Studying history is no assurance of engagement

Everyone is up in arms because only 22 percent of eight-graders were proficient in civics on the latest NAEP (“Why it matters if students don’t know U.S. history,” Los Angeles Times, May 15). They believe the lack of knowledge means our democracy can’t function.

I disagree.  What students are learning today about American history is indoctrination – not education.  As a result, I seriously doubt if subjecting them to more study will make them better citizens.  The truth is that the U.S. is a democracy in name only.  In realit, it is an oligarchy.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Phonics is the best way to teach reading

I hope that the decision by New York City to change how teachers teach children to read is finally adopted elsewhere (“New York City Hopes Phonics Will Save It From National Reading Crisis,” The Wall Street Journal, May 10). Phonics has proved to be the answer, but critics maintain that balanced literacy is better.

I fail to understand why the use of cues and word memorization is superior.  When confronted with words they have never seen before, children need to be able to sound out the words. That’s how earlier generations of children learned to read.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Public schools are to blame for losing support

Whatever support traditional public schools enjoyed before the pandemic has been eroded by their embrace of wokeism (“The Public Education Crisis,” Dissent, Spring 2023).  Charter schools appeal to increasing numbers of parents because they teach the basics.

No wonder test scores have plummeted.  If instruction fails to teach students what they need to succeed after graduation, they are being shortchanged.  Parents want their children to receive a sound education.  When they are not, parents will enroll them in charter, private and religious schools.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Segregated graduation is hypocritical

Despite their talk about the importance of a unifying experience, colleges and universities are holding special ceremonies for “affinity groups” at graduation (“Colleges expand ‘segregated’ graduation events”(The Washington Times, May 5). By doing so, they make a mockery of their high-blown rhetoric.

Graduation is not the time to celebrate differences among graduates.  Not only is the practice unlawful because it excludes non-members, but it also reinforces the feeling that group membership is more important than other considerations.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

New evidence for vocational education

The need for electricians and other skilled workers will intensify as the nation goes green (“The Great Electrician Shortage,” The New Yorker, May 4). Yet we persist in telling young people that the only route to a good life is through a four-year degree.

Connecticut is the only state that recognizes the need.  Its Technical Education and Career System consists of 17 diploma-granting high schools that are overseen by a single, independent state agency whose director is appointed by the governor. 

It’s time for vocational education to be given the respect it deserves. 

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

SAT does not measure meritocracy

Now that fewer and fewer colleges require the SAT for admission, defenders of meritocracy are appalled (“Can the Meritocracy Survive Without the SAT?” The New York Times, Apr. 29).  I believe strongly in the importance of meritocracy, but I hasten to point out that the SAT is the wrong instrument to measure it.

The No. 1 goal of the SAT is to allow students to be ranked.  If the test were loaded up with items that indeed measured what students learned in class through hard work, then I would support it.  But test designers know that they must engineer score spread so that test takers can be compared.  They do so by deliberately including items that reflect what students bring to class rather than what they learn in class.

That’s hardly a defensible argument for its use.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Homework is an invaluable aid in learning

Homework is under attack today because it is accused of being inequitable (“Schools Are Ditching Homework, Deadlines in Favor of ‘Equitable Grading’” The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 27). But the only reason that homework should be criticized is that too often it is merely busywork.

When homework is properly designed, it reinforces classroom instruction.  When I was in high school, the homework assigned by my Spanish teacher was a great aid in clarifying the past day’s instruction and preparing for the next day’s.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Career prep programs finally get their due

Americans are finally getting real about the education young people receive. Preparation for careers are now considered more important than college (“How Career Prep Programs Went From ‘Dumping Ground’ to Top Priority,” Education Week, Arr. 10). I say it’s long overdue.

The truth is that not everyone is college material.  That’s always been the case, but only now is it becoming increasingly evident.  Even if college graduation increases, it’s no guarantee that grads are ready to earn a living.

Career and Technical Education received its first funding in 1963 with the Vocational Education Act.  Further funding took place in 2018 when the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act was signed.  Let’s hope more funding is directed to this field.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

Don’t apply to schools if grad requirements are unacceptable

To graduate with full honors from Stuyvesant High School, all students must complete a one-semester swim class or pass a swim test (“End of All-Girls Swim Class Causes Controversy at Stuyvesant High School,” The New York Times, Apr. 24).  But some Muslim girls claim forcing them to do so violates their religious beliefs.

I say too bad.  They knew about the requirement before they applied, but they did so anyway.  Now they want the school to accommodate their beliefs. Choose another school that is more in line with their views.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

College admissions rates are not what they seem

Colleges have sent out acceptances for the Fall, with marquee-name schools crowing about how selective they are (“Why Those Super Low College Admissions Rates Can Be Misleading,” The New York Times, Apr. 22).  But a closer look reveals that the single online application now used by more than 1,000 institutions is largely responsible.

In the past, qualified applicants made up about 75 to 85 percent of the pool.  But now with the common app, that number is only about 60 percent. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that the larger the number of applicants there are, the more selective schools can be.  Moreover, binding early decision further makes colleges look better because it locks in their freshman class.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)