Teaching the World to Read
Millions of words have been printed about the alleged failures of the American educational system which is graduating thousands of students who can not read well enough to avoid being classified as functional illiterates, and whose math skills are limited to recognizing different coins and bill denominations, with an awareness as to relative size or value of each.
Is this bad? This book tells why we are heading in this direction and why we should want to do something about it.
Is it important to read, write and do math?
by Richard R. Tryon
Title: Why bother to teach the 3 R’s
Why should you encourage anyone to learn to read? In America we like to think that some things are like God, country, motherhood and apple pie! We assume that everyone knows that they are all good for us! Isn’t reading a skill that belongs in the same category? That may seem like a very strange question to anyone interested in encouraging or helping another to learn to read. Obviously you already know how to read and it should seem odd to ask this question of another reader! And how about arithmetic?
But, underneath these questions are some profound thoughts that are very important to your task of choosing what kind of teaching programs are right for your child or friend. Those who really want to get to the bottom of this matter will have to read a book by Dr. Leonard Shlain entitled “The Alphabet versus the Goddess” or ‘The conflict between Word and Image’.
To save you the task, you can come to recognize that children can learn to build two kinds of mental skills- those that reside in the left side of the brain and those that stay in the right side of the brain. It is very important that we develop both sides as each adds special abilities that make a great difference in our ability to learn and live with understanding and in ways that work well in the community.
Television has brought to us a valuable part of this equation. It gives the right side of the brain as many chances as we allow it, to build a library of mental images. It is possible to learn to read in the same way. Just store the images of the words as pictures and recall them as images that represent words that we speak and bingo, we are reading! Fortunately, this way works, as it is the only way to learn many words that defy being read in any other way.
So, if we just let our schools do the best they can with reading being taught for 12 years to students in hopes that the library of stored images will finally reach the point where many students can make their way in the world with an ability to learn subject matter in college from books, supplemented by videos, CDs, demonstrations, lectures, and signs. Yes, our graduates can flip burgers, and even run a cash register that has icons for the products so that the operator need not read the name of the product and the buyer can see the picture and identify that he/she wants one #3 with coke! Others will persevere and figures out the secret code of sounding out words so that they do not have to rely on memory for each word to be understood.
But, what about math? Why is it taught? Is it important to drill kids to learn multiplication tables when a calculator is all but free? To the extent that such devices are always at one’s finger tips, it is not necessary to memorize any tables....or is it? What do we gain when we learn to memorize math facts? To the extent that we fail to have any understanding of math relationships, such memory work is at best a convenient tool when shopping. If apples are $.12 each, how much will it cost me to buy six? But, if they cost $.15 ea and we only memorized to 12 x 12 = 144, how can we get an answer? Are we going to be smart enough to break the six apples into two calculations: ie, 6 x 10 = 60 and 6 x 5= 30, and 60 + 30 =90; and then know to put in the decimal point to make it $.90 and not $9.00?
Learning about this relationship is a left brain activity and we will not learn it from pictures. If TV and videos are all that counts, we will have to let the computer at the check out do the calculation and just have a vague idea that the $1 in our pocket will be enough. If not, just tell the check out clerk to fit the quantity to the $1!
If the task of our school system is to prepare students to live in such a world, we can probably not worry much about the loss of such skills from the array that graduates bring into the work place. After all, there are many other subjects that need attention. Social adjustment and community living is now such a major concern that it may be the most important subject. How do we cut down on school violence? In an age when morality must be limited to some set of secular ideas rather than to any God directed imperatives, this course is also hard to teach.
In ages past we depended upon female Goddesses to give us a right brain perspective in ways that restrained violence as pictures were only made by those sanctioned to do so for the most part. Nobody could mass produce any picture, so cheap thrills were hard to find. We seem to be heading for an age when our right brain dominance will make reading and math obsolete, so should we not listen to what our young people are telling us when they do not apply any effort to learn such material? It may be that our method of delivery is no longer in step with the technology of the age, but it sure is out of step with the preferences of many students.