functional illiteracy

A recent email exchange with a (college) student:

im emailing u because i need a grade from you on my progress report tomorrow or else i cant play sat if you could do that i would gladly appreciate it….also while i was looking at my grades on blackboard i saw a E for the folk and religious music quiz…i was wondering did i miss that day or did i just not get any points on the quiz

Your current grade is a D+.
Your grade for the quiz was 13 out of 24 (this information was included on the grade center site he was consulting).

what the quiz points added in with the total?

I don’t know what you’re asking me.

im asking was those 13 points included in with the total points because it had an E for the grade i was just wondering


This is a native-born American student who has apparently graduated from an American high school.  He/she is functionally illiterate, and seems to be either unable to interpret the information on a simple spreadsheet or unaware that 13 points out of 24 is not sufficient to pass.

How can MFA not realize that we are ALL going to pay the price when our children grow up to be adults who can’t read, speak, or write?

Statistics compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics have found that the U.S. seems to be spending about the same amount of money per student as other developed countries, and that students are staying in school for as long on average.

But we’re not measuring up.

According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 4th graders in the United States tested behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Kazakstan, the Russian Federation, England, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Lithuania in mathematics achievement, and behind Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Russian Federation, Latvia, and England in science achievement. Perhaps even more disturbing is that the achievement of students in science has declined in the US over the past 12 years, while it has improved, sometimes dramatically, in every other country ahead of us except Japan. Adults who can’t read or write at a proficient level cost the country hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity and unemployment benefits.

Those of  you who have been following my blog know I’ve ranted about this before, just click here to read the archives. I believe these discussions already include mention of the disturbing trend among 21st-century students where learning is seen as a passive endeavour — they show up, sit there, what else do they need to do? Not to mention their inability to function in face-to-face situations, their lack of respect for authority, and their dependence on technology to the point of obsession (facebook, texting — to the point where whole papers are written in textspeak — no commas, no apostrophes, no capitalizations).


I’m including this in the “Who Cares?” category, because I would like to know if anybody does. I doubt it’s just me. But what can we do?

400 Responses to “functional illiteracy”

  1. 1 Janet
    November 12, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Enjoyed your post and agree with you. What is happening? As a librarian and a writer literacy is sooooo important to me. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m sure it’s not simple. It’s hard to break our addiction to technology but I think if you can foster a love for reading at a young age, that will carry through to adulthood. You don’t need to read a “book”, read on a Kindle or your iPad, the medium doesn’t matter. Just get reading and learn how beautiful language can be.

    • November 12, 2010 at 7:18 pm

      Janet ~ I agree with you that learning to love reading from an early age is a key, however I’m not so sure I agree that the medium doesn’t matter. I believe it does. I have heard (not personally validated by myself, but nonetheless I do view as plausible) that “screens” – be they cell phone, gaming console, iPad or other, by their nature have a “flickering” rate. This flickering activity of light particle waves through our eyes our brain in such a way as to release dopamine and literally becomes addictive. Why that matters is that as a society we are inundated with media from all sides and our attention spans decrease as a result. We literally become hardwired to receive maximum pleasure from a screen, books don’t cut it for many of the youth anymore. I think that’s sad because a book gives you focus (less distractions than a screen), and allows you the space and time to absorb not only grammar and linguistics, etc. but the experience of going into your imagination fully and being nourished and refreshed there.

      • 3 Sandra
        November 12, 2010 at 10:24 pm

        I agree completely with this response. Although a variety of reading mediums may be the norm, I still think that it is very important for children to read from an actual book as often as possible. There are far less distractions while reading a book and the children are more likely to see the words, the spelling of the words and more likely to ask questions about what they are reading and more likely to comprehend the subject matter. It is sad to see the level of education with which some students are graduating.

    • November 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      Usually, in situations such as this (and in almost every case of lack-of-eduactional-attainment / lack of self-confidence or self-respect / social inadequacy / anti-social behaviour / &c. &c.) the blame lies with the parents. If children aren’t taught properly at home then what can the state possibly do? Even good parents sometimes make serious mistakes – their offspring have not “grown up” the moment they hit 12, 13, 14 or 15 – youngsters need their parents to be at home supporting them and teaching them for years longer than that – the ages 12 to 18 or 19 are perhaps the most critical, and for parents to “abandon” them during these ages to go back to full time work is neither acceptable nor sensible. It’s what I think, and most people in the U.K. at least would agree.

      • November 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm

        Okay, I’m commenting more. While I agree with many commenters here that the most responsibility lies with the parents, I don’t think this should be continually used as a cop-out for the school systems like it seems to be. We can scream all day long until we’re hoarse, but that’s not going to make all parents take an increased interest in their child’s education when they haven’t before.

        That’s on one end of the spectrum, though. The other end is that it’s not ALWAYS the inattentiveness of parents allowing this to happen. There is irresponsibility within the system, too. I have a younger brother that’s 26 going on 9 that can’t hold a job for more than 3 months and is currently homeless, can barely read and write, cannot do basic math, has horrific social skills, and has no concept of how to responsibly use money . . . everyone’s all but given up on him. 20+ jobs after 8 years is a tad ridiculous, you know? I’m here to tell you that his current place is not entirely–or even mostly–the fault of my parents. The thus-far-successful lives of myself and my other three siblings attests to this (he’s the youngest by 2, 4, 9, and 12 years). My parents’ biggest mistake was never protesting when the school system passed him grade after grade, eventually graduating high school, in effect stating that he could handle the real world. As I’ve already said, he can’t.

        So what can the school systems do to people like your student or my brother? It can fail them. It can quit buying into the misconception that “education is a right” means that everyone deserves to pass, and refuse to offer high school diplomas or GED’s to people who haven’t earned them. This ties in, and proves true, the old saying, “When everyone’s special, no one is.” What value is a high school degree if you just have to show up to get one?

        The positive thing I see in this is that instructors like yourself recognize the problem . . . now we’ve just got to do something about it.

        Thanks for letting me blog in your blog.

      • November 14, 2010 at 8:11 pm

        Sorry, Daniel . . . this shouldn’t have nested under your comment. Woops.

      • November 15, 2010 at 3:24 am

        D is right and I agree to part of his view.I think we need to get things sorted out a bit here. In a Nation such as THE (note CAPITAL) USA where education for children, I believe, (tell me if I’m wrong about any of this ), is a legally enforceable necessity, where the state has the power to dictate terms to parents if a child is found (!!) short of care- meaning regarding going to school, here- (It,I insist,)erodes and takes away with time the moral and human familial responsibility from the parents who under the pressure of their own ( oh no, not the Government’s) capitalist system, which unashamedly and overtly fosters a materialistic approach to life, have more urgent pressures such as (WOMEN! OUCH, TOUCHY believe me It’s not my bias against any sex)DOING SOMETHING OF THEIR OWN, HAVING THEIR OWN LIVES(!), LIVING(!), apart from trying to make ends meet or pressured with the NEED to DO more( I omit men here because if women are so pressured, the male of the species must be pretty helpless and on breaking point). Under the current circumstances, the families, now compul/sorily/sively nuclear and breaking down further, find themselves with no time to spend on children for anything at all ( they are indeed fortunate and amazingly brave and strong- my hats off to them and my prayers always with them). Let us be realistic about things for a change and maybe we’ll find answers down the line somewhere in the future ( of course it’ll be too late for the generations caught in this conflict right now). The current economic system all over the world (which one is predominant?), the globalized so called free market syatem does not allow for the time we seek to preach to parents of children and the situation only worsens . So the people of the UK and myself, too, can only agree to the point of view and shake my head in sullen agreement to Daniel’s last four lines but alas, the impossibility of the situation and the fear of lack of understanding of and the inability to do anything about, weighs heavy, at least on my heart.

      • November 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

        Sometimes this “abandonment” is necessary — I HAVE to work. But that doesn’t mean I’m not keeping track of what’s going on and doing what I can to help raise them to be mature, responsible students and citizens. I also think it’s important for my children, male and female, to see me work hard at something I love and try to make a positive difference in the world as I do it.

    • November 13, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      Does public education exist to teach pupils how to learn and think or does it exist to provide adult employment, opportunities for vendors and a political football for politicians? Learning how to think for one’s self is the idea that killed Socrates. I think that creating a love of learning and motivating students to think for one’s self is more important than using standardized test scores as a benchmark for achievement. –Zak Klemmer

      • November 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm

        I agree with you entirely, and would like to add up that ideologies still matter. Not only computer screens are flickering – young minds are becoming more and more like that dislexic way of displaying information.
        It really gets on my nerves the way my country (Brazil) values education. Not so sure about abroad, so I wouldn’t tell the global tendency, but it seems that if you read a book every two months and you care about some sort of knowledge, you’re automatically a nerd and paradoxally not very clever.

      • November 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

        I agree.
        Coming from singapore though, a country that has often been lambasted for focusing too much on standardised tests, i do appreciate that a disciplined structured approach is necessary at least part of the syllabus- especially during the formative years. A laissez-faire approach in education usually doesn’t work when it’s combined with overworked teachers and too-large classes; the fall-out becomes too great.

        There needs to be a stronger standard which kids know they ought to reach- that their efforts and explorative learning do amount to skills and knowledge they are able to build on, not simply effervescent ‘learning’.

    • November 13, 2010 at 11:19 pm

      I found this to be really interesting, although quite disturbing. In fact, I linked to both of your posts on a second blog that I have begun, called “Clearing the Path,” http://www.clearthepath.wordpress.com.

    • November 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      I agree completely. I just finished a piece which addresses one major reason for this decline. Refer to my newest blog.

  2. November 12, 2010 at 11:33 am

    yikes. not the most uplifting post for a friday…but all too true. seems to me biggest issue is teachers teaching only what students need to know for some stupid standardized test. but im not an educator, so tough to really pinpoint. congrats on freshly pressed.

    • November 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      Am I the only one disturbed by the lack of capitalizations and missing punctuation? Am I missing irony?

      • November 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm

        You probably are not the only one disturbed, but commenting on a blog is the most casual of casual writing–some people are quite capable of switching off the capital letters and punctuation when ‘conversing’ on the internet. How, I know not; however, one of my brilliant and extremely literary friends is able to do this, so I know that format, in this case, does not speak to a person’s intelligence as much as content.

      • November 12, 2010 at 6:16 pm

        I suppose I should have said “literate”–I was thinking in terms of the fact that she is a writer and a voracious reader.

      • 18 Ann
        November 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

        @greengeekgirl – I don’t understand the argument that capitalization and punctuation aren’t important online. Those are tools for readers’ comprehension. If a person doesn’t care that no one can decipher your meaning, then why does that person bother writing at all?

        The same goes for spelling and grammar. These may differ by region and medium, but it’s disrespectful when the writer doesn’t even try.

      • 19 Mequella
        November 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm

        It’s just the medium. I frequently lol, wtc, idc and idk to friends, but can also be valedictorian (of an admittedly small high school) and write at an acceptable level. I’ve know better than to write in text speak on an essay, but are capitals really necessary to understand meaning?

    • November 13, 2010 at 12:35 am

      The irony was not lost on me. And I think this is what happens with students. They think they are better writers/thinkers than they are. They have an inflated view of their skills after years of being told how good they are.

      • 21 Dave Navarre
        November 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

        In the late 1990s, one of the young men I knew told me that in high school his teachers told him just to get the ideas down on paper and not to worry about spelling or grammar. I was horrified. He thought he was a good writer because his teacher was impressed with his volume. It didn’t work out so well for him in college, but I don’t know if that played a role.

        I must admit to have never read anything he’d written and that his emails these days are not text-speak. However, that an English teacher could have given the impression to this young man that neither spelling nor grammar were important just flabbergasted me.

      • November 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

        @Dave I was told that by a teacher once and it helped me greatly. I am dyslexic and would get so caught up in trying to get things down with spelling and punctuation that I would completely lose what I was trying to write. That way the Teacher could see what my ideas were, its very hard to mark a students paper and understand what they know when there is only a few sentences there.
        However I was also taught throughout all my schooling that editing was important, so once I had got my ideas down I would go back over them and correct spelling and grammar (which I struggled with greatly as when I went to work out how to spell a word the letters kept moving on me, which was extremely frustrating). Being able to use a computer makes things much easier for me as I can edit without turning my page into a complete mess of crossing out and then have to copy it out again afterwards (where most of the time I would make more mistakes by switching things around) and it highlights the words that are incorrectly spelt and I can use a spell checker to correct them. My ability to spell is still improving and I find that spell checkers and predictive text helps me learn, it doesn’t get annoyed with me when I spell one word wrong twenty times before getting it right.

        There may be a number of reasons why that teacher said that and there may have been even more reasons why that boy didn’t get as good as grades as he had hoped.

        Sorry about the rather long comment

    • November 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

      I returned to college part time a few years ago, and I’ve spent much of that time wondering how many of my fellow “students” 1) have the audacity to attend college, and 2) were admitted in the first place. The worst part is that even the English and Journalism majors seem to be completely lacking in basic grammar and sentence structure skills. It’s sickening.

  3. 26 maggiebird
    November 12, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I think it’s too much input. American kids are bombarded by noise, overstimulated by gaming devices and the internet. I know a young woman who is smart, and studies all the time. She (and the rest of her family) doesn’t understand why she gets such poor grades. When I suggested that perhaps she try studying withOUT the headphones playing pop music, she told me, oh no, I study better with music on.

    Of course, if you never try silence, you’ll never know how golden it is…

  4. November 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I care. And everyone else should too!
    Good post.

  5. November 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    The problem is that there is no longer an interest in speaking and writing intelligently. Texting, unfortunately, only serves to simplify written language and thus leads to a decline in accurate conversational language. We live in a society of speed, everyone trying to get things done quickly. Nobody takes the time to read a story. They just want the quick synopsis so they can move on to the next. With technology comes less responsibility as a whole in everything we do and say. I hope it changes soon.


    • 33 momentarilyfinite
      November 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      Oh my god I hate text-lingo. I have too much love for the English language to watch it diluted to half-sensical drivel.

  6. November 12, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I care! I was a middle school teacher for six years. I left thanks to the hopelessness I felt, but wish to return again one day. Most of our year is spent on the state testing, but you would think that once the results showed overall comprehension and writing failure, either the kid would be held back or intensive help would be implemented. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Teachers spend a lot of time, actually, working on new ways to teach and possible programs, but many of the kids are unmotivated to make progress, which makes the whole situation seem like you’re beating your head against the wall. The kids just end up moving along to the next year making only a small amount of progress. I feel for you.

    To see what I mean, my site is The Teacher’s Desk as carlienoelle.worpress.com

  7. November 12, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I totally agree with you. Even I wrote a post on using text language a few days back. You can check it here, http://tomakemelookbusy.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/strictly-for-cheaper-pr/

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed. 🙂

  8. November 12, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I completely agree. I work in higher ed and sometimes I get emails from college students no more than 5 years younger than me (I’m 23), but they’re completely unintelligible. They write sentences with grossly misspelled words, poor subject verb agreement, NO PUNCTUATION, and I think, “How are you passing your Rhetoric and Writing classes?!” It galls me, because my job is very customer serviced oriented, and I want to say, “I’m sorry, but your email was undecipherable. Please try again and I’ll help you when I know what you need.” It’s a frightening trend.

    • 37 Lynn
      November 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      I am that Rhetoric & Writing instructor!

      Two things happen in my classroom: students quickly realize I expect them to move back and forth between the language of their digital day and the language of the classroom, so they do, and/or (2) I spend an enormous amount of time walking some of them through their incomprehensible messages to me to let them see how much of what they say requires mind-reading on my part.

      By the semester’s end, I really believe most of them understand how to separate the language needed for homework and essay exams from that used on their smartphones. However, when students follow me from Comp I into Comp II, I find out some were only performance artists the semester earlier and need the lessons to begin again.

      To keep from repeating the basics repeatedly, I post blog versions of some lessons, fycomposition.wordpress.com, that students can refer to as many times and across as many semesters as they might need to. It helps, but it isn’t the entire answer, either.

      Oddly enough, I am not that frustrated by this lack of skill. I come to teaching after two decades in another career. Many of the executive managements I dealt with back then wrote equally horribly: bad grammar, bad spelling, and with gaps in meaning. The real world looks more like these careless students than most people realize! I now do my part to change lazy or uninformed practices, and know better than to expect 100% success.

