The Conspiracy Against Reading

In his 1984 book about American education, Samuel Blumenfeld pointed out that “[n]othing has mystified Americans more than the massive decline of literacy in the United States. Children spend more time at school and the government spends more money on education than ever before. Yet, reading ability keeps declining. What has gone wrong?”

You have probably heard this lament. But here’s where it becomes really alarming. Blumenfeld looked back seven decades to the year 1915. That’s when the literacy figures for 1910 were published by the U.S. Bureau of Education and quoted in a weekly publication, School and Society, edited by James McCain Cattelll, one of the luminaries in the Progressive education movement. School and Society stated that:

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12 Responses to The Conspiracy Against Reading

  1. thestarsbegintofall says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve commented, but this one hit home. I’m currently going back to school to become a teacher. My wife teaches special ed and I read her union magazine. It pissed me off so much I quit my job and took a 2nd shift job as a custodian for a school district as I go back to grad school to get my masters and a teaching certificate. It is undoubtedly true that our educational system is built to enslave future generations and promote certain agendas. My classmates alone make me think we may very well be a point where the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed.

  2. warhorse says:

    part of the problem is schools suck the joy out of reading. we spent a month hyper-analyzing every minute detail of “moby dick”, assigning meaning to every color, detail, or action whether it was there or not.

    I only really started reading for enjoyment after I got out of school. I can see how most people never pick it up at all. where I work I read every break, and people think I’m strange. I just finished Heinlein’s “the illustrated man” and started “the unabridged hitchiker’s guide to the galaxy”.

  3. rick says:

    I have said for decades to anyone within earshot that the NEA is an abomination to education and the various teacher’s unions are lockstep with the NEA. I go further than what this article states; public education must be abolished, not saved. And the Dept ED dismantled and never resurrected.

    The solution is simple. But it is not expedient to the big business which has grown in place of ‘education’.

  4. Boba O'Really says:

    Not sure about that claim of phonics teaching being ended in the 30’s.
    I learned using phonics in the 70’s. Granted it was a parochial school, not the public system. One of my buddies asked how I can spell so well, even words I’ve just heard. I told him I didn’t know, I just could. I think I may have an answer now. Thanks Mom and Dad

  5. Sanders says:

    Wife and I visited a ghost town, recently. In the back of the little chapel were a few boxes of books. Bibles and hymnals, mostly. But a couple that I picked up and looked at really stood out. One was an old civics schoolbook called “The Duties of the American Citizen” and the other was a reader titled “Second Year Reader”. I looked through both of them, and the civics book was written at today’s college level and the reader was easily written at today’s high school level.

    The civics book had a copyright date of 1913 and the reader was 1903. Sadly, those books are probably going to sit there and get eaten by bugs, or some government worker is going to destroy them along with the Bibles.

  6. SgtBob says:

    My father told his five children, “I want to see you reading. I don’t care what you read as long as you read.” He was a ninth-grade dropout around 1933, but he read and read and read.

  7. Chuck says:

    I learned to read by phonics in the late 70’s and both my girls learned that way in the last few years. Plus, they are encouraged to read (lots of reading time in elementary school) for fun, not just the required assignments for comprehensions, etc. Granted this is a decent school district in Texas.

  8. JeremyR says:

    Get rid of the schools. Start over. Make teachers teach by paying for outcome. If I produce a defective or substandard product, I don’t get paid top dollar, why should they? Let teachers teach from home if they want. Reshape the Department of Education, make them responsible for test standards, and distributing the money.
    Then, provide every parent a voucher for $5,000. Great teachers can charge a premium, and parents who care will pay the premium price, but the base rate should be set at $5,000. That way, a teacher can have a class of 20 kids and make $100,000 a year for their efforts. But, if the kids do not do well on the testing, then the teacher would be compensated on a sliding scale, C students pay 50%, FAILING STUDENTS GET NOTHING, AND THEY CANNOT CHARGE THE PARENTS A DIME.
    Finally, establish a draft style lottery so kids who get rejected get placed, and require all teachers to accept a certain number of low end picks.
    Most of my siblings went to country school. The teachers had kids from K-8. Older students helped by tutoring the younger kids. This is just bringing back what worked.

    • Larry says:

      Get rid of the Department of Education entirely. It only distributes monies after taking a big slice of it to pay themselves, and it is responsible for helping push all of the failed policies and theories and useless fads of Education of the last 50 years. The only school district that the Federal government has undisputed authority to run is Washington, D.C, which is one of the very worst school systems in the country. Let them make D.C. schools a model that everyone wants to copy, and maybe some would copy them. But no, D.C. sucks and has for well over 50 years. My wife’s grandfather was offered the position of superintendent of the D.C. public school system ~50 years ago and he spent some time down there evaluating the situation. He concluded that without Congress removing authority over the schools away from the corrupt local government and ending public employees unions, it was a hopeless and lost cause. He turned them down.

  9. =TW= says:

    American English is a language that can be wielded with precision, subtlety and power. In part this is because many words are survivors and accretions from other languages, relics of the various invasions of Britain. (This also accounts for the spelling of synonyms.) To insist on phonetic spelling as some have suggested would be to decrease the potential freedom. Dialect is acceptable when done with competence. Ebonics is an abomination.
    The language evolves and becomes standardized through the widespread agents of printing and other broadcast media. Even on that small island there are forms of English that are undecipherable to non-natives. (Good luck with Welsh.)

    For some examples of the elegance a capable wordsmith can produce, see the “Fables” of Ambrose Bierce. They are delightful.

Play nice.