Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The greater problem: nobody reads!

The New York Times ran this article yesterday about the connection between declining test scores and declining reading rates. Reading for fun is on the decline.

Perhaps this should be part of the liberal education initiative--Reading 101: Lets read for fun--find someway to engage first year students in the pleasure of reading without the pressure of testing.

So many of our goals revolve around students reading well. If they don't read well or at all, we are in bigger trouble that we would like to admit!

If you want to see the NEA report, here is the link (a PDF).


Anonymous said...

I agree that building an appreciation of reading into the liberal arts initiative is worth a try, but it would still be a last ditch effort. An appreciation of reading is something that has to be learned at an early age and that means parents and grade school teachers are the ones who can make the most difference.

Lammers said...

Indeed. MOST of the problems I see with performance in college is due to lack of preparation in the elementary and secondary schools. I see too many students who have not developed a love of learning (including reading). They have not mastered the basic study skills, time management skills, and fundamental language skills needed to succeed in college.

If they do not have these things when they come in the door, we are going to have an extremely difficult time teaching them anything.

I do not know enough about elementary and secondary education to suggest a solution. I can only imagine those teachers face much the same problem that we do: "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." No matter how clever and creative and uber-pedagogical you are, your students must WANT to learn in order to get anywhere. And while our college students will at least adopt the "broccoli approach" to education, younger kids too often just spit the broccoli out.

In my experience, anyone who is mentally competent can learn ANYTHING he or she WANTS to learn. I've known guys who had to repeat grades in elementary school that could rattle off all sorts of sports statistics, or knew all sorts of obscure facts about auto engines. Yes, some of us are better at abstractions than others, but if a person WANTS to wrap his head around a thing and embrace it, he WILL.

THAT is the key to education: getting the student to WANT to know what you have to offer. And sadly, that is soimething that must come from WITHIN the student. It is not something we can do TO them.