      • 38 Athais
        November 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm

        Oh! Bless you. I could not deal with this on a daily basis. I have had students email me using text shorthand and I will send them an equally unintelligible message in goobledy-gook that I know they won’t understand. They quickly get the point.

      • 39 Ann
        November 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm

        Thank you, Lynn, for being a teacher who cares about student improvement. You’re right that it’s not only students who are horribly unskilled in writing. In my current job in a government office, I read complaints to determine which to send on and which to file. Too much of my time is wasted in re-reading in an attempt to understand who complaints are against and why. Some complainants are clearly confused about everyday life, but many more seem unable explain themselves in writing. It looks like at least half of the state’s population is functionally illiterate. I wish everyone could have had teachers (and parents) that cared.

  9. November 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Technology has of course made the new generation slow in learning, what Mark Bauerlein calls as The Dumbest Generation.

    However, there is another way to look at it. I don’t think everybody is made to be good in language (written) just as everybody cannot be a scientist. The industrial civilization made it very necessary to have excellent skills in language, especially written. The Web 2.0 generation lifts that bar up and now only those who love language really go to levels of aesthetic sophistication.

  10. November 12, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Personally, I’m with you on this one and have had my own rants on the subject. I was a teacher of both college level and elementary.

    I knew I was lost as a college educator when I had the head of the nursing department come to me after a midterm and ask me to lower my expectations and standards for her nursing students. She informed me that the only thing she expects her students to be able to do when they graduacted was to “…give the right dose of the right medication to the right patient at the right time.”

    It verified all that I’d expected. My “standards” at that time, given the student population of the school, sat at the university freshman level. Enough said.

    I’ve watched at kindergartners are handed calculators specially designed for their little fingers. These were their math tools. I stood and listened at third graders stuggled with multiplication tables at the end of the school year, having been working with them since the beginning of that same year.

    We’ve expected so little of our children that requires actual thought and consideration, we–as a society–have no one to blame but ourselves. Fast may be convenient, but in today’s world it doesn’t necessitate real thought most times.

    My question is “IF this is today, what can we expect 20 years from now?”

    The sad part is that education isn’t the only failing grade the country is getting. We also rank higher on the list of infant mortality rates compared to many third world countries.

    I’d say that the economy is headed for some interesting fluctuations in future.

    I enjoyed your posting and will definitely come back.


    • 44 Athais
      November 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      Oh, my gosh. I am a nurse educator. How ironic! I worked in hospitals for years. One day, I was taking care of an elderly gentlemen who made mention that he had fought in WWII. I asked if he was in any memorable battles. He said he fought on D-Day. Being a WWII buff, I asked which beach. Omaha. What wave. He replied that he wasn’t sure, but he said he thought the first wave. He stated that going down the rope ladders was very difficult with the boats rocking. I stated that he must not have been in the first wave then, since they didn’t go down the rope ladders. A nurse intern was listening to this conversation. Afterward, she asked me how I knew so much. My response, “I read”.

      Nursing is more than just pushing pills, changing dressings, hanging IVs, and assessing patients. You have to interact with the patients and it is best to have something to talk to them about. For this reason, I read about everything. American history, chemistry, biology, religion, philosophy, and cars. Cars is a good one because most men like to talk about cars. Cooking is another good subject. I have taken care of lawyers, doctors, chemists, Colonels, farmers, and others, and they all were astounded by the breath of knowledge that I have. Even authors and English teachers love having me take care of them because I have read so many books. So that nursing instructor is nuts! Nurses need to know a lot more than how to do their job because they are working with the public.

      • 45 Dave Navarre
        November 13, 2010 at 10:51 pm

        An aside…. he may have climbed down a rope ladder even in the first wave. Not every transport lowered the LCVPs with the men already loaded. The boys who went in at Omaha had it rough regardless of which wave, of course.

        You sound like a marvelous nurse – it has to be so good for patients to be able to talk to you about something other than their current experience.

  11. November 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Are we making too many excuses for children these days? Are we not holding them accountable for their actions and their lives like we used to? As a child, your education is your life. Going to school is your “job”. If you do not pass, that’s like being fired, or demoted for bad performance. Would it help our kids if we all held them accountable to completing their education as if it were a job? It’s really sad – I was a teaching assistant while in my undergrad and grad school – some of the work that I graded was atrocious. I wondered how these kids got through high school – and how they would make it through life. I suppose once a student reaches the highest of high school levels, the teachers will just pass them so they can move on – regardless of their ability to learn, synthesize information and really understand what is being asked of them. Or, apparently, how to ask something of others themselves. Thank you for highlighting such an important issue…

    • November 13, 2010 at 12:41 am

      It has all trickled upward. All the excuses and extra attempts. Now students get “extra chances” in college, too – just as they did in middle school and high school. When do we get to tell them that their skills make them unemployable? Never. And you now why? Because colleges like having repeat customers.

      • November 15, 2010 at 4:45 am

        It’s the same in the UK. At one university on a new degree course I was teaching I asked about resits. I was told ‘we have to get these students through….’ i.e. students on seats are all that count. I commented cynically why don’t we just admit them in the second year and have a year off? I left shortly after and the poor head of the course had a nervous breakdown. Don’t blame the teachers and the lecturers Look at the system that created the situation that they have to work in.

    • November 15, 2010 at 3:30 am

      It isn’t always the fault of the teachers that the children are passed on to the next grade. Some school districts think it is too demeaning to the students, and will set them back socially if they are not kept up with their chronological peers.

      • November 15, 2010 at 4:38 am

        In the UK , the ‘blame’ has certainly passed on to the teachers: but this is due to the obsessive nature of the quest for qualifications imposed by the state. At one college, I was having to try and get one young girl through a multimedia qualification , which she was clearly incapable of achieving. It was good for the statistics to have more students studying. In the same college, one student said to a colleague: do you realise that it’s more important to you that I pass this exam than it is to me?! It’s got so ridiculous that a few years ago I was told that if I wanted to continue to do an evening class in life drawing I would have to take an exam. WHY??? I have a first degree, a post certificate in Education and a Master’s degree: why do I need something to say I’ve successfully attended a course that I am simply doing for pleasure?!!

  12. November 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I am scared for our future.

  13. 52 Modern Funk
    November 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I work in higher education. I am horrified to think about the future of America. We are falling behind each and every day. It’s an epidemic.

  14. November 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I’m a professional engineer, and even I care. Language skills are crucial to precise written and spoken communication, which, in turn, is required to solve any problem requiring more than a few people. These days, that’s most of the interesting problems.

    But you’re observations ring true, and here’s a disturbing anecdote to support it. Although it doesn’t speak to the text-speak phenomenon, it does speak to the inability (or at least disinclination) to read, comprehend, and respond to people in a sensible way. What follows is an anonymized version of a message I sent to my daughter’s (young) sixth grade teacher last year:


    Dear Ms. Teacher,

    If you’re available, I’d like to speak with you briefly this week about my daughter, Her Name. I am clearly describing the issue about which I would like to speak.

    I am specifically describing the goals of our proposed meeting.

    I can come in tomorrow (Thursday) before school or anytime between 11:30 and 3:00, or Friday between 11:30 and 2:30. Please let me know what will work best for you, or call me on my cell, (number), to schedule another time.

    Thank You,
    My Name


    Thats (sic) fine.

    Ms. Teacher

    If our teachers can’t communicate, we’re lost. I don’t mean to blame educators generally, but this needs to become a priority. You have my sympathy and my complete support in failing this student.

  15. November 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I care, but I am not sure I want to read the rest of your blog because it will likely depress me :(. I wish I had an explanation, but some current and growing themes I see in the USA include:

    1) Parents may not emphasize science for their children because the believe science is a corrupting, liberal conspiracy.
    2) If it doesn’t make money, it is worthless. Choosing a study that does not lead to riches is foolish and a waste to the economy.
    3) I can do anything I want and I should not have to believe or listen to any government official (teacher) because the government is always wrong.

    If parents are taking those attitudes, perhaps the behavior of students is simply a reflection of our society as a whole.

    • November 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm

      For young children (PK, kindergarten) there is barely any science in the curriculum. I am in Massachusetts (top in the nation!) and have been in kindergarten classrooms where the teacher literally told me “We squeeze in science when we get extra time. They have to learn to read.” then proceed to do nothing but ditto sheets. My son is in kindergarten now and I ask him daily what they have done for science. So far, 3 months into the school year, he has reportedly been to a “health” class 3 times to talk about skeletons and measure pumpkins. It is driving me nuts. I’m very pro-science!

    • 56 Kyle
      November 13, 2010 at 5:22 am

      Bingo TGoL, and then they vote for more! fight the depression, read on, the rabbit hole is long and deep.

  16. 57 Teri
    November 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    It is terrifying. My niece was a straight A student on her 13th birthday, then she got her first cell phone. That month, she sent 15,000 text messages. No, that’s not a typo. FIFTEEN THOUSAND. That must be one text every minute (with no sleep, including time she should have been in school.)
    Needless to say, her grades have dropped.

    Wake up parents.


  17. November 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I’m a college senior and have noticed this plague among my peers. It is unfortunate that learning proper English (and other subjects) has fallen by the wayside. I’ve watched as my fellow classmates stare dumbly at the professors, waiting to be fed the material rather than engaging it. We don’t think. We regurgitate.

    The lack of grammar kills me. I can’t understand what my peers are asking when they email me. There’s also a general disregard to reading emails as well, which frustrates me to no end.

    Referring back to Janet’s comment, I think part of the problem is that reading is no longer considered a fun pastime. I have friends who rarely finish a book a year. I know people who never read any of the books we were assigned back in high school, preferring Spark Notes. Whatever happened to reading? Even if someone were to find one book or series that she loves and reads continuously, at least she’s reading.

    I enjoyed your post. I’ll be sure to stop back again!

    • 66 Jule1
      November 12, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      A young waitress at a diner I frequent calls me the “Reading Lady”. Why? Because I bring a book when I go there and read it! I guess that’s remarkable in her world. I’ve been reading since before I can consciously remember learning how. I read so many books that my husband begs me not to buy them retail — and recently I found a church that sells paperbacks for .50 and hard bound books for a $1.00. Also, the Salvation Army tends to have a lot of books for .50. Since I get rid of the junky ones, this has turned into a good thing for me. I keep the books I think I’ll reread, then just re-donate the books I’ve already read. Better than $7.95 for a book that will be only read once.

      Why don’t kids read nowadays? Too much other stuff, I think. The internet, cell phones, texting, twitter, t.v., on-demand movies, etc. There is no time.

      When I was growing up we were limited to 2 hours of t.v. a nigh, and that was after dinner, after chores, and after making sure our homework was done.

      After all that if there was time, we read. Both my parents read books and the newspaper, and they set the example. I thought nothing of reading a few books for pleasure each week even though I already had reading for school. It did it because I enjoyed it, and still do ’til this day.

      • 67 Dave Navarre
        November 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

        I walk into restuarants alone with a book to read all the time, but I’ve not seen others do it. Back when I worked in an office, when I would walk down the hallway, I’d take a magazine to read (1990s) and people wondered how I didn’t walk into the walls. Even among my graduates school friends, I was odd – my personal library was mostly books that I bought for enjoyment, not for school.

        When I was a Scoutmaster (14 years), I’d choose a book as an award for one Scout every six months or so, trying to choose something that fit them well and write a little note in it for them. I like to think that helped them learn to love to read….

      • November 15, 2010 at 3:45 am

        Try the library. The books are free to borrow and then if you find one, or a series, you like well enough to re-read, you can purchase those. Most libraries also have a feature that will let you “order” books to read within the larger system if your local library is tiny like ours.
        I took my 4 year old to the library to get her very own card. She LOVES to get new books to read every week or two. We read in the mornings after she wakes up. In the morning the house is quiet, she is well rested and can pay attention for longer periods.

    • November 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      I guess I’m making up for your friends’ lack of reading. The pile of books (generally history) and magazines (The New Yorker and an alumni magazine, mostly) on and next to my bed is probably endangering my health. It does however keep the cats off of my bed, which is good for my asthma.

  18. November 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I would say that some of this is due to teachers who do not know how to reach some of their students to teach them what they need to know. My daughter is a fourth grader. Every year, she has been a straight A student. However, this year, she is really struggling. The transition from third to fourth grade has been especially hard on many of the fourth graders in her school. I have taken an active role to help her bring her grades up. Much of what I am seeing is that she did not understand what was being taught. She asked the teacher to explain it further, but, because he felt the need to move on, she was told that she would have to figure it out. As far as her science, she is struggling with finding the answers to questions that are being asked of her in her homework. We are working at home on how to look things up in her book and to put two ideas together to create the answer that the question is looking for. These are basic things that should have been taught before expecting the students to just know how to find the information. As a mother and a journalist, I feel that literacy and schooling is very important, but our children will continue to struggle until our colleges and universities teach those that are working their way into teaching careers how to teach basic concepts to students so that they can learn.

  19. 71 wyndham wales
    November 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Blame no one for this national disgrace but parents. How you speak and communicate with your children is important. The only time my son said “ain’t” it cost him a week’s allowance, and he never said it again. My children are all successful adults now, and I take credit for that. I also delight in the memory of what my neighbor once said when my children were not teenagers yet: he commented that my children talked like grownups. If you have young impressionable children, insist on proper English usage at home by speaking it yourself, and encouraging your children to speak it too.

    • 72 suzanp
      November 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      Thank you! Parents are the only stakeholders in education who are absolutely unaccountable for anything.

    • 73 Jule1
      November 12, 2010 at 5:07 pm

      You are 100% on the mark. My parents raised us to speak properly and we got “fined” (from our allowance) if we used “ain’t”, etc. It was non-negotiable and we all grew up speaking and writing properly.

      If parents don’t insist on it, kids are going to, of course, talk like other kids.

      I once knew a woman who switched back and forth in her speech — she spoke in “dialect” to her black friends, and when she spoke to me, she spoke the way I did. It was astonishing! I pointed it out to her and she didn’t even realize she did it.

      The thing is, she could function in both worlds, so I suspect her parents taught her to use proper grammar and she learned a less grammatical way of speaking from her friends. I always thought it must have taken a lot of brains to do both, and it’s something I’ve wondered about for many years — how do inner city kids or very isolated country children who only speak and write in a non-grammatical fashion ever get decent jobs and get ahead? And now this is spreading to all children, because of texting!

      • November 12, 2010 at 6:36 pm

        Wow–well, you don’t have to be an inner-city kid or a ‘very isolated country child’ to grow up with a regional dialect. I am from Kentucky, and it’s just as easy for me to speak correctly as it is to speak the dialect I grew up hearing. In fact, as with your friend, I do it without consciously knowing that I’m doing so–when I call home, I speak to my family as they speak to me, and I say words like “ain’t” and even more grammatically-atrocious things.

        Many of those who eschew proper grammar do not plan to obtain jobs in which writing skills and reading skills are a factor. I lived in a fairly large area for Kentucky, but even my high school–which was one of the best schools in the state–had a large department for kids who planned to go into agri-business. Many employers in their area will talk the same way that they do and will probably not dock points for having a thick country patois; it can even come in handy if you are in a position where you are dealing with the public, who would be more assured by someone who sounds like they do than someone who sounds foreign to them.

        I can’t speak much for inner city kids, but I imagine that, just like the kids I went to school with, those who plan to move on into professional jobs make it a point to learn what they need to learn to do so.

    • November 14, 2010 at 8:23 pm

      No. Please read my previous comment that got nested above . . . parents absolutely are #1 in looking for reasons and also solutions, but the problem is bigger than just irresponsible parents.

    • 76 MM
      November 15, 2010 at 12:59 am

      I agree with you, insisting on speaking proper English to your children from the start of their life. I’ve read to my children starting when I was pregnant with them. Now we carry a book in the car so that when we go anywhere we are reading. I make them read to me because I want them to feel comfortable in speaking the written word. My 10 year daughter reads at a 9th grade reading level and the other day her teacher and I had a meeting. I said my daughter is bored with the tests on reading that you are giving her, could you please let her read a book that is at her reading level and the teacher’s response was that she could only go as high as 6th grade for her testing. So here we have a child craving to reach above and is being told, NOPE you must stay down here with the rest of the children. I wanted to shake some sense into the teacher. So here I am sending my children to school so I can work to support them and then I come home and teach them what they didn’t learn at school. My children have a new step-mom that speaks to them in baby talk, Hot gum or Cold gum she tells them. I emphatically tell my children, we will NOT speak like that. I know that teachers have testing guidelines that they must follow but to stifle a child that could soar with the eagles, well it’s just wrong.

