Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for February 27th, 2007

Newspaper, heal thyself

Posted by metaphorical on 27 February 2007

The new scores, based on tests given in 2005, show that only about 35 percent of 12th graders are proficient in reading. Simply put, this means that a majority of the country’s 12th graders have trouble understanding what they read fully enough to make inferences, draw conclusions and see connections between what they read and their own experiences. The math scores were even worse, with only 23 percent of 12th graders performing at or above the proficient level.

An editorial in today’s NY Times decries the basic skills of U.S. high school students as insufficient for our glorious information age.

Marginal literacy and minimal math skills might have been adequate for the industrial age. But these scores mean that many of today’s high school seniors will be locked out of the information economy, where a college degree is the basic price of admission and the ability to read, write and reason is essential for success.

Let’s leave aside sad fact that the Times’s chief concern is that we may not have a sufficiently educated workforce—that, for example, $69 million energy company CEOs might not have enough $106,000 petroleum engineers to do the real work at a place like Exxon-Mobil—you know, of stuff like actually finding oil and gas and getting it out of the ground.

Let’s also leave aside the Times’s condescending omission of the idea that even back in the coal-dusty days of the industrial era students might have been reading Twain, Cather, Steinbeck and Salinger because they wanted what my friend Lizzie just last night called “a lifelong relationship with literature for its own sake.”

I’ll have more to say in a few days about basic K-12 skills, especially math, because it’s a subject that’s come up repeatedly for me lately.

What I was struck by today in reading the Times’s editorial Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted in education, journalism, politics, technology, the arts, Times-watch | 1 Comment »