Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Readicide Book Study: Chapter Five

The final short chapter of Readicide reiterates the author's key points with a little gravy on top:

The increase in test scores we've seen isn't reflective of better readers. Test scores can (and have) been manipulated. Worse, the rise in scores has an inverse relationship with the ability to function as readers in the real world. 

Real-world reading is changing as the hit-and-git text of the internet becomes the text of our young people. This is leading our thinkers to be 'jacks of all trades, masters of none' as the breadth of information widens and analysis decreases.

(Dialectal difference - 'git' is 'get' in Southern American English. For our UK-English speaking friends, I'm not calling anyone a git. At least not today.)

Teaching to compliance, with one right answer and one way to get it done, sucks the life out of the American entrepreneurial spirit, the one real advantage we've got left.

The author also holds up, as was a trend when the book was written, Finland's schools as the best example of literacy teaching, based, oddly, on scores on an international assessment. 

So, what have we learned?

Yes, teaching only testing genre reading dumbs down your kids, especially in states, like Virginia, where a certain percentage of each school's students are required to pass and there's no growth model. (By the way, the state's testing system is called the S.O.L.s! Can't make this stuff up, folks!) I can't say that I needed a book to tell me that, but I'm also not one of the teachers who declare, "If it's not on the test, I'm not teaching it."

I think the reading available on the internet isn't too dissimilar from the reading available in the library. Analysis and deeper thinking is definitely there, if you bother to look. My high schooler is better informed on most foreign policy topics than most adults because he finds it interesting and has quick access to the information. He bothers to keep searching.
That's not to say that the internet isn't loaded with fluff; it is. The inane comments made by many on any topic is cringe-worthy. However, so's the book world. Can you say, "Harlequin Romance Novel?" or, at the risk of starting a war, "Twilight"? Fluff has its place.

Digging deeper into what's on the net is also a parent's responsibility. Obviously, I don't read to AJ anymore, and haven't for years, but at dinner, what he's been reading and thinking about online is a regular topic. It gives us, as parents,a chance to say, "...and you believed that?!" or to discuss his ideas about America's place in the world, which are very different from mine. (There are days I question the whole 'I want him to think for himself' thing. Maybe that wasn't such a great strategy...) 

I have argued for years that teaching to compliance does a disservice to children who will not grow up into factory, textile mill, or farm jobs as our parents did. Teaching to creativity and collaboration doesn't take a lot of extra work, but it does require a paradigm shift. Still, one could argue that America's done a lot of inventing and inspiring while the teachers were the old battle-axes of my childhood. My generation can also spell. Just sayin'.

Can creativity be taught? There's a whole different blog post.

Is the Finland Miracle any different from the Texas Miracle? As a Southerner, I've learned that faith healers are a dime a dozen and are usually frauds. I question anything with the word "Miracle" as part of its title. My parents and a couple of my siblings, who are Texans, absolutely believe in the superiority of their schools (but don't have kids in them.) A teacher from Finland I once met says that she most certainly does give homework, as do most teachers she knows.  She just doesn't give tons of it, as students and parents in some countries expect. Time will sort out the smart teaching strategies from the hype, and we'll continue seeking out our own Miracle. 

Thank you for joining us on our own learning journey. Next, you're off to Jessica, our Whimsical Teacher, to wrap it all up.


  1. I have argued for years that teaching to compliance does a disservice to children who will not grow up into factory, textile mill, or farm jobs as our parents did.

    I recently had a debate with a college aged student who was homeschooled for that very reason above... I didn't realize that parents may choose homeschooling because they see school as only teaching compliance (I thought they were mainly for religious/social reasons). I tried debating that every teacher's classroom is different and some teachers do think outside the box. She counteracted with "yeah, but what are your chances of getting teachers like that for 12 years straight?" Ouch!!

    Interesting post chalked full of good content. I hope you'll be apart of the collaborative blog as well!

    The Whimsical Teacher

  2. Loved your post...you make me chuckle each time I visit. Great point about the Internet vs. books. There most certainly are fluffly books out there. When my students visit the computer lab, I point them in the direction of websites where they can search for content of interest to them (Wonderopolis, anyone?) This helps knock out some of that fluff.

    The Organized Plan Book

  3. "and you believe that?".......I have the same conversations with my children. Children are exposed to so much "fluff" in media today. Gallagher mentions that we need to keep exposing students to all kinds of reading. As teachers we need to make sure that students understand that all reading/information is not created equal.

    I agree that we are all searching for our own miracle. Great post!

    Quinnessential Lessons