  20. 77 Matt
    November 12, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Alot of people criticise teaching for ‘teaching to the test’ etc. But if you went into some sort of open ended education with no real testing then do you really think that kids will come out better? These students who write in ‘text speak’ are clearly students who are not interested in their writing ability. Do you believe that they would IMPROVE if they weren’t going to be tested on their literay skills? You ask your average student to learn something, that they know they won’t be tested on, and they will likely not remember it – unless it interests them.

    Also, a lot of people claim the kids are too distracted, that is where the parents should come in. When I was doing work at home, it was at a table with no radio, no phone, no laptop. I may have complained and been pissy at the time but I do see the benefits now.

    The problem, as I see it, with education now is that it has been commercialised to such an extent that it’s been rendered useless.
    Cost-cutting is an important part of business, but there can be no price put on education.

    • November 13, 2010 at 1:46 am

      We need to change what we’re testing, and find a way to test whether people know how to think. We need to teach curiosity, problem-solving, how to synthesize information, how to create and imagine — higher order thinking. Regurgitating factoids in order to do well on most standardized tests does not encourage LEARNING, and teaching factoids does not encourage interest or enthusiasm.

  21. 79 me
    November 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Not only do I care, but it scares the hell out of me. When I’m wearing my “Army” hat I see it all the time with young 18 yr olds, and I spend a painful amount of my time trying to help them.

  22. November 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I enjoyed your blog today..but holy crap — I guess I should not encourage you to come read my blog…it is chock full of just sayin’s, whatevers and likes.

    Oh, and I love to throw in apostrophes, whenever and wherever the mood srikes me, just sayin’

    And — congrats on being Freshly Pressed with your very fun blog today!



  23. 83 Jay
    November 12, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    First off…let’s not generalize. That moron you blogged about does not represent all young people. We have some of the best and brightest on the globe right here in the U.S.; however, we also have, and coddle, the laziest, stupidest and most obese sloths on the planet.

    It’s not caused by computers, games or the Internet. If anything, those things should *increase* cognitive abilities. In my opinion, as a professional, and as a father of two, is that our culture has devolved thanks to the media and political sewage. All of this can be traced back to the boomer generation that created the 60’s culture. That’s a generation before me, but I can see clearly the gutter that they built for future generations.

    We have a culture that worships “celebrities”…and what counts as celebrity can be anything…least of which is intellect or academic achievement (thanks Brittney, Paris and the Situation). We also have parents that are idiots. Moms want to be teenagers and act like friends, spineless fathers that have no idea how to be the strong, stable pinnacle of wisdom, and kids who are taught to compete at all costs. Parents fail to lead. They let the kids run the house and they have a sense of entitlement, not an ethic of hard work that leads to rewards. The rewards come by demanding them, and by shallow parents that want their kids to appear to have it all, so they in turn will look successful.

    Making matters worse, we have political groups that coddle the stupid, and that has caused our teachers to have very little power to actually teach. We have to be sensitive to everything now. Social sensitivity is more important to the educational leaders than the academic performance of the students. Everybody is right no matter what they do, how they look or what they say. The only thing that is wrong is saying that somebody’s “choices” are not right.

    Since everybody is free to do as they wish, our media is littered with entertainment glorifying wreckless behavior, giving people fame and fortune for doing what would have put them in the gutter or jail 50 years ago. Instead of studying, kids are gathered around reality TV or videos of Li’l Anybody with scores of bikini-clad women slapping their butt cheeks together while wads of cash are tossed around and the English language is bastardized into expressions mimicked by people at school and the office. Fo’ rizzle? Girls are wearing clothes that imitate their idols, and Mom’s think they are just so cute! Bumbling fathers just sit back and watch…powerless to do anything since challenging a kid’s decisions is politically incorrect. Heck, somebody would even call it abuse!

    There are still plenty of good parents, good teachers and good families that encourage education as a means to gaining success. But we in the U.S. fall pitifully behind Asia in that regard. They will ultimately be the world power within 25 years…while our fat, moronic kids are waiting for the next situation…

    • 84 guardo
      November 12, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      My goodness, there is a lot of ground covered in this comment! Let me focus on just one little piece of it–the idea that the best and the brightest as well as the laziest and the stupidest reside here together. We are indeed a country of extremes. The world’s greatest wealth . . . and abject poverty. The most sophisticated health care on the planet . . . to which millions of our compatriots are denied access. It is no different where education is concerned; while the education of much of our youth is deplorable, the world still sends its best to America for university degrees–particularly graduate degrees. This enviable position was earned by the efforts of countless university faculty and administrators, and benefits our country inestimably. But it is being taken for granted, and the ongoing financial pressures on universities are resulting in the elimination of tenure-stream lines in favor of underpaid, unprotected adjuncts. This casualization of the teaching force at the highest levels of American education is admittedly peripheral to today’s post, but is worth keeping in mind, for its long-range consequences will be dire.

      • November 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm

        Aye aye… Many countries are ahead of us in math and science, however the U.S. is number one in confidence.

        The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

    • 86 Caro
      November 12, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      Well said, Jay.

    • November 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks to take the time to write all this. You are completely right. In my humble opinion the only thing that is missing is the agent of all this. Progressive leftists are the ones promoting all those things with increased emphasis and effectiveness starting in the 60’s. They inoculate PC in western culture (in my country, the situation is much much worse) and now you can’t say the truth anywhere or pointing fingers that someone start crying like babes and you even risk being jailed for hurting someone’s fillings (what a pathetic situation!). People have to do their homework and study history to realize this simple fact in order to stop filling like something that is happening almost without any cause, or what’d be worst, from the wrong ones. I’m sorry, I probably seem like any other illiterate myself judging by my English, but I’m just a foreigner and still learning. Thanks.

    • 88 Amanda Jump
      November 15, 2010 at 8:32 am

      Amen, Jay!

  24. November 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I do care, but fail to have the will to influence the necessary change. All I can do is make sure that my girlfriend’s two kids are able to read and write. I can see thier Catholic ‘private school’ failing them right in front of my eyes. Her boy, because he is left handed, and her girl because she is rambunxious. If the teacher can’t help her boy because he is left handed, then she should be left out in the cold. If they can’t help her daughter, because she either acts up, or doesn’t pay attention, then they should differentiate the curriculum to engage her. Easier said than done I’m sure, but this is America. Where there’s a will theres an A.

    The topic of this article and the movie Iciocracy are big reasons I won’t have kids. I won’t send them down that road, and I can’t afford to send them to private school.

  25. November 12, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I liked your posting and even though my comment might not be directly linked to it, I wanted to share it with you!

    I understand the question you’re raising and I think the answers depend very much on perspectives…


    First of all, I see a great difference between the 3 levels of learning: the informal (taking place in the family, sometimes accidental, from peers, etc.), the formal (taking place in schools, universities, and following a pre-established curicula, etc.) and the non-fomal (taking place outside the formal system, organised and, at least here in Europe, most of the times provided by youth organisations with long history and tradition in training, that is voluntary and that people choose because they want to).

    Personally I think that all the 3 levels should directly contribute to the development of all human beings; kids should reach kindergarden or school with a solid base for their formal studies. Why? simply because there are lots of things missing in schools that can be completed by informal education (through peer education for example, or the education received from parents and grandparents).
    And I doubt this happens in many cases… why? well, simply because parents nowadays are busy working and spend less time with their kids… I lived in Singapore for a while and I was surprised to see how many families have nannies and baby-sitters, unlike in Eastern Europe where I come from. I do not agree with the idea that my kids get to spend more time with a stranger, that eventually becomes part of the family, than with myself or my wife, for example… what guarantees do I have the my kid will have a good ‘family’ preparation for his/her life??? the CV of the baby-sitter??? let’s be serious!!!

    Secondly, throughout school, and again, in order to complete the learning, kids should be involved in non-formal education (community-based initiatives, trainings, etc). This will ensure again that they get a complete education.

    Unfortunately, I am not sure the educational system in US is following Delors’ model of the 4 pillars of learning, and in this case there is something missing… I admit I’m not up to date with the US educational system, so I may be wrong…


    In case things are better than I imagine, meaning the system is based on a healthy approach – as far as I know, most of the European ones are not – then I have several questions:

    Is it the young people that are completely off-track nowadays?
    Is it the system that does not adapt properly and update constantly to the needs of young people and the economical realities?
    Is it the teachers or trainers that do not keep up with the latest technological advancements?
    and the list can go on…

    And the answer to these can be linked to the fact that we do need a change of approach. Einstein said ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them’.

    The problem in the situation presented in your post might also be that we are not even aware
    that we are creating problems. We are not aware of the ‘problems/issues’ that come along with the fact that technology is advancing and things change very quickly from day to day. So these kids that are born in the IT era, they have completely different concerns than we do. It’s almost as if they were from a different culture. Believe me, the fact that we also use internet and have facebook accounts does not mean we are up to date… they are up to date, they were born with it, we were not. Therefore, following Einstein’s line, we need to think in perspective and always in advance, analysing and understanding all possible consequences of any of our future actions… it sounds very complex, but I really think this is the way to ensure a better future for all of us!

    As a conclusion, we should recognise all the factors that contribute to this situation and take them into account when creating new educational policies. Though at the moment I am not sure there are any plans for such changes, it would most probably be good to start pushing, politically, for new directions…

    And since I really like Einstein so much, I put myself in the shoes of today’s kids and say that I will be very happy when ‘education should be conceived in such a way that people see it as a priceless gift rather than a heavy burden’, after all, ‘the only things that interferes with my learning is my education’.

    all the best!

  26. November 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    *their (Paragraph 1 Line 2)
    *Idiocracy (Paragraph 2 line 1)

  27. 92 jelzmar
    November 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I write for a hobby and normally post my work on things like FictionPress and FanFiction.Net. The chat speak that you talk about happens there a lot. It is the most irritating thing. There are some people that are nicer about it, and just point out what they are doing wrong and how to fix it. That is why I do, but there are others that aren’t so nice. I actually do support what the Literacy Union is doing on FanFiction.Net, even though many consider them to be bullies.

    When they come across a story written in that way, they will leave very lengthy reviews on what they did wrong and how stupid it makes them seem. If the writer becomes hostile, then they will post the story on their message board and have everyone report it for it’s lack of grammar. It’s against the website’s rules to post a story with very poor grammar and no punctuation etc. Sometimes they will ‘spork’ it. Which means they will go through the entire story, sarcastically and often rudely, insult the author for their lack of grammar, punctuation, and often plot line.

    I know it seems harsh. What do you do with a seventeen year old that posts an entire story in chat speak, and seems to think that this is alright? We are talking about a writing community, that is about creating compelling stories and they don’t capitalize ‘I’ ever. They also seem to think there is nothing wrong with this and that we shouldn’t judge them, but that we should welcome them into our community with open arms.

    I plan on homeschooling my children and I always have, just because how difficult it was for me to learn in my schools. I came across a discussion. (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Discuss:Is_homeschooling_better_than_public_schools) It was interesting to see what some children that were homeschooled said about it. There is one comment on there from someone whose parents forced her to be homeschooled, after her junior year. She hated homeschooling and was advocating that everyone should be in public schools and not forced to stay home. It very long and hard to read, but she ended it like this.

    “if u dont want ur kid to be a failure get them to school.now ill let u decide the rest.good luck!”

    I wish I could find the girl, so that I can thank her for solidifying that homeschooling is the best decision for my children. At this point, I think it might be the best for most children. That way the teachers will have smaller classes and can concentrate and doing the best they can for them.

    • November 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      I see what you’re saying about FF.N being a writing community, for fuck’s sake it’s FAN FICTION. It’s meant to be for fun if nothing else. There’s no reason to go through and completely screw with somebody. Just report the fucking story and get it over with, there’s no need to gang up on someone.

      • 94 jelzmar
        November 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm

        It is meant to be legible and like I said, they only do after the people become hostile from pointing out their errors. If the people weren’t breaking the rules of the site to begin with, then whining about how they have a right to write that like that for fun. Then it wouldn’t happen to them.

        It is for fun, but how much fun is it for me to have to weed through stories written in chat speak? It’s not. I don’t want to read that, and neither does anybody else. It’s also against the rules that everyone agrees to before they post.

      • 95 Circe
        November 14, 2010 at 9:08 pm

        Of course. It’s just fan fiction, so who cares if it’s so who cares if it’s so filled with grammatical and spelling errors that it’s completely unreadable?

        I love fan fiction, but I don’t waste my time on people who can’t be bothered to spell correctly or make sure their grammar is correct.

    • November 13, 2010 at 1:52 am

      Homeschooling, though, doesn’t provide two crucial opportunities that I believe are important for all children: to learn how to learn from/work with different people with different teaching styles, and to learn how to get along with their peers. Despite my concerns about possible shortcomings of the various schools my children have gone to, these concerns remain foremost in my mind.

      • November 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

        I’m going to disagree with you. I was homeschooled up until college, and I think I learned how to learn from/work with different people with different teaching styles, better than kids in school. How often, in the “real world”, do you sit in a room with 30 people your age all day long? That’s how the school system works.

        By being homeschooled, I was given the opportunity to go with my mom and siblings to the grocery store during “school hours” and observe and learn how to interact with the store clerks, managers, other customers, etc. I was given a broad view of the world, as opposed to the narrow view of public or private school.

        Having three siblings, countless neighbors, and other homeschooled friends taught me how to get along with my peers. I considered myself even more “socialized” than some of my public schooled friends because I was capable of interacting with people who were much older and much younger than I, in addition to my peers.

        I have no difficulty conversing with adults and children alike, and I transitioned into college at age 15 with no social difficulties.

        That is why homeschooling was the best thing that my parents could have done for me.

        • November 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

          I’m very glad for you that it worked out so well; I know others who feel the same. I have also had direct experience with college students who did NOT have those experiences or abilities, and who suffered accordingly.

          If done well, homeschooling can be a wonderful thing, but in and of itself it does not automatically send children out into the world ready for the next stage of their lives. It ultimately relies on the abilities and dedication of the parents and the dynamic between the parents and child/ren. As I said, I’m glad it was such a positive experience for you.

    • 99 cynically yours
      November 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

      Perhaps this plague of illiteracy should be referred to as the era of e.e. cummings whose intentional disregard for the English language — tossing grammar out the window, inventing words, playing around with syntax — is what made him famous and essential reading.


      I say this with a smile because in order to effectively break the rules, you must first understand them — and that seems to be the issue here. Students don’t know they are breaking the rules — or certainly don’t care, because they aren’t interested and/or capable of learning them and no one seems to be taking them to task over this.

      The problem isn’t with schools or politics or the entertainment industry or even social media and the devices that seem permanently implanted on students today. The problem with education rests with parents. It always has, and always will. And to a larger extent, it also rests with the communities in which families reside.

      If parents and communities don’t care that their kids are turning out illiterate, there’s not much hope for any radical sea change in the future. Each successive generation will pop out dumber and dumber populations until we truly are a confederacy of dunces.

    • November 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      The girl writes like that, was homeschooled, and yet you are advocating homeschooling? This makes no sense to me.

  28. November 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    First, congrats on being freshly pressed. Second, kind of far-fetched. Why? Because the content of the e-mail does not give any evidence to the person in question being functionally illiterate. Sorry.

    • 102 jelzmar
      November 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

      The evidence is that you would have to be functionally illiterate to think it is okay to write to your professor in such a way. You do not writer to your college professor and not capitalize, use periods, apostrophes, nor substitute ellipsis for periods. It’s disrespectful, unprofessional and rude. It will also keep you out of a job. When I was a manager at a gas station, if we saw one spelling mistake, they printed instead of signed their name, hand bad handwriting or had poor grammar their application went into the trash.

