December 19, 2006

Dec. 19, 2006: Literacy

Statistics Canada: Literacy , CP / NatPost, December 19, 2006

... more literate than it was a decade ago but ....

In all three provinces where people with French as their mother tongue are a minority - Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba - francophones scored lower on prose literacy tests than their anglophone counterparts. The gap was widest in New Brunswick.

Nationally, 42 per cent of the adult population scored below Level 3 in prose literacy; among anglophones nationally, the proportion was 39 per cent but among francophones, it was 56 per cent. [....]

I am not surprised at some of the results. The following applies to SOME, not all: classes, students, children and adults. However, IMHO, it is not unexpected, though not positive.

* If a student has only six half-pages in a language notebook--yes, I have seen it--after about 3 months in class, I think something is amiss. If a child reaches an upper level of elementary school with no evident indication of failure in reports, yet, the child cannot read, something is wrong. It may have been ADHD, dyslexia, or something else, but surely, it should have been noted. All of us have been remiss in the honesty department in that this has gone on so long. What is the point of self-esteem in this situation?

Aside from that, too often literacy has not been about acquiring necessary skills:

* for reading - thinking, reasoning based on factual information - reasoning from what is written - Instead, "How do you feel about ...",
* for conversing in order to test assumptions, coming to new and perhaps better conclusions, modifying in light of new information),
* for listening and discussing without rancour, yet being able to disagree politely while making a point and encouraging the same for others,
* for writing, including attention to correct spelling and grammar, and for exploring one's thoughts through putting them together in an orderly fashion,
* for editing - including correcting, re-writing, perfecting,
* for skills that would allow a child to figure out completely new words - not memorizing words through ... what? osmosis? ... instead of learning skills traditionally thought to have utility in that they may be generalized to varying degrees (e.g. decoding, forming new words with prefixes and suffixes, exploring derivatives from other languages, etc.)
* for whatever true literacy includes that I have omitted.

Instead, it has been about social engineering (second language, expression of feelings as opposed to reasoning, creating white guilt when not building self-esteem where it is unwarranted, and the like) The materials have been chosen to advance social attitudes, with little attention to great literature (too many old, white guys). Add to that the number of adults who were passed through "social promotion", or who "succeeded" in the system, while still not improving appreciably, or who did not work but expected to be given a diploma, anyway ... and it came. Anyone who wanted to remain employed went along with the system. A few hardy souls fought it but had to go along with some of it. Some actually believed in the hogwash. Add the general feeling of student entitlement--even more pronounced now than in the past--entitlement to a diploma--and the situation will only get worse. A little truth in education is needed. Others could add more but this gives a quick idea of what the article brought to my mind. The article is entitled "Anglophones outperform francophone counterparts on literacy tests: study".

Get rid of the bells and whistles and teach the basics well. Let children exercise, play and socialize without adult interference, and stop some of the foolishness that has passed for education. Here endeth the sermon.


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