public school until they graduate from college, students are being cheated in the basics as well as the common core curriculum that binds the culture.

Two new surveys expose a devastating decline in how we teach children: That is, teachers no longer know what they need to teach.

"The New National Curriculum Guidelines in English" is meant to unfurl national standards for English instruction in our public schools and offers 12 rules of guidance for achieving literacy in English. Anyone reading it may hear himself muttering "It's Greek to me" - even if he doesn't know Shakespeare wrote that famous line.

As if this isn't bad enough, the National Association of Scholars, or NAS, an organization ever-vigilant to document the decline of academic freedom and teaching standards, criticizes the curriculum at 50 leading colleges and universities in a report aptly titled "The Dissolution of General Education 1914-1993."

It's worse than we thought. Fully 70 percent of the 50 elite colleges studied by NAS offer catch-up courses in English, and all but two of these colleges grant academic credit for the make-up work. None of these centers of higher learning requires a literature course for graduation; only 4 percent require a philosophy course; merely 2 percent require a history course.

So we shouldn't be surprised that teachers of English for our intermediate schools, as well as their pupils, have a hard time with English themselves. The new English curriculum guidelines developed by the National Council of Teachers of English, or NCTE, and the International Reading Association urge English teachers to help students participate in "a variety of literacy communities." Presumably that's better than participating in a variety of illiteracy communities, but what on earth does it mean? These teachers found that "students use spoken, written and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e. …

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