      • November 12, 2010 at 8:03 pm

        Good point! Maybe the kid is literate on another level, but his/her complete lack of awareness that it might not be such a good idea to write to your professor in text-speak is scary. I have no problem shooting off a quick text or chat to someone I work with (same level) about an urgent matter – “you there? call steve”- but I sure wouldn’t do it to a customer or a professor, for heaven’s sake! It doesn’t matter how smart someone is – if they don’t know that their communications should be adjusted for different circumstances, they might as well be illiterate!

    • 104 guardo
      November 12, 2010 at 5:48 pm

      Functional Illiteracy: reading and writing skills inadequate to manage communication.

      “what the quiz points added in with the total?”

      Functional illiteracy? Clearly.

  29. November 12, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I was surprised by the high rate of illiteracy in the U.S., but not the states where the biggest percentages are. I think it’s ridiculous how illiterate so many adults in the U.S. are, of all places. We have this image everyone likes to think of us as the U.S., that we’re all fat, that we’re all educated, we have all these great freedoms, etc. Yet we have such a high immigration that we are fighting to control that it brings down statistics, or in this case, skyrockets them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all the immigrants’ faults for our illiteracy rate, it’s everyone. We have lack of schools or educational facilities in so many places in the U.S. We need to do a few things, stop pulling money from education as one of the first things that we do when we’re in a crisis. I mean, look at California. One of the first things Schwarzenegger did was cut over $1 billion in education and schools, and now he’s talking about cutting a week. No wonder our education is so far behind most other countries. I mean, I have a cousin in the U.K. Their educational system is so much different, and they graduate at 16. It is also much more rigorous. We need to step it up. It’s starting to show now, our illiteracy rate is getting higher and higher, especially in high immigrant states. Hence, California, Florida, Texas, etc. Another thing we need to do is regulate immigration, which we still are working on, but we, in my opinion, need to stop trying to accommodate so much for immigrants. We need to make sure we can teach them English, we need to make sure to teach them the basic skills needed in our country. 1 in 7 adults being illiterate is unacceptable for a country like the U.S. We could have 100% literate, but we don’t.

  30. November 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    What is the answer indeed? As a writer and former English teacher, I was appauled at your student’s e-mail. I remember walking to crew practice as a freshman in college with one of my teammates. It was 5:00am and she still had not finished her paper that was due at 8:00am. She was blocked. She received straight A’s in high school, received a scholarship to our school, but had no idea how to study or properly write a 5-page paper.

    In all honesty, I think the solution is a complete reformation of the education system. We need schools and systems that support teachers and students in reaching their full potential. In the meantime, are you able to take some time with this student and explain to him what is wrong with his e-mail? Could you direct him to some writing materials that would help him?

  31. November 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s a travesty. I call this generation ‘Boogar Eatin Morons’. They think fingers are used soley for the purposes of texting, picking their noses, and pointing the blame elsewhere.
    Congratulations on Freshly Pressed! That’s awesome.

  32. November 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I definitely care. After reading through some cover letters from recent applicants for an open position within my company, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was not the hiring manager because I would have tossed them all out due to poor writing skills.

    I’ve ranted about Twitter before, and how it encourages people to not choose their words carefully, but just abbreviate MORE words. It’s absolutely maddening.

    Lovely blog!

  33. November 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I have no doubt that language will be reduced to grunts within 100 years.

  34. November 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    This is so sad. I graduated from a NYC Public High School in 1990 and never went to college. I was educated enough to get an office job and worked my way to becoming an executive assistant to the president of a business in Manhattan. I am certainly not MENSA material, but at least I left HS with some skills. If I had graduated HS today, it seems I wouldn’t be qualified to do much of anything. They push and push for higher education, but shouldn’t the free education you are supposed to be getting in public school at least be enough to qualify you for some sort of job that pays enough to support yourself? Do you realize that these kids are old enough to vote for the people who run our country – oh, wait a minute, that explains a lot, doesn’t it?

    I don’t even know what else to say. This is why my husband (also no college) and I pay so much attention to how our 1st grader does in school. And to think that we Gen-Xers got such a bad rap for being lazy and apathetic.

    P.S. I was seriously paranoid and spell-checked everything before I posted this 🙂


  35. November 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Great post. I care, as a 20 something college graduate I’m amazed at society. People don’t care. Parents don’t care. Kids don’t care. Why is it that we don’t care?

    From a pool of 20 HS peers, I’m the only one that graduated college in only four years. The rest of them are still at a Junior College-still working on the GE’s. Many of them still do not know what they want to do in life. Many of them without a job. Many of them still living at home leeching of their parent’s income.

    What happened?

  36. 113 Tara
    November 12, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I think on thing to blame is that over the last decade or so we spend most of the year teaching “the test”. All kids need to know is what they are going to be tested on and how to take a test. When are we going to learn that how you do one day or one week of testing has nothing to do with overall progress? Kids no longer know how to think for themselves or problem solve. Creativity is stiffled. Kids are stressed and pushed too much while given no outlets to relieve stress. No wonder kids are bullied and way too many kids are medicated or seeing a therapist.

  37. November 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    I am a public school teacher. I currently teach reading but have also taught language arts and the writing process over the course of the past 20 years. I am not only disturbed (on a daily basis) by the general lack of writing ability my students possess, but the sloppiness, the haphazard treatment of major projects, and the inability to think or make judgements on their own. Some things I hear frequently: “Do we have to remember this?” “Is this for a grade?” “How many sentences to do we have to write?” (This last one is for when I give them an assignment that involves putting thoughts onto paper.) The current group of kids–and I teach middle school–are like every other group before them. As they are given more and an are expected to do less, they expect more and give less.

    That being said, I have a 12 year old daughter. She does not have a television or a phone or a computer in her bedroom. She does not have a cell phone. It is not our intent to deprive her of anything, or to keep her from having fun. There are other things that are more important right now–like getting an education and having twelve-year old fun which includes riding her bike, reading a lot, playing with her pets, helping out around the house, spending time with her little brother, participating in a couple of outside activities, etc.

    This is not old-fashioned. This is beneficial. And I wish that MORE of my students had LESS.

    • 115 Jule1
      November 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm

      + 1000 to you!

      You reminded me of a reading teacher I had in 7th Grade. She was considered a “byotch”. Very old school, already well into her 60’s, with iron gray hair and seemingly to us very old.

      I LOVED her! She loved reading. She was a super teacher if you did the work. I still remember her fondly as someone who really cared about what she taught, and who was a very good teacher.

      She retired shortly after I left — I’d heard rumors that she was tired of teaching and had had it. No wonder. But we sure need teachers like her now — and parents like you.

  38. November 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I care!!! I hate that this battered form of English is acceptable to these kids. I hate seeing a text from my friends who have graduated from college where most words are shortened and there is no punctuation to speak of. It’s scary and it’s disheartening. I wonder what these people’s resumes look like, and I wonder when businesses will lower their standards enough to start hiring people who are too lazy to spell out words like “you” and “are.”

    We have to start expecting more of our kids sooner. And we have to be willing to fund public schools so that they are equipped to provide our future leaders with a progressive education. Right now, we simply can’t compete with the rest of the world when it comes to educational standards and that needs to change NOW!

  39. November 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Ouch. I think that the lack of being able to speak properly annoys me more than anything. I hate trying to have a conversation with someone and all they can say is “like, uhm, uh, umm, you know, like, like it was like, I was like, oh my god and she was like NO WAY” etc.

    It’s annoying.

    • November 13, 2010 at 1:56 am

      Yes, I have students who, besides being unable to write in complete sentences, are unable to speak in them. One student (last semester I think) would say “like” at least every 3rd word, if not more often, to the point where a simple sentence would take her a minute and a half to say. Interestingly, she also got hit (gently, no injuries) by a car on her way to class because she was texting while she was crossing the road and didn’t notice that she did not have a walk sign.

  40. November 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Great post, great discussion. I have no other answers beyond encouraging reading and encouraging better writing as our children are growing up. As a parent, it is frustrating reading over my kids’ work but that is what you do. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  41. November 12, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Aren’t we missing another layer to this particular problem? This person is a student athlete, no? S/He mentioned needing to know his grade in order to “play”. Student athletes are notorious for having been told that as long as they barely pass, and they know how to play some damn good ball, then they can do whatever the heck they want. I’m generalizing, of course, because I know a majority of student athletes are actually very bright. But as for the others, that sense of entitlement has been a problem in Universities for decades! I’m sure now that more people are aware of that problem, coaches have probably been forced to back off on pressuring teachers to let their players pass (that used to happen to my mom all the time when she taught in the 60’s-70’s). But, I dunno…I think that could be this kid’s problem, in particular. S/He’s probably in school for one reason only – to play ball.

    As far as your analysis in general, I agree completely that we are facing a great threat to our future and that our education system is clearly being dumbed down left and right. I live in NYC, so don’t get me started on that. And of course there is the problem of kids not knowing how to communicate in person anymore. You clearly know of what you speak and thank you for sharing it with us.

    Great post!!

  42. 121 EmmKay
    November 12, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I believe one of the key differences against other countries is the value parents put on educating their children. Parents have a responsibility to spend time reading with their kids and looking over homework.

    Teachers, on the other hand, should not push kids through school who can’t understand basic math or complete a sentence properly. I do care how they score on standardized tests. They are supposed to learn.

  43. 122 EmmKay
    November 12, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    That sound have been I *DON’T care how they score on standardized tests.

  44. 123 Athais
    November 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Have you read the book “The Dumbest Generation”. It is a very interesting read. The author points out that schools that have technology, aka computers, routinely produce students that are below those students that attend schools without technology. Although the teachers say that students are working on their writing and reading skills by using computers, these are the two fields that the students are slipping in. The reason is that they use the short-hand form of communication that is used in text-messaging. ‘You’ become ‘U’. ‘Your’ and ‘You’re’ becomes ‘Ur’, etc. In writing in this manner, and reading such writing, the student is not learning how to spell, use grammar, or comprehend large sentences. Since the students are mainly using the computers to keep up with other people on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, and other modes of communication, they don’t receive a very good education on grammar, spelling, etc. Most writers can’t spell very well at all. Grammar has been relegated to the attic. Even when asked to write a book report or other type of report, the students are copying and pasting from articles here and there. They do not learn how to write their ideas and thoughts down on paper. So, in essence, we are producing the dumbest generation by giving them the best technology in their schools.

    The other thing that is lacking is critical thinking skills. I was on a forum one day and someone had posted about Tai Chi Rulers. The next poster asked what a Tai Chi Ruler was. Everyone got upset with me when I pointed out that the person was typing from the biggest encyclopedia in the world – the computer – and could have looked up the information rather than ask for an explanation. Alas, this is the generation that will one day be doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, etc. The majority of students from this generation, though, are not interested in obtaining degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, and other intense science fields. We are seeing this now with the influx of Indian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. people that take jobs in chemistry, physics, and so on. The main reason is because the upcoming generation doesn’t know how to take notes, study, read, write, or think critically. In my classes (yes, I am a teacher), the students are always asking, “Will that be on the test?” If I answer yes, they then will ask about how I will phrase it; will it be a multiple choice question, true or false, etc. Basically, they study for the test and expect me to teach to the test. Gone are the days when you studied for the knowledge. These students are going to have a big eye opener when they take the certification test and fail because the questions on that test are not the ones that were on my exams and most likely will be about material that we studied, but it wasn’t on the test.

    • November 13, 2010 at 2:00 am

      Every teacher’s favorite question: “Will that be on the test?”
      Implication: if it’s not, it’s not worth knowing. If it is, I’ll know it for just long enough.


      Even when I’m testing material directly from the book I paraphrase so I can find out if they actually understand it or not. They don’t like this. I’m quite sure, for many of them, that I’m the toughest teacher they’ve ever had, and it’s a Music Appreciation course at Community College, a course they were probably reassured by their counselor would be “easy” (don’t even get me started on this). This really, excuse the colloquialism, pisses them off, but I’m okay with that.

      • 125 Athais
        November 14, 2010 at 10:31 am

        Heck, they were forewarned that my class, ‘Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathophysiology’ was hard. Even writing the title of the class is hard. I would expect them to come in and be prepared to study. Instead, they want me to teach to the test. I won’t, but I do warn them that certain things may come back to haunt them.

  45. November 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I’m a former Special ed teacher. High functionally mentally retarded, high school level. I have seen what many college students write, and I would not have accepted this low standard from my students. I’ve spoken with many women my age who stayed in the teaching profession. I’ve heard the stories about principals threatening teachers with dismissal if they don’t changes students’ grades, parents who email homework assignments in for their kids (that they have obviously done for the children),gross behavioral problems even in the best of schools. I also know that parents are overextended, children are overextended, teachers are often underpaid and overworked, money is in tight supply. I know it all. But I also know that it is a myth that our educational system is “the best.” It is far from it. And if our schools produce inferior graduates, we have become an inferior society. It is very telling that some of the finest education is now coming out of a handful of charter schools, with inner city populations. These model schools have parents, teachers, and principals who are completely committed to the highest standards possible. And they are getting results.

    • 127 Athais
      November 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

      I believe that the problem lies in many directions. Here is my take on it (short tirade):

      1. Parents don’t have time to sit down with children and work with them on their homework.

      2. Students in high-school are working after school, making money to buy cars and other material things or saving it to go to college. Many students don’t have very good reading skills, so studying is a chore to them. So they don’t study, but just do enough so that they graduate.

      3. School has become second rated in the United States. I hold a Masters in Nursing Education, but my pay does not reflect my education. My daughter, who went to trade school to study to be an electrician, makes more than me. My son, who repairs helicopters, a skill learned in the military, makes more than me. So I keep asking myself why I went on for the Masters degree.

      4. Too many students in the classrooms. Half of them are not disciplined at home, so they act out in school. Teachers can’t discipline them, so they send them to the principle to be disciplined, but they can’t discipline them either. Parents don’t want their children on suspension because then they would be home alone. So these children are left in the classroom, where they prevent other students from learning.

      5. There is money in the education system. It is just not being spent well. Putting computers into the schools is a big no-no. Elementary students are handed calculators to do the math. They will never learn why 1 + 1 = 2, but they will be able to input it into the calculator and come up with an answer. That is a poor way of teaching math. Phonics worked so well for teaching children to read, why are we not using it? It seems to me that if something works, why not stick with it?

      6. Students routinely have to be retaught everything they learned in the first few months of school in the fall. I say, extend the school year and start them at a younger age. If the European school system works, then why not adopt it? Time to put our prejudices aside and quit worrying about inconvenience in order to do what it right for our children.

      I home-schooled my children after 6th grade. I found out my daughter was passed in every grade up to 6th grade even though she couldn’t comprehend what she read. My son was routinely beaten up by four girls in his class and the school was unwilling to suspend the girls, so I pulled my son out. It is sad when the good students lose because of bad teachers, rotten classmates, or a school system that fails. You are correct in saying that the educational system lies when it says it is the ‘best’. It is not the best. Just look at the illiterate children that can’t make change that the system produces.

  46. November 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    This is sad, sad news! I keep hearing about these illiteracy problems and the excuses, but no definite solutions. Hmm, it does raise issues on the future of America as the current setup is definitely not working. Let’s put aside our pride and actually try and learn from other countries on how to deepen students’ understanding in basic math and English.

    This cycle will only repeat itself unless drastic measures are made.

  47. November 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    If you take into consideration how diverse our country is in comparison, that may be a possibility. There are a whole bunch of immigrants coming from other countries whose second language is english, making learning more difficult. Many of these students are also thrown into the head count. A lot of students from countries in Latin America (and all over) immigrate at a younger age and it is more difficult for them to integrate into our education system. In countries in Europe, many of the students do speak other languages, but because all of the cultures, countries, and languages are a lot closer to one another, it’s easier for them to assimilate.
    From a university student’s perspective, I never, ever send emails like this to anyone other than my friends. I’m currently taking a year off and living in France for a year, so I’m actually able to see the difference in education systems. First off, the french, even at 7 years old, read chapter books every night before they go to sleep and throughout the day. They actually enjoy reading. In America, most of the students are forced to read and aren’t necessarily encouraged to read for fun, especially in areas of poverty which covers a lot of the United States.

