Different Kind of Literacy?
Social promotion at the state’s universities…
Lloyd Billingsley] 1/6/06
officials exploited the busy holiday season to let slip some
bad news. The reading proficiency of college graduates is declining,
and it was already low.
to a federal study conducted by the National Center for Education
Statistics, only 31 percent of college graduates can read a
complex book and extrapolate from it, down from 40 percent
in 1992. In other words, more than two thirds of college graduates,
a full 69 percent, cannot perform this basic task.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
[Courtesty of Pacific Research Institute]
Lloyd Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published
on topics including on popular culture, defense policy,
education reform, and many other current policy issues.
[go to Billingsley index]
students, only 41 percent - down from 51 percent in 1992 -
could be classified as "proficient" in prose, that
is, reading and understanding information in short texts. How
short? Mark S. Schneider, Commissioner of Education Studies,
told the Washington Post the assessment was not designed
to test understanding of Proust but "to test your ability
to read labels."
measures how well adults comprehend basic instructions such
as computing costs per ounce of food items, comparing viewpoints
on two editorials and reading the labels of prescriptions.
According to the results, more than half of graduate students,
a full 59 percent, are not proficient in reading prescription
labels and other simple tasks one expects high-school students
to be able to perform.
Library Association president Michael Gorman, a librarian at
Cal State Fresno, called the results "appalling" and "astounding." Officials
were at a loss for explanations.
may be that institutions have not yet figured out how to teach
a whole generation of students who learned to read on the computer
and who watch more TV," said Mr. Schneider. Students do
share the blame, but they have eager collaborators.
at Risk, the landmark 1983 report from the National
Commission on Excellence in Education, noted the dumbing
down of American education. It is a trend made worse by the
regime of political correctness, which considers difficult
books, especially those by dead white males, oppressive to
students. Under social promotion, students deficient in reading
are advanced to the next grade on the grounds that, if held
back, they would not feel good about themselves. Higher education
increasingly must conduct remedial education in English and
math for students who are supposed to be the best and brightest.
The new federal study confirms that the problems endure past
college. The buck has to stop somewhere.
have good grounds to test college grads for literacy. As for
California policy makers, they should not be astonished by
the results, and they should know what to do.
school, phonics, not whole-language instruction, should be
the preferred teaching method. Legislators should maintain
the state's high academic standards and even raise the bar.
Political correctness and social promotion must be dumped.
The state should maintain and strengthen the high-school exit
colleges should not have to conduct remedial education, but
they should not escape scrutiny, especially when they are raising
student fees and dishing out lavish raises to administrators.
If more than two thirds of graduates remain deficient in reading,
colleges must also be practicing a form of social promotion.
Perhaps they accept the judgment of Mr. Schneider that current
conditions are "a different kind of literacy."
That is true.
After all, what is illiteracy but "a different kind of
literacy"? Read the writing on the wall, if you can. CRO
2006 Pacific Research Institute