Sunday, October 09, 2016

Cronyism Creates Illiteracy in Our Schools

My wife just started reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, a book which I was already interested in reading, but am even more so after my wife read some of the introduction to me.

For example, Miller points out that, "The only groups served by current trends to produce endless programs for teaching reading are the publishing and testing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests." She further says she she believes
this corporate machinery of scripted programs, comprehension worksheets (reproducibles, handouts, printables, whatever you want to call them), computer-based incentive packages, and test-practice curricula facilitate a solid bottom line for the companies that sell them. these programs may deceive schools into believing that they are using every available resource to teach reading, but ultimately, they are doomed to fail because they overlook what is most important. (3)
Here she is, without doubt, completely correct. Except for one thing. The programs aren't deceiving anybody. The schools benefit from perpetuating student illiteracy every bit as much as do the corporations selling these useless products. Indeed, only if student illiteracy is perpetuated can these corporations sell more of their products. So their products prevent students from learning how to read so they can sell more of their products. The politicians who pass education legislation and administrators in the school districts who adopt these programs benefit from the cronyist relationship with the companies. Everyone is benefiting except the students.

And I see the results. I am teaching 4th and 5th grade social studies, and I have been told that many of my students cannot read. Most of the rest are nowhere near grade level. This past summer, when I handed out books for my students to read, I was told by my mentor to take them back up because if the students were engaged in independent reading, they weren't "engaged." The cult of "engagement," a weasel-word if I ever heard one, is perhaps the single main reason students don't learn anything at all. Student engagement means the students are doing busy work, but not really learning how to do much of anything, like read.

We should be appalled that there is a government-corporate cronyist relationship built on and feeding off of keeping students below reading level if not outright illiterate just so politicians, administrators, and corporations can make millions if not billions of dollars. We do not need anything the "education" businesses are selling. We just need books.

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