  48. 130 mikelambert
    November 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Just count the books in a high school students library, their personal one, in their room. The 2 rooms upstairs are filled with books. My second son is now at Drexel attending graduate school, to become a librarian. He is specific, a school librarian. Have some hope that some of us did work hard with our kids. Our other fellow has a side project that is making a splash in Boston, Boston lowbrow.com.I know a freshman at Boston College that is struggling, he has no history of reading.

  49. November 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Hmm… first of all, US/Asia comparison is an old one, but I seem to hear more complaints than suggestions for action. i’m wondering if it’s the american pride getting in the way? we’re willing to say, “why are asian kids better at math?” but we’re not willing to send our researchers and professors to asia to learn from their tricks. sounds appalling? after all, why should america be learning from anyone else when we have the world’s greatest academic institutions right here? hmm.. how coldwar-esque
    throughout highschool, we had chinese teachers/reasearchers walking around the halls, classrooms, art classes, taking notes, asking questions… they were getting their noses all up in our faces, in a good way that is. ever wonder why china is scaring the crap out of america? america should suck up its pride and recognize that it’s superpower status is waning (wake up call, laziness and apathy is not just a trend among youth… can we please say something about the HORRIBLY inefficient companies, small businesses, schools,not to mention government policies and products?) that is, unless we’re willing to do something about.. LET’S GET DOWN AND DIRTY AND START FROM THE BOTTOM UP! we should stop blaming and complaining

    second.. speaking as a college junior from one of the top liberal arts colleges in america, i understand your frustrations, but i have to ask: why do we consider learning, literacy, authority, everything that’s NOT technology as something of intrinsic value? at least those in the form of learning/literacy/authority that’s in america today? people can live without speaking eloquently, people can learn without going through higher education, and wasn’t america found by those who flouted authority? yes, i do believe discipline and maturity should precede respectful irreverence, but the point is — professors/academia are not always teaching students the things that seem to matter to common americans. (exclusivity of higher learning? don’t get me started… sometimes the cultural and class elitism that is required to be in school is enough to make me want to quit) we should at least re-examine what’s being taught, the responsibility of the money-making universities (which really is a business, let’s face it, serious commidification of knowledge, do we really need to know the history of all the jargons that have now become absolutely meaningless in the real world, but is still in fashion among the academics?), lack of health/ethics education in schools… NEVER MIND ALLOWING STUDENTS TO BE LIVING BREATHING FEELING HUMAN BEINGS! not studying machines…

    but the bottom line is: YES. I DO CARE.
    i think i’ll do something about it. (thanks for the post btw! and i apologize for using internet slogans like btw, and not using caps.. i think my message still came across though)

    and i do thank you for continuing your work as an educator. i know it’s one of the least thanked jobs in the states..

    • November 13, 2010 at 2:08 am

      Your message does come across, but maybe not in the way you intend. While it’s obvious that you’ve thought about some of these issues quite comprehensively, you lose credibility when you can’t be bothered to capitalize, and I don’t always know what you mean.

      The purpose of writing is to communicate, and if your writing doesn’t communicate your ideas effectively, you’ve failed to meet your purpose.

      Do you see?

  50. 133 Hexina
    November 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Hey. I am a Romanian teacher of English and last year I wrote a paper on how technology had influenced the students’ability to write properly. I took home scores of test papers and scanned the ones that were interesting. When presented to the student as a scan, they gasped – hey, did I write that??? Sigh. ‘Twas rather sad, but a cool paper to research and write.
    So, I feel we are on the same page here.

  51. 134 dubosquejr
    November 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Dear “Just Sayin'”,
    This post of yours simply reinforces my Theory of “The Dumbing of America”. The top 1% of the asset holders in this Country weiled enough power to actually eliminate the Middle Class. The Middle Class no longer makes them any money; only the poor, who can be expoilted and manipulated, can better their bottom lines.
    I saw this happening 20 years ago when I returned to college to matriculate towards a Degree in Engineering. Apparently I was the envy of all when it came to the “Lab” classes. Why? I was the only student in any of these classes who could properly speak, compose, and write the English Language. I’m afraid to say that trend has progressed at an obscene rate ever since. Now, Congress may decide to disassemble the Dept. of Education, giving all powers to the individual States, thereby cutting the only thread our Nation has to coordinated program for for our children. Me thinks we might have lost the fight,:(

  52. November 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Education is in a scary state. Most parents don’t even know the system and how it feeds them lies. It is often tauted that graduation rates are increasing. This is nonsense—standards have been lowered, contributing to the increase and in turn, producing students with lower-level skills. (This is clearly evidenced in NY where those in charge continuously depicted standards as increasing because students had been scoring better on standardized exams in NY. As it turns out, when their scores were compared to on-going national examinations that had not been modified, students hadn’t been improving at all!) Teachers, scared that they will be rated as ineffective or that they will be bullied by administrators if their standardized scores aren’t at a particular level, end up teaching to the test, leaving students with a large gap in their knowledge and critical thinking abilities.

    Thus, you are left with students entering high school, and subsequently college, who can neither tell you what a mathematical mean is nor figure it out from a series of numbers. They cannot use rulers. They can barely read at a middle school level. It is all very, very sad. And really, all of the pressure comes from the top by using scare tactics.

  53. November 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Really, really wonderful post! I can say that as a student in college I had that same terrible “What exactly is the bare minimum?” attitude. So much so that I eventually quit college/accruing debt until my heart and brain were ready to appreciate the blessings of furthering my education. It wasn’t because I wasn’t smart, just lazy and ungrateful. Hopefully I can return soon. Anyhow, my thoughts have been on a similar wavelength recently and was really happy to see your blog on the featured blogs today. Not only is my generation seemingly getting more and more ignorant, but I feel as though our language is a lot more boring than the generations before. Not that having creative language is equally important to being educated and being able to communicate, but just a thought! Our generation is bombarded with “me” (social networking sites, texting, talking on the phone if we have to walk 20 yards alone, unable to carry on a conversation, etc) and that’s all we really seem to care about. With cell phones that text, receive calls and have the internet ever on our hip there is no escape from being constantly bombarded by things revolving around “me”, which leaves us no time to realize we haven’t sat down to read a book or made eye contact (maybe even smiled!) with the people passing by in far too long. Well.. I could rant for so much longer, but really I just wanted to say:

    Good post!

    • November 13, 2010 at 2:10 am

      I think waiting to further your education until you know why you want to further your education is a really good idea. Hope you find that motivation soon if that’s what you’re looking for.

  54. November 12, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I care. Very much so. I have a teenager who thank-fully was as a child and still is an avid reader. He has a facebook page but he never uses ‘text speak’. I can honestly understand what he is writing, and understand what he is saying when he is speaking. This is true for his friends as well, but I have read the updates and heard other students speak and can’t help but wonder.

    At one point of time there were kids who did ‘slip through the gap’ and we end up having a hard time starting out at life ( I was not diagnosed with a learning a disability until grade 12) Now I fear and wonder if schools are trying too hard to appease parents and students by giving these kids lower expectations. It’s sad to see such smart creative kids rarely ever have the opportunity to find out what their minds can do.

    That being said, because there is so much awareness of the situation there is hope. Changes will be made. I have no idea when but I hope sooner rather than later.

  55. November 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    My opinion is always unpopular, but most of the problem is not the schools as much as our attitude to “youth”. We MUST give them a childhood. We MUST keep their young years fun, coddled and free of stress for fear of damaging them psychologically. They shouldn’t have to be responsible, do chores, or anything else that might interfere with their being “children” because childhood is “precious” and to do so “robs them”. After all, if they’re doing homework how can they be in soccer and ballet and all the “social” things they must do in order to grow up “adjusted”?

    Check the hours an average US student spends studying and doing homework vs. those in the countries with higher grades and literacy rates. I’d bet there’s a pattern. Let’s stop coddling children with play time and too many extra activities and make them take some time to read a book or study their math.

    • November 12, 2010 at 5:07 pm

      I agree that children need to have a chance to be children, but they also need opportunities to learn how to work together and to develop their artistic/creative talents. And yes, I think some of these things should be done outside of school. I also think they need time to be “bored” so they’ll go look for something to do — hunt for bugs in the back yard or build a house out of fallen tree limbs or, oh, I don’t know, read a book.

      Doing homework for hour after countless hour is useless if it’s filling in the blanks on worksheets and regurgitating factoids. Unless we teach our children how to THINK, how to be LEARNERS, as well as give them the opportunity to practice being contributing members of society (i.e. emptying wastebaskets or the dishwasher, taking care of their pets), there is no hope for us.

    • 141 jelzmar
      November 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      Actually all those countries that are doing better than us, spend less time in class and have more frequent breaks.

  56. November 12, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    This trend disturbs me greatly. For two years I worked as a Youth Services Librarian in Washington, DC and I confronted the devastation of widespread illiteracy on a daily basis. Not only were a disproportionate number of children unable to read or comprehend on their grade level, it seemed most were in fact many grade levels behind what should be expected. While the implications of illiteracy on an individual level are upsetting, chronic illiteracy has a crippling impact on entire neighborhoods, the state, and the country.

    How do we find a way to solve this problem collectively and realistically? Many are aware this issue exists. Beyond ranting about it, what is being done? On the neighborhood level, it has to be a collaborative effort. One example from DC was a city-wide effort to provide workshops for parents, daycare providers, and preschool teachers that demonstrated effective ways for adults to foster 6 elements of early literacy in their children and students; letter knowledge, vocabulary, phonological awareness, print awareness, print motivation, and narrative skills. Through these early literacy workshops we were able to introduce families and teachers methods to help children start the journey to becoming life-long readers. Songs, story times, idea sharing, book exchanges, guidelines for practical use, and book giveaways are just a few highlights of this successful program. One other important element of these programs was to not only include current library customers, but also to reach out and seek under-served groups and families, those who were not necessarily aware of the services being offered by their local library.

    (The workshops I was part of in DC were modeled after programs developed by Saroj Ghoting, a noted consultant in early literacy with over 30 years of library experience. http://www.earlylit.net/)

    This is one instance of a project that played a positive role in promoting literacy among under-served groups of a certain age level. While adult illiteracy is a major issue as well, I don’t have any direct experience programming for this type of audience. Across the board, we all need to think about ways to promote the importance of reading and writing. We need real solutions for the real world. Small steps matter.

  57. November 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    As a writer and as a human being, I care. I have to add that I’m having some personal trouble finding people of any age who appreciate the written word. I’ve been encountering more and more people of vaying ages who don’t care to read, and don’t ever ponder the subtle differences of human expression. They think of “text speak” as a valid form of communication in any context. I wish I could think of something that would help change this, but I’m afraid I’m not that smart. I’ll just continue to write and try not to give up.

  58. 144 Isabela
    November 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    fuck You !!!

    • November 12, 2010 at 3:21 pm

      I suppose you feel, it seems for good reason, personally attacked when someone mentions bad reading and writing skills.

    • 146 wadingacross
      November 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

      Ah yes, the succinct rebuttal, grounded in “truth”.

      One wonders at the age of the above respondant? Real truth hurts, and those who cannot deal with the truth, neither learning from it or accepting it, lash out in anger. The vapid response of the truly purile minded soul.

  59. 147 wadingacross
    November 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Wondering why the literacy rates as well as general grammar and writing skills are declining? Thank the liberalization and unionization of our public education system and the effective destruction of the nuclear family.

    Our society has been pushed away from personal responsibility and merit towards varying degrees of nannyism.

    John Dewey and others intentionally changed the format of our educational system 100 years ago in efforts to place children under the care of the state, instead of the family. What have we seen over the last century plus, but the degradation of the nuclear family. Technology and industry isn’t the cause of this; rather a tool used by progressives and leftists who believe that the state is more important than the family.

    It starts in the home. A family that reads will tend to have children that love reading. And if those children have problems reading and they’re not pushed thru those problems, as well as being encouraged to read, they’ll never love it. I know two family/friends who both were dyslexic growing up. Neither grew up in an environment that encouraged reading. Neither were given help to grapple with their difficulties. Neither, now older adults, read for any pleasure, one not at all, the other only as he needs to for work (and he’s a teacher!)

    Combine this with our public education system that rewards poor educators with job security unless they’ve done something heinous, as well as generally throwing money and technology at things as if that’s the best way.

    Our government and our public school systems want to press us into a mold of conformity. Our multimedia and technology as well as our fast-paced lives aid laziness and an expectation of desires being given “now”. Our government has slowly and heavily gotten us addicted to the dole in the name of compassion. And on and on it goes.

    Functional illiteracy is but a symptom of over a century of various, consistent and often consecutive measures, events and results. There is no singular group, organization, concept, etc. necessarily to blame – though there is/are a philosophical ideas to blame. What you are seeing today are the natural, eventual conclusions of ideas, plans and events taken to their logical, progressive ends. If you want someone to blame; look to progressivism, look to liberalism and its bankrupt philosophies of contradictory relativism that promote varying degrees of communism, fascism and socialism which in the end do not work.

    In the name of equality a new elitism has emerged over the last century under the overarching banner of progressive/liberalism, with evolution and science as its religion. To that end, we see a dumbing down of society and furture restrictions on liberty, on freedom.

    We as a society generally believe ourselves quite free, but in the name of tolerance, the relative left is actually quite intolerant and in the end, we’re but dumb slaves to these elites who think themselves better than you. Technology is there tool then. As bread and games were too the Roman masses, so too have our ipods and texting phones. In the name of speed, ease and comfort we find ourselves getting dumber. All the while we lose more freedom while those holding to varying forms of progressivism say they know what’s good for you. Just keep that bad teacher at her desk. Don’t listen to your mom, listen to your teacher. Don’t listen to your heart, listen to your government. Don’t worry about tomorrow or yesterday, here’s your opiate, play your games, text away. And if you cannot succeed, if you cannot be the best you could have been, don’t worry, there’s a ditch to dig and your government will take care of all your needs. You were too dumb to be able to succeed much anyway, only a few are truly capable, and they know better. Social Darwinism, hand in hand with progressivism. Functional illiteracy, a symptom and result of it. Neither money nor extra educational programs are necessarily going to change it. What it will take is a complete overhaul of the educational system and a regrounding of the nuclear family. Progressivism, far left ideals, they are the real poison, and the cure will be quite painful because the cancer has invaded and engulfed the host so thoroughly.

    Focus on personal responsibility. Focus on the family. Focus on merit.

    • November 13, 2010 at 2:17 am

      I think it’s interesting that you blame Progressivism — by which I take it to mean Democrats — for the decline in our children’s ability to function literately.
      Meanwhile, we’ll overlook your misspelling of their in “Technology is there tool then” and to in “As bread and games were too the Roman masses.. .”

      So somehow providing a social network, where all children have access to health care, is a bad thing, and Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” is good? Seriously?

      And by “Focus on the family” do I take it to mean you’re a fan of James Dobson? This is the man who says that if a mother hasn’t significantly detached herself from her son by the time he’s 3 years old he’s guaranteed to grow up gay. By detached he means don’t kiss him goodnight anymore.

      My sons are 20 and 17, I still kiss them goodnight, when I can, and last time I checked they were quite heterosexual. Not that I would care either way.

      I think you’re blaming the wrong people, but this is a topic for another day.

    • November 14, 2010 at 4:51 am

      wadingacross, you are COMPLETELY right. Thanks for you time to enlighten what seems to be a majority of liberal commenter here.

  60. November 12, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I definitely care and appreciate posts like this. Thanks for writing! I enjoyed it and I agree with what you had to say.

  61. November 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    you think that is bad? check out ‘jejemon’ or ‘jejenese’ . i nearly strangled my daughter (who is in college 😛 ) because of the way she writes (as in email, and text too). i dont understand a thing! how would you read this: h1 mUhm 1 m1$$ U ?? apparently she was saying hi mom i miss you. argh!!

  62. 152 iyepes
    November 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    I do care, it happens not only in your country, I think is an international trend.

    We are becoming into more technology dependant, and less able to properly communicate each other.

  63. November 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I care. I received an email at work this morning that made me laugh but then also realize how sad it is that so few people use language correctly. The text of the email was no where near as bad as the example above but the intent of the message and what was actually written were two completely different things.

  64. 154 Muma Clown
    November 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Ah! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THAT? Haha, I’m so ashamed of my generation, that is NOWHERE near formal. May I please gouge out their eyes and serve it to them on a silver platter?

  65. November 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Great post! My kids are just in elementary school, and I am already beginning to question how their school is teaching them. This year, the school has adopted certain classes as being “combo” classes. Had we not specifically requested my daughter not be put in that class this year—she would essentially be “re-learning” half of the year. In the combo class they have for her grade they actually teach a third grade class AND a fourth grade class at the same time (same teacher). Although she’s already had her third grade curriculum, they expected her to do it over for half of the year. Bascially the third grade children may or may not be ready for the fourth grade information. In discussing this decision with her, even my fourth grade daughter questioned the logic in this class.

    I’m not sure what the correct answer is to fixing our education system, but it does seem to rely heavily on numerous factors. Each school district is different, every classroom is different, and not every child is learning the same information. I believe it starts with a willingness to learn from each kid, and unfortunately, that is just not happening in this country.

    • 156 Jule1
      November 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

      Combo classes! I had a “combo class” in high school that combined social studies, geography, etc. (many many years ago). It was actually an open concept room and the teachers were supposed to coordinate their curriculum so that they were all teaching related stuff. I was in that situation for two years and never got a sense of the links between subjects. Also, all the students figured out these classes were the easiest to skip, because all you had to do was tell one teacher you were going over to another area to “study”, and you could disappear.

      Good luck with that “combo class” thing. Sounds like an excuse to double up and the kids are the ones who will be shortchanged.

    • November 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

      Combo classes as you call them are routinely done in New Zealand school, especially in small schools. They are quite successful and help those who struggle a bit extra time to learn skills and those who are above students from the year above to work with, along with giving children a chance to mix with peers of a different age.
      It does not mean they do they same thing twice, but this is because up until recently our curriculum has been more learning how to learn and think instead of learning certain things (content based). Also children are thought of more as individuals and often taught in small groups We also don’t teach to the test as our testing system is very different. Unfortunately our Government has recently decided that we need to follow you and the UK and have started putting in similar testing schemes along with any other things, even though we can see its not really working for either The USA or The UK. Which seems bizarre as we routinely do better on world education ratings.

  66. November 12, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Great post. I see this trend in the New Zealand education system too – I’ve tutored and lectured at university level over the past 10 years, and have seen a steady decline in the ability of students to competently express themselves. The sad thing is marks have been lifted to make sure students still create the fabled bell-curve, which only perpetuates and hides the problem. So frustrating!

  67. 159 Jule1
    November 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I care. I don’t honestly understand a college level student who writes the way this one does (“im asking was those 13 points included” — shouldn’t grammar be second nature to someone born and raised in the U.S.?) and who can’t understand that 13 points out of 24 is not a passing mark. They’ve been in our public school system for 12 years, then made it into college and don’t understand this?

    Where are the parents? Why aren’t they reading school papers and making sure their kids are getting an education/doing the work? My parents did that. My mother went over all our homework (3 children) and made sure we knew how to read and write. Her standards were as high, if not higher than my teachers and she would not have allowed us to turn in a paper full of grammatical errors, with no punctuation, etc.

    I wonder with such an emphasis on texting/internet how kids are going to learn to write properly when they’re not doing it in their daily communication? The way I write/type here is how I always communicate — I am quite unable to shorten everything the way younger people have learned to do, yet I am not sure this is such a bad thing. At least I am literate. Wordy, yes, but also literate.

    It pains me that our kids are getting less and less educated even though we spend as much on them as other countries. Where is the disconnect? Not with teachers like you, clearly. Is it the parents? What is the problem?

    My husband is from and Asian country and he quite frankly can’t believe how badly educated kids in the U.S. are. He has been telling me for years that the U.S. is losing its edge in the area of science, precisely because we don’t have children who can do math or understand science.

    It’s crazy that we can’t seem to educate our children any more. We need to figure out the root cause and fix it, or we are going to be a nation of illiterates and will be unable to compete in the global market. Or else we Baby Boomers are going to have to work until we’re 85 in order to communicate with other nations, because kids today won’t have the ability to do it.

  68. 160 stufftobeused
    November 12, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I’m an English and Portuguese teacher in Brazil and I must say that what you experience there is just the same here. I don’t know what’s going on – and some might say we are just overreacting – but I think we are in trouble. I’ve been reading a lot about it (especially because I intend to take my masters on this subject) and I have a book to recommend: The Art of Shrinking Heads, by Dany-Robert Dufour. Actually, he’s great and he works exactly with it – he’s a French education philosopher. I think the problem is deeper than just been able to read and write – this is a symptom, a serious one indeed!
    Let’s resist, that’s what we can do. And try to touch those around us – our students, at least any of them!
    Good luck to us all…

    • 161 Roberto
      November 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm

      I am a professor of chemistry at the Universidade de São Paulo, at São Carlos city, and I completely agree with you. I do have a son who studied in one of the best Brazil’s schools before crossing the painful exam to go into de university. During his whole student life, practically 15 years, he hesn’t read 10 books by himself. And this is not a consequence of uninterest of his mother (my wife) and his father (myself). We (my wife and I) are both university professors, we do read A LOT, we do write A LOT, we had long conversations with him about the importance of reading books, long texts, articles, etc. No way. Now he is in faculty, where reading and writing is mandatory. It has been not easy for him, but, achieving the minimum necessary to get good evaluations, he is going on and finishing his 2nd year.

      I have MSc. and PhD students under my supervision. They do work with chemistry. But I have the impression they HATE reading chemistry, science, information, etc. They like Harry Potter and Stephen King’s books very much. That’s all.

      It is very, very frustrating for a professor to be aware of such situation.

      I really don’t know what is going to happen in a near future with our young students. But I am afraid we are going to have several people with no critical thinking at all.

  69. November 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    The public schools in the U.S. are failing their students. It’s quite tragic to think of COLLEGE students or public schooled high school GRADUATES who can’t even count out change at a cash register without using a calculator. Thanks for the post, and congrats on Freshly Pressed. 😀


  70. November 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I feel priviledged to be #80 on this reply list…as far as your thoughts on our youth’s lack of education…I too grew up in the public school system….this was not the greatest even back 30 yrs..now I think we can all agree the whole effort to educate is a waste until we find a way to counteract the negative culture that has replaced parents as the major influences on kids and adults…TEE VEE,is the most powerful tool for relaying messages,positive and not…tee vee used to have a filter–now any stupid thing can be seen ..any outrageous act ,any nonsense…schools long ago needed to be upgraded in their content as related to the real world…job prep and citizenship are much neededas subjects to be taught to our fresh scrubbed school age kids but alas this is not happening…josh

  71. November 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Language is fluid, and evolves. How many people can read Chaucer in his original language and understand it? I can’t. People today would probably have to listen closely to understand George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. In 400 years, people will have difficulty understanding us. Older generations have always decried the laziness and sloppy language of younger generations, it’s the way of the world! I don’t think we’re all ‘going to hell in a handbasket’ (to use my mother’s phrase) because of the way people are abbreviating to make texting easier, although I do find the abbreviations irritating, but that’s because I am 45.

    • November 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm

      I’m also 45, and am “cool” with the fluidity of language — I actually think it’s a good thing, and use textspeak myself — when I’m texting. But this wasn’t just a matter of over, or inappropriate, use of colloquialisms, but about the fact that his grammar was so poor I didn’t know what he was trying to say.

  72. 166 Bubbles
    November 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Thought provoking and well written. Thank you for sharing. I wish there was an easy answer!

  73. November 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    An uneducated citizen is far more malleable to control through fear than by political policies that make sense. An educated citizen may question governmental policies that would require answers.
    The tea party is a great example of how they’ve used fear to get votes from the functionally illiterate.

    • 169 Buffy
      November 13, 2010 at 10:43 am

      This is how Hitler gained control of Germany.
      “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” ~Adolph Hitler
      “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.” ~Adolph Hitler
      Scary, is it not?

      • November 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm

        Verily. And seems to reflect the attitudes of many in our time, which makes it even more so.

        Anyone who can take Sarah Palin seriously cannot be thinking. I shudder in horror to think what happens to our country if those type of people end up in roles of power in our government.

  74. November 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I have no idea who’s to “blame” for this——there are so many culprits. But one thing I will say: the students don’t seem to think anything’s wrong with them.

    I’ve had young adults——college-educated, from Berkeley and the like, graduated with honors——not be ashamed to ask me, “Have we walked on the moon?” (A production assistant in a newsroom where I worked asked me this because her producer wanted file tape of a moon walk for a segment.) To my incredulous look, she says, “Well, how should I know? I wasn’t around back then.” I tell her I wasn’t around during the Civil War either, but I know about it. See, there are these things called books.

    The newscasters aren’t any better. One was reading a story about how mathematicians had found a new prime number. I quipped it surely must have been huge. He was astonished: “It says here it *was.* How did you know that?” This man is one of the more famous news anchors in the country.

    Today’s young people, and I include many adults here, adults with degrees from well-known universities, aren’t even ashamed of their ignorance. Ironically, in a time where we live in an information-saturated age, we are taking advantage of unprecedented communications technology to keep up with such pressing matters as who was voted off American Idol last night or what new designer dress Kim Kardashian is wearing.

    I don’t know why we enjoy being so stupid, but we do. Just the other day someone was doing a crossword puzzle and she said aloud, “Conestoga.” I said “Wagon.” Her eyes went wide and she said, “Wow! That’s right. You’re so smart!”

  75. November 12, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Our adult daughter is trilingual(French, English, German) Born in Germany, schooled in France, she presently works in Switzerland. Throughout her life, I religiously read “out loud” English books, encouraged her appreciation of the performing arts(music, dance, theater in a mix of languages), and embraced her multi-cultural mix of friends/colleagues. This atmosphere led to her interest in other cultures/languages and an unfathomable ability to quickly catch snippets of other languages, be it Russian, Japanese, Thai, or Turkish.

    A few tips concerning the promotion of literacy are:

    Encourage a child to practice their handwriting…this leads to a mastery of the written word…
    Listen to audio tapes of the spoken word.
    Attend poetry readings, write poetry.
    Listen to famous speeches!
    Learn a song(Listen a few times, then attempt to write it down from memory).
    Participate in a debate class.
    Enroll in a foreign language course(Then one is forced to first master the mother tongue)

    Great post!

  76. 173 me llamo brown
    November 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    I am a horrible writer and I care. My blackberry does not help the cause, all my LOLs and OMGs have crossed over to all aspects of my life 😦

  77. 175 me llamo brown
    November 12, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Oh, I hope your student is a freshmen.

  78. November 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    A very good post, and thank your for adding your voice to a problem that is reaching a crisis point, and yet is seldom explored.

    It’s not just in America. I teach at a Toronto college and believe me, the illiteracy level is astounding. A large part of the problem is the blasphemous “Five Paragraph Essay” they’ve been taught since grade four. (I highly recommend Lynn Stratton’s article, “Taught to Remove all Thought,” in the St. Petersburg Times.) The idea that writing involves any kind of thought is completely alien to students — and no, I’m not indulging in hyperbole. Throughout primary and high school they are taught that an “argument” consists of three major points, each with supporting points. Thinking about the subject, figuring out what counter-arguments may exist, and actually trying to say anything, these are all completely outside their scope.

    Of course, when divorced of its purpose, writing becomes a pointless activity. In social networks, very little conceptual thought is ever exchanged: it consists almost entirely of emotional memes, which can be easily interpreted without much regard to articulation or spelling. Since they can understand each other well enough to get by in their Facebook and Twitter networks, students literally have no idea why writing in an accurate fashion could ever be important.

    I tell my students that there are two directives to writing: (1) you must have something you want to say, and (2) you must honestly try to communicate it. When students have something they actually want to say, their motivation for saying it increases. And trying to honestly communicate it forces them to write clearly and anticipate objections from the reader.

    I have no background in education philosophy (thank all the gods that may exist), and stumbled into this job entirely by accident. Since then I’ve been staying off the administrative radar as much as possible (hence the pseudonym for my blog). Recently, however, I found myself deep in the midst of enemy territory (educators) during which I came to a much more profound understanding of just how thoroughly ingrained this rot is. I wrote up the experience in a four part series starting with Fear & Loathing in the College Boardroom: The Invitation.

    Once again, thank you. We need more people like you.

  79. 177 sallyjeangenter
    November 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    To use “chat speak” casually with friends is one thing; to converse unintelligibly with a teacher or in the professional world is another. I agree with your post. It’s tragic when people can’t tell the difference.

  80. November 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Great post and fascinating comments. De-evolution seems to be a reality.

  81. November 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    My wrinkle on this discussion is to point to the countries that we are supposedly behind. Most specifically, Kazakhstan, although the Russian Federation is a likely culprit too. Having taught English as a Foreign Language for 2 years in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan’s southern neighbor, I am highly suspect of Kazakhstan’s test scores. The education system left in Central Asia by the Soviet Union emphasizes memorization and recital over critical thinking and concept learning. In addition, it is rife with performace-based rewards and corrupt testing methods. Students help each other on exams with impunity, and teachers bribe officials so they have answers to standardized tests to feed their students in advance. The Soviet Legacy is such that the information in reports does not have to be true, so long as it is correct, meaning it meets the expectations of the individual or office receiving the report. The scores you see may not accurately reflect those students’ abilities.

    This is not to say that we do not have a problem here in the US — I was a TA during graduate school, and I know exactly how low the bar is these days. But I would not assume that students who test better in other countries have necessarily had a better education than students in the US do.

  82. November 12, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I honestly wonder how much more illiterate people really are. Prior to the computer and internet, how often did you get to find out how people communicate using the written word, or to find out how literate they are? I know I have seen a few letters, notes, other hand-written tidbits from pre-internet times which have not been exactly perfect in spelling, punctuation, and grammar–sometimes far from perfect. (These have mostly been recipes, one of the few things you can always find jotted down by grandparents.) Back then, though, with no blogs or e-mail or Facebook or texting, it would be much more rare to receive a written communique from someone–perhaps it only seems that we are becoming less educated and less literate because we have more material to judge.

    In fact, because of the constant bombardment of the written word these days, coupled with the increased amount of practice that people are getting with written communication, people may be more literate now than ever before.

    • November 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm

      This is truly an excellent comment, and provides a new perspective. I was recently going through my grandparents’ possessions, and had to chuckle about the misspellings and poor grammar in much of their writing. In particular, the back of their bible listed when people were “borned”. 🙂 Perhaps you are right, grammar and spelling really aren’t going down the tubes, it is just that we have many more opportunities to notice the bad than ever before.

    • November 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      I agree that this is an interesting rebuttal. It soothes my worries about the spread of illiteracy. But this still doesn’t explain why we are behind so many other countries in our education. :/

    • November 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm

      At one level I agree–in the past most of the writing we encountered had been filtered by professional editors, etc. But I don’t think students in the past would communicate with a teacher the way the student cited in the post did, and if they did, they would be immediately corrected.

      A big part of it is that you don’t develop good writing skills unless you are a reader and understand how communication works in words. If your reading is limited to Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid and you learn your communication skills from The Simpsons, there’s not much chance that you will be a scrupulous writer, technology or no. So I would definitely disagree with your suggestion that people are more literate because they are getting more practice in writing.

      • November 13, 2010 at 7:24 am

        Yes, I agree that practice without knowledge doesn’t do much good–I think it is coupled with the fact that a lot more people are reading, even if they aren’t reading books or magazines. People are reading news sites, blogs, even reading on Facebook (some of their friends surely have correct grammar and punctuation *grin*), on a daily basis. Even if their reading is limited to short blurbs and paragraphs on websites when they’re shopping or going to watch streaming television, most professional websites employ mostly good grammar and spelling. So, there is a lot of exposure that people don’t even know they are getting.

  83. November 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    This is an issue that also drives me bonkers. I am currently a college student and I come across so many people my age (and older!) who can’t write in complete sentences. And many of them do have that attitude that education is not worth it. It’s embarrassing, sad, and frustrating. Eloquence is one of my top values. Sadly, few people appreciate language.

    I am not trying to be a hypocrite, because I admit to engaging in textspeak in certain situations. Sometimes it’s dialectical and needed to familiarize yourself with other textspeakers. Sometimes it’s just fun. But the problem is that many people can’t distinguish the proper/improper situations to use it.

    I am not immersed in social networking sites. I do not have a facebook, twitter, and I prefer speaking on the phone to texting. I suspect that this has helped me a lot. Hopefully other people will grow out of them as well.

  84. November 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    There are already so many comments here, but I have to leave one anyway. I understand the frustration coming from those educators in secondary, and higher education, and I wanted to add my perspective.
    I am a 4th grade teacher in a lower-income public school. To some, my peers and I are to blame for this mess. We are responsible for passing along kids to the next grade who are not yet learning at their present grade level. We are pressured into performing for standardized tests, and not concerned with practical application. However, just as we can’t blame all government, school districts, parents, or functionally illiterate students, we can’t blame all teachers. The situation just can’t be generalized, and it makes the problem that much harder to solve.
    I can’t tell you how greatly I care. I love language, written and spoken, and it is an emphasis in my room (although I do not neglect math and science). I’m sure it is cocky, and I’m sure I will meet my match one day, but I believe I can help any child find something they love to read, and that’s where I start each year. The more text they are exposed to (silent reading, read-aloud by me, skits and plays, and a bit of interactive ‘new-school’ technology), the more connections they form, and the more they understand writing. I model my love of books and stories, and the greatest words I can hear from a student are, “You were right Ms. Corey, the book was way better than the movie!”
    It is an uphill battle. When I correct a child who says “ain’t” and they look at me with genuine puzzlement because in their paradigm that is a word, and they don’t have the background knowledge to correct it, I have to adjust. When I have two kids struggling, working more than two years below grade level, I have to understand why. If one is an ESL student who is simply lacking the vocabulary and one is determined to have an IQ far below average (who doesn’t qualify for resource services because he is performing to his ability), I have to be able to help both of them, when their needs are very different. Oh yeah, and while I’m doing that I am also challenging my 26 other students, and parenting some of them.
    This post made me very sad, because I know it’s the truth. There are too many kids who slip through the cracks because they don’t have the people in their lives to model and reinforce good habits. Change is difficult, especially when you have to be self-motivated at age 9. I hope that I make a difference, but I am only one person.

  85. November 12, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    children should be literate. and should be able to do simple math. but countries like Korea and Japan rob children of playing outside by giving them 10 hours of homework a day. so do u want to be happy and have a childhood, or do you want to be treated like an adult from the get-go? productive from day 1?

    • November 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

      I believe there’s a middle ground, evidenced by my childhood. I had hours and hours to play outside, but I read voraciously (7 books from the library every week), and learned that if I wanted to communicate in my writing I had to write coherently. I memorized my multiplication tables and played games with my friends and climbed trees at my Grandma’s. It’s not one or the other.

    • November 12, 2010 at 8:40 pm

      My brother in law is from China, and came over here when he was about 12 years old. It was crazy how much more advanced he was. The only thing holding him back was the language barrier. He spoke English, but it took time for him to decipher things on occasion. He’s now getting ready to turn 17 in December, and I remember sometime earlier this year, I asked him how school here in the US compared to China. He said that initially, he absolutely LOVED all the free time he had, but admitted that the joy ended quickly. He found school too simple, and despite the barrier of language found himself helping other students in the class. Yet, the school system refused to move him forward in grades to ensure that they challenged him. It didn’t take long before his homework wasn’t being turned in, and he began to fall asleep in class; simply because it was uninteresting and as far as he was concerned, didn’t matter. He already knew everything. Now, he’s still ahead, but the school system is finally catching up. Stuff that he covered in the 6th grade in China, is only now beginning to happen in his education here in the US.

      I asked him if he felt that school was too strict in China, and he gave an emphatic no. School went on longer, with only one day off, but he said that school often started later in the day, and once instruction was over for the day they had numerous clubs they were all part of (much like Japan).

      So, I think the difference is the fact that they might be on campus longer, but they’re still allowed to play, and enjoy participating in their hobbies. The difference is that there is more structure.

  86. November 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Well, I’m not extremely knowledgable on all the research people have done in this area, but I would presume that a lot of it has to do with cell phone usage. Kids always feel that their parents and elders “just don’t get it,” and that includes the way they communicate via texts. When parents allow their children to communicate in such a sloppy fashion, regardless of the medium, they’re bound to grow up with the habit. I have found that many parents of children in their teens have begun to write in the same manner. It seems to me that regardless of the money we put towards education, if children aren’t made to utilize what they learn in school and be expected to apply it to the “outside” world, they never will. Cell phones are for emergencies. Your kid does NOT need to be tied to the outside world when they don’t even understand the inside one. Start your sentence with a capital letter, always capitalize proper nouns, and end with the appropriate form of puncuation. If we made our kids just follow those three, simple rules we’d be better off than we are now.

  87. November 12, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I have to agree with you 100%. I’ve been what you would consider a ‘career student’ since I graduated 10 years ago. Life has gotten in the way, and unfortunately, my continued education has been slow. However, it’s been continual. I attend college because I enjoy the act of learning.

    What I find most unfortunate is that the idiots you see in college courses now are making it worse for those of us who are trying to educate ourselves. I had a run in with my German teacher this past semester where she accused me of not being an active learner and she flat out told me that I was clearly a victim of the No Child Left Behind Act. For one, just because I don’t learn the way you’re teaching, doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. Pardon me for being a bit more hands on and requesting that you don’t speak strictly in German on the first day of the course.

    This ended up leading into a discussion where she apologized (yay!), but she also vocalized that it is getting increasingly difficult for teachers and professors to actually do any teaching. She said that it gets more and more difficult each year to believe that there are any ‘true’ students out there… that you just begin to assume the worst about everyone you encounter, and tend to jump the gun, or feel attacked, if you’re not able to accomplish what your job entails because some previous instructor clearly didn’t do their job.

    I’m sure that her reaction is a bit… knee-jerk, but it just goes to show you that the degradation of education is now beyond the slippery slope.

  88. November 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Oh my goodness! I teach at the local university and get these sorts of emails all the time. I now have an email policy wherein I discuss how I should be addressed and to what emails I will respond. (This, after I received an email from an unknown student with no introduction, no specifics as to which course the student was enrolled in, that simply said: What books do I need for your class.)

    It is, indeed, frustrating, and we have had open discussions in my composition classes about this. We have writing workshops, and I don’t have to point it out as often. They will tell me: Jon “texted” his essay. In other words, the student used the same informal, grammatically-incorrect writing he/she uses on text messages. I don’t know what the answer is, but it is clearly a problem.

  89. November 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I work in education, and I have taught upper secondary students who have great difficulty with basic literacy skills, even to the point of being able to spell their own name. I have struggled with their lack of motivation when trying to teach them the basics.

    I think it has to start young – really young. By the time they come to me, it’s far too late. Parents need to take the time to read to their kids, all the time, before they even get to kindergarten. Then when they’re in school, they need to take the time to help with homework. But so many parents just don’t have the time. The cost of living is so high that they need to work two jobs and/or ridiculous hours just to keep the roof over their heads and food on the table.

    Then there’s the general community, which more and more seems to undervalue literacy as a basic skill. I read somewhere that less than 15% of people *ever* read books again after leaving school. Less than 15%.

    So then the ball gets thrown back to the teachers, who are expected to fix the problem, all the while being given less time and less funding to do the job, and more pressure to perform on standardized tests. The simple fact is, we just don’t have the time or resources to properly fill the literacy (and numeracy!) gap, without help from the parents and the general community.

    When a student reaches upper secondary, it should no longer be the teacher’s job to teach him or her how to read. By that age, we should be able to teach students how to *think* about what they’re reading, how to critically analyze and debate, and how to *create* new material for others to read.

    But for so many students, we just can’t do that, because they cannot yet read. But by then, unless you can find a way to break through the student’s sense of failure, of “too hard”, and of refusal to struggle again with something they’ve been failing at for years, it’s really too late. By then, they’ve learned to survive without it, they’ve probably figured out how they’ll continue to do so. It can be really hard to break through that resistance.

  90. 195 Boston Margy
    November 12, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    See what happens when you make it to the WordPress home page? Excellent ruminations, by the way, and not just a little scary. My dad taught high school in the 1970s and noticed the trend, even back then. It’s only gotten worse through time. Very sad.

  91. November 12, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Unfortunately, many students carry these poor writing skills with them into the professional world. I’m no longer amazed, but still annoyed, when I receive email from colleagues, customers and business partners written like your example. I’m guilty of using text speak too, when I’m texting! Shorthand has it’s place, using it with a limited keyboard is perfectly acceptable but if you’ve got a full keyboard, take the time to properly transcribe your thoughts. And if your excuse is that you’re in too much of a hurry to type complete words with a full keyboard at your disposal, then perhaps you need to take a typing, sorry, keyboarding class.

  92. 197 Hannah
    November 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    I absolutely agree. It terrifies me to think that our country spits kids out of schools who still lack the proper skills to function in the real world. I really gained a new perspective after watching the documentary, “Waiting for Superman.” It drove me crazy to think see schools as being so methodical and mechanical; I’m just one among many. At times, my future success is based entirely on luck.
    I’m one of the editors for my high school newspaper, and this month we are putting together a feature about the rather dismal state of the American educational system. I want, to the best of my ability, to educate my peers about this issue. Like I said, I fear a little for the future. I find it disturbing when my peers speak in “text” or in abbreviations, just as I find it disturbing that a student would compose an email message to you in that way.

  93. 198 jaswrites
    November 12, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    We certainly are losing a part of our culture and finess when we abandon formal language over overly-colloquial diction.
    The question is, how can we stop it? What can WE do about it? What can I as a student do about it to help others? How can we convince my fellow students of the benefits of full writing and speaking?

  94. November 12, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    As a current student, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m not too sure of the ramifications of students not being able to be write a simple email, but I can give you quite literally thousands of examples of wasted minds. Students willingly failing tests, not showing up for class, and simply not caring about their education kind of astounds me. It’s pretty ridiculous when I see a senior that’s old enough to legally buy alcohol, but I know one. And I think the problem doesn’t lie in the educational system so much as it does in the culture America has created, basically getting the maximum amount of money with the minimum amount of work. You know, the new American dream. It sickens me a bit to think that this twenty-one year old senior will be teaching my kids or somehow spreading his ignorant ways to the rest of the country. But that’s just my take, maybe I’m way off base.

  95. November 12, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I totally agree with this post, I am a student at a University where a study was done and it was found out that 30% of students were under a grade 9 literacy level. How has our schools allowed so many to slip between the cracks? I wonder what we can do, and how we can change this. This is a serious matter that needs to be addressed immediately.

  96. November 12, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment in your post. It’s disheartening to realize that the email in the beginning of this post was sent to you by a COLLEGE student!

    I think the main issue with our educational system is the reason people participate in it. So often, education is seen as nothing more than a means to get a higher salary. Instead of increasing the level of student competence, teachers are simply concerned with raising API scores of their school. Testing methods don’t really test understanding of the material but rather the ability to regurgitate material crammed in the night before.

    Schools now promote a culture of passive education, a complete disservice to our youth.

  97. November 12, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Wow that is ridiculous! I wonder how that individual managed to get into college in the first place??? Did their coach manipulate things for them because they needed them on the team? I am a parent and believe that it is the parents job to monitor their child’s progress in school. If the parent is not an active participant the child will fall through the cracks. Some parents agree with their child taking the easiest class possible so that they can play sports. This only hurts the child in the future. Maybe the whole system needs to be changed. Something is wrong…..

  98. November 12, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Love the post! To find someone who enjoys to read a book electronically or not at all as opposed to touching and feeling and turning the pages of a book from a hardworking author, trying to understand why people don’t like to read is something beyond me. I’m an avid book lover: I love to read books, and I love to write books. I have been told that my pursuing a career in writing is only a waste of time.
    From second grade to my senior year, I was never told to put the cell phone away or stop talking. I was always told to keep my nose out of the book I was currently reading. If my friends want to talk to me, they sent me an email or call me on my home phone or talk to me face-to-face. My blog here on WordPress is where I put all of my little stories that I’ve been working on. My dream is to become a writer someday, publishing works of fiction.
    Except for my parents, everyone else has told me to pick another career choice because being a writer–immersing oneself in the English language to tell a story–is a poor career choice and I will never make a living off of it.
    It has hurt me deeply that someone would tell me that becoming a writer is a waste of my time just because it doesn’t pay well.
    My math teachers have criticized me for not being good in math. They say I should focus more on math than planning in great detail my next exciting Creative Writing project. Math was far more important to them than Creative Writing, and I was supposedly a fool to think that becoming a writer would actually get me somewhere.
    I don’t think they’ve read my WordPress.
    But does this mean that I’m stupid if I’m getting C’s and B’s in Math and Science, while getting A’s in all my other classes? Is not getting all A’s mean you are stupid and a moron and will never get into college? Because that’s the message I’m getting! Please tell me that I’ve made the wrong assumption.

  99. 204 Stormy
    November 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    I’m a current college student and I agree that this is a widespread problem and I do care. I know that there are many different factors that play into this problem, but I have to say that at least in my personal life, the high school education I received did not prepare me for college. I’m a writing major in college and while I am doing well because I care, I’ve had to play some games of catch-up. Before I entered college, I had never even heard of MLA formatting or had the vaguest notion of how to write a research paper. The saddest part about this was that I was still ahead of fifty percent of my peers because I knew basic grammar. I don’t think the education system is completely to blame but it deserves to shoulder some of it.

  100. 205 Ben
    November 12, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    This blog post IS lame. That’s right, I used a “to be” verb.

  101. November 13, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Wow, that’s really a shame. It hurt just to read that. Personally, I’m shocked that a college student would be writing like that in the first place. I’m sure it’s not uncommon, but wow. I’m also a college student, and a freshman at that, and don’t want to look idiotic when speaking with an instructor. If I were them, I would have put forth more effort in typing to their instructor. When you type or speak to someone like that you’re just making yourself look bad.

  102. November 13, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Thank goodness for this timely post. It must be that time of the semester. I will go back later and read every single comment on this post. As an English teacher for almost 20 years, I have never seen things as bad as they are right now. I teach at a local community college – but before that I taught at various high schools, public and private, urban and suburban. This year, the entire English Department is very concerned about the way students clearly are not prepared for college – even community college!

    I have dozens of emails just like yours saved on my college email account. I cannot seem to convince my students that they need to capitalize the letter “I” whether it is at the beginning of the sentence or the middle of a sentence. I cannot seem to make them understand that “u” is not the same as the word “you,” and that they need to consider their audience because I am not their friend, so they should not greet me as “Yo” or “Hey” or “My Buddy oh Pal”; (seriously, I got that from a student.) Students from other countries are often far more proficient in their grammar skills and infinitely more driven.

    I can also lament (while I’m moaning) that my son (in 6th grade) is getting A+ grades on all his English assignments though they are peppered with errors. I am making copies of his work and preparing to ask the district WHEN I can expect my son will be corrected for his poor use of commas, his run-on sentences, his comma splices. WHEN can I expect he will learn how to use a semi-colon and a colon? WHEN can I expect he will be taught about how to integrate quotes into writing assignments, and when he will learn in-text and end of paper citation? Perhaps these are outrageous expectations, in which case I need to teach him myself.

    No Child Left Behind has destroyed everything. Everything. So much time is spent teaching to a standardized test, teachers have little time to teach anything else.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    Come visit me at “Lessons From Teachers and Twits.” We can moan together!

  103. 208 vasuchiyertra
    November 13, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Hah, I was really excited to see this post because my friends tease me when I punctuate everything I write. And I agree with you, especially when it comes to youngsters (I’m just 22). My sister sends me messages like TTYL, which I do not understand and now it has gotten so much worse that she, in the middle of a conversation, blurts out TTLY.
    I’ve noticed my friends complain about getting less marks for writing ‘U’ instead of you in an exam and I can’t help but laugh at them.
    Lovely post.

  104. November 13, 2010 at 1:39 am

    I haven’t taken the time to read this long thread of comments. It’s great to talk about this topic!

    I am willing to tolerate a spelling error here and there when a student is emailing their instructor. However spelling errors are not allowable if a person is producing formal communication for widespread publication or release to many people. Or emailing to a prospective employer, etc.

    Students really do need to understand the divisions of different communication relationships that they have with people in various roles. One cannot blur chat style communication that they have with their peers vs. email communication with people in other positions.

    I’m sure several respondents here, have mentioned the social media technology tools which force a user to truncate their sentences (Twitter) or don’t allow writer to correct spelling or grammar errors (such as commenting on other people’s blogs) before they hit the “Submit” button.

    I agree the importance from childhood up on the value of reading. But the reading over time must include a large portion of written work which is lengthy and well-written. Simply reading a pile of disjointed blogs, tweets, Facebook posts and Internet forums will not assist a teen or child in improving their reading and writing comprehension skills.

    For those of us who continue to use certain social media tools and produce content, it is up to us to lead by example by simply writing well and responding with clarity to others.

    Life is too short to produce incomprehensible gibberish or convoluted content for others.

  105. 210 Michael
    November 13, 2010 at 1:54 am

    I agree with your article, but the students question seemed simple to me. Though it was not worded correctly, he or she simply wanted to know if the quiz points had been added into their total grade. I can see how seeing an E for the quiz would be confusing. I have not seen an E used for a failing grade since grade school. At most colleges an F is used to convey a score below 60 percent. As I said I agree with your thoughts on how high schools are not preparing students for college. I finished high school in the year 2000 and to be honest my English and writing skills were something that I had to learn in college. It seems even worse today. I also believe that colleges are to blame for this as well. Many teachers do not have the skills needed to teach high school students English and grammar.

  106. November 13, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Fantastic post! I don’t often say this, but I’ve browsed your other entries on similar subjects, and I’ll be following your blog from now on. I have plenty of fellow-academic friends who keep blogs and writing similar posts, to say nothing of the e-mails we exchange and the conversations we have over coffee or beer, and lord knows I’ve written my share of posts on similar subjects (most of them here: http://snoekbrown.wordpress.com/category/teaching/), but I say you can never have too much of this.

    Just this morning, I was reading (with great dismay) the Huffington Post piece on how George W. Bush–a former US President!–essentially plagiarized large portions of his memoir, and I’ve been thinking about the kind of example we’re setting for our students when our most recent ex-pres has to cheat on his own damn autobiography. (And his wife is a librarian! How could she let that manuscript out of the house?)

    Students like the one you write about in this post? I’m sorry to say they’re just preparation for the Sisyphean job we educators are going to have from here on out.

    The good news: There remain educators like you who refuse to cave under the onslaught of American illiteracy. Teach on! 🙂

  107. November 13, 2010 at 3:04 am

    I used to teach English at the grade nine level, and one thing that seemed very clear to me at that time was that parents have a responsibility to help their child learn to think clearly and to be able to defend an opinion. Has the family dinner completely fallen by the wayside? What happened to talking about current affairs, books, or TV programs as a family? If parents don’t ask their child for their opinion, AND THEN ASK WHY THEY HOLD THAT OPINION, and show by example how to discuss, then the young person feels perfectly at ease in the classroom telling the teacher, “that’s what I think, and my opinion is as right as anybody else’s!” And that inability to conduct an intelligent discussion of a topic shows up in essay after essay.

    Parents must understand that they have a critical role to play in the education of their child, and it isn’t limited to choosing a good school and overseeing homework. The atmosphere of the home must support being an interested, informed, and engaged citizen of the world. How about taking some of the pressure off the schools and putting it on the parents? Show your kids that you read because it is a critical part of being alive in this time! Kids will follow your example, for better or worse.

  108. November 13, 2010 at 5:29 am

    I have a different take on this matter. I think that, in every generation, there is bound to be a certain number of people who cannot succeed academically. Traditionally most of these people don’t finish high school, let alone college. Nowadays, most parents can afford to send their children to college and expect the children to graduate with some sort of a degree. However, the problem is: college education does not attend to everyone’s needs. In fact, some of it is totally uninteresting to many who do not intend to go to grad schools. The way I see it is: colleges need to open up and educate the mass, instead of assuming everyone is going to take an academic path; or, the society should reconsider its obsession with college degrees (which most of the time do not fill the needs of the society).

    Not saying that we should not be worrying about functional literacy, but we do need to put it in the right frame of reference, instead of solely blaming on technology.

    • November 13, 2010 at 11:01 am

      I agree that all students are not well-suited to the pursuit of advanced degrees. But all children who have graduated from high school should be able to write 3 complete sentences in a row which adequately communicate their thoughts.

  109. November 13, 2010 at 5:55 am

    I’ve spoken to kids who write like your example, and I’ve tried to explain how difficult it is to read. They, however, are certain that this way of writing is ok, and that it is quicker and better. What they fail to understand, is that no matter if it’s quicker to write, it’s still more difficult to read – because the reader has to consentrate on where one sentence ends and another begins. Besides, if you never practise on writing properly, you’ll never learn how to write formal letters. And these kids never understand why they aren’t taken seriously…

  110. November 13, 2010 at 6:04 am

    yo waddup



    izzz all important and shieet. true, true. we needz to taught our chilen in skoo how to readz and shit. i kno mah life got so sweet when i learn to read and think. fosho. when i graduate from college imma b a nuclear engineer. all cuz a dat education. props, bitches.

    • November 13, 2010 at 6:22 am


      mate edu cation iz da shiyt

      opend so mny doorz

    • November 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

      Funny, but not an example of functional illiteracy. I know exactly what you mean. I would, however, object to this type of writing in an academic paper, or in an email addressed to a professor or superior.

      • November 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm

        dat’s right yo. i aint no iliterate. wheneva i meet onea dose guys i say yo you one ilterate! what you gonna do wit yourself you iliterate! you stupid iiterate! an stuff like dat.

        when i consult the true awesome wikipedia definition a functionally iliterate i m def not dat yo. no no willy o. (copy paste Functional illiteracy is a term used to describe reading and writing skills that are inadequate “to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level.”)

        also when i do skoo shiet dey always like dis shit is da bomb bitch! dey always sayin iz da bomb!! peace, bitches.

  111. November 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Totally!! Wow, what university do you teach at – that’s pretty insane.

    I also think that at the same time as trying to get everyone to a decent level of proficiency, (in England) we should not be funding people’s university degrees who cannot read or write properly – we are not increasing their productivity and we are losing money in the process.

    Thanks for the interesting post!!

    Check out my blog : )




  112. November 13, 2010 at 6:26 am

    I fully agree with this post, I am a student in a University where a study was done and it was found out that 40% of students were under a grade 9 literacy level. The atmosphere of the home must support being an interested, informed, and engaged citizen of the world. Thanks.

  113. November 13, 2010 at 6:30 am

    I grade first year students, at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
    Grammar mistakes like those in your email are a common occurrence since a lot of our students are 3rd language English speakers.

    But then we get interesting and odd errors, like one I recently posted about:
    “Man could be… seen as the evolving, an image ‘Darwin’,, but evolving psychically a precursor to the charting.”

    Although English is a requirement to pass highschool few of our students, white and black alike, have a competent grasp on the language.

  114. November 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Wow, I’m not a native English speaker and I first thought that I wasn’t understandig this guy’s emails. Fortunately it was him. I wonder if this is happening in the whole world or only in USA. I’ve seen some studies about this illiteracy in USA saying that a very high percentage of the population are illiteracy or “alliteracy” (i don’t know if that word exists, it means that can read but not very well) And that a higher percentage hadn’t read a book for more than 10 years.
    I haven’t seen any studies like that made in other countries. ¿Is the same happening in Europe?
    I’m from Spain by the way, so my English is the one I’ve studied and probably this comment is not fully coherent either.

    • November 13, 2010 at 8:57 am

      Absolutely. I just posted below about my shocking experience as a teacher in France. Net-speak is everywhere and standards are falling – and I think it is mostly the students standards for themselves which have taken the hardest beating. The worst is my sophomore class in which there are students who can’t even name or recognize their own prime minister. It’s a pretty sad reality.

  115. 227 thomasthethinkengine
    November 13, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Functional illiteracy is one thing, but if you can’t tell what your student is saying, that’s not functional.

    But there could be a caveat for your pupil:
    – Was that on an instant message system?
    I would say the lack of grammar could be explained by context. In IM speed is of the essence.

    I’m a 29 year old, and both technology-literate and traditionally literate. I am sure technology does not cause illiteracy. Perhaps it just flushes out illiteracy that was always there. If you hate on technology you will waste energy and isolate the people you are trying to teach.


  116. November 13, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I recommend you read this blog entry, but pays close attention to the video…it is not just in the USA, this type of illiteracy has spread all over the globe, mostly because of the media influence, MTV reality shows with people with an IQ of 30 running around, drinking, partying and so on. Not that I have anything against parties but please, if you’r going to get embarrassed, don’t let it be shown on TV, and MTV and other such “New age” media, please don’t make it look cool…it simply isn’t…


  117. 229 jean-philippe
    November 13, 2010 at 8:12 am

    1 out of 2 people can’t read a drug store novel. I don’t know if it’s because of poverty, horrendous teachers, careless parents… I can’t conceive that our society works with so many illiterate persons among us.

  118. November 13, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I’d like to be able to tell everyone that this is an isolated issue, but functional illiteracy has begun to develop into an international problem. I currently work as a conversational English teacher in two French high schools where the teachers have become overwhelmingly alarmed with the unfortunate situation regarding this years sophomore class. They won’t work, have no motivation, and apparently French net speak has begun to leak into everything they do – including their academic papers. These are students that had to work hard to test over a certain level in order to make it into academic high school rather than the professional high school that catches all those who have chosen not to continue on to further degrees. There has even been a reoccurring issue of students flunking out and taking years over. I have three of these students in one class. With motivation at an all time low, what are teachers to do?

  119. November 13, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Although it’s the most unforgiving scape-goat, I believe I have an explanation. Or this might just be a feeble attempt of mine to salvage the reputation of my generation on this post. I’ve noticed that, because of self-publishing and the like, there are actually a lot more books on the market than before. This, however, does not mean that they are all of some ‘acceptable’ standard.
    Take ‘Twilight’ for example (yes, I know, highly cliche), so many teenagers have read it. Many of whom (my friends included) do not read on a regular basis. They don’t know that what they read is grammatically incorrect (forgetting the plot entirely for a second). They figure that since it’s such a long book, it must be good, it has to be well-written (especially since it’s such a phenomenon). They’re influenced by it’s grammar. They can’t really help it, though. Yes, they are taught grammar at school, but really, what you learn at school only sinks in when you’ve seen it in the real world. All of this contributes to making books of ‘sub-standard levels’, average or even ‘good’. Throw a few more such books out there, and you’ve got yourself a lot of teenagers who are under the impression they are ‘functionally literate’.

    That said, most people that type in l33t don’t read. To be honest, I think things like creating a ‘Twitter’ account as part of the ‘Computing’ syllabus, might have things to do with it. After all, you cannot type properly within 140 characters and still convey your message.

    Also, I’d prefer it if you didn’t stain us all with the same brush. Everyone I know is completely capable of stringing sentences together in English, many to whom English is not their 1st, or even second, language. Our generation has enough to worry about without the added weight of the previous generation criticising our abilities to read and write.

    • November 13, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Oh, and I’d like to add that maybe, just maybe, it’s the American Education System that’s to blame and not others (like some posters have tried to say). I was educated in Kuwait, in the ‘British’ system, and am currently at university in the UK. I’ve met hundreds of people, all of varying backgrounds. They all seem capable of stringing sentences in English…

      Perhaps a TOEFL for all native speakers? (I’m kidding. It just annoys me that I had to go through the 5 hour-test when native speakers who are in greater need of it simply have to pass English.)

  120. 234 shevrae
    November 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

    This is why many of us choose to homeschool. I get complaints about my “opting out” of the system, but I will guarantee you that my children will be prepared for college.

  121. 235 snoringdogstudio
    November 13, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I absolutely care! I don’t think that the rise of mobile technologies and microblogs necessarily had to “spell” the end of literacy. Someone out there has gotten lazy – parents, teachers, youth, adults, and the media, too. So many of us are responsible for the degradation of literacy and language. My goodness – Sarah Palin can invent a word – refudiate – and we laugh it off! And our role models don’t write and speak well, so, why should the rest of us have to? The ready access to publishing tools and internet crowd-sourced sites has permitted a whole host of ignorant to reinforce illiteracy. Of course, we pay teachers far less than sports stars and other “celebrities” – it’s a culture of valuing the wrong things.

  122. 236 Beck
    November 13, 2010 at 10:04 am

    You have some valid points, one I whole heartedly agree with is the one about passive education. I study english at degree level in england but up until university I hated school, I would hardly show up and when I did I was just there because I needed to be. Going to university made me sit up and I now take part in group activities and prepare work (which I realy enjoy). The ignorance of that student would have annoyed me, but I would feel sorry for them, they limit themselves through their lack of literary understanding.

  123. November 13, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I agree on just about everything that you said, we placate them (children) from birth with electronics, games, toys anything that will get “us” off the hook as parents. Then we wonder why they are functionally illiterate?

    The government is basically the same, we constantly throw money at our problems, instead of trying to actually solve them.

    I do have a question. “How can MFA not realize that we are ALL going to pay the price when our children grow up to be adults who can’t read, speak, or write?”

    Who is MFA? I am not all that familiar with the term.

    Nice website, I will be back.


  124. November 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

    It is important that everyone learn to write well. However, it’s nothing new that many can’t; it’s simply easier to communicate inappropriately with a professor than it once was.

    I appreciate your frustration. I also get frustrated with bad grammar, especially when it’s clear that someone didn’t even try. But there is a definite “kids these days” tone to the OP and many of the comments here. Since every generation has taken this attitude with the subsequent generation about something, don’t you think it’s possible that “kids these days” aren’t that different from kids “those” days?

    Just as people think the world is more dangerous than it used to be because of all of the information available (when it really is NOT more dangerous), I suspect that something similar is in play here. Plus, you know, there was never a time when everyone was on the right side of the Bell Curve.

    Just sayin’. ; )

  125. 240 Barbara
    November 13, 2010 at 10:49 am

    You know it’s funny that everyone here is complaining about the inability of students to use and engage the English language while at the same time demonstrating the multiplicity of tools – cell phone text messages, twitter, facebook, etc – that these students use, all of which require a use and engagement with some form of reading and writing. Yes the form is different, yes there is a need for specific forms in particular contexts and this can be taught – but lets give a little credit to the next generation. Let’s not throw our hands up and declare stupidity’s victory because a student used ‘u’ instead of ‘you’… I believe that our parents and grandparents often said the same thing about us, remember?

  126. November 13, 2010 at 10:58 am


    The truth is that it’s going to get worse. If the GOP has its way the Board of Education will be eliminated and only rich people will have access to education for their children..

    Welcome to Idiocracy..It’s a slow process which take several generations. It insures slavery for all.

    Nice piece

  127. November 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Much time and money have been wasted on this subject. I believe that thorough testing at the beginning of the school year would prove to be very helpful. This way you could teach to the areas the children have not mastered.
    I believe that parental support and backing is crucial in keeping children in the reading mode and for improvement to be substantial. Convincing children to read is easy if these things have been at the beginning. When a child sees the improvement they are making via the testing in the classroom, then they become motivated to keep it up. I do not believe in book tests, reading rote as a group, or poor planning on the school, or the administration’s part. I do believe in involving the community as a whole in reading for life.
    Education has made many turns and twists. If the teacher is motivating and dynamic for real…the children will catch it. Too many bosses and too many disgruntled parents can lead to a teacher’s resignation because little progress for the hard work has been made.
    Children who enter a fifth grade classroom reading on a first and second grade level are definitely a challenge. Not many teachers take this as a challenge. We have too many “fat cats” in education, who sit there and discern, complain, or try to get order in the classroom, and who make whopping salaries without much progress. I resigned because I was tired of no change and hard work on my part, with very little support from adults…..parents, teachers, or the administration.
    Yes, there have been many changes and now we have NCLB children who are not there when teachers come to teach them in their homes. So what is being done now about that? We have more drug addicts who really don’t care what happens to their beautiful children.

  128. November 13, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Great posting!!! Timely and accurate and wonderful to read!

  129. 244 Paula
    November 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I really enjoyed this post, and I definitely care. Recently I was trying to decipher an e-mail from an HR professional (who I’ve met and would guess to be in her mid-40s) with information that was important to me. The sentences ran into one another without punctuation and with random capitalization. I literally could not tell where one sentence ended and the next began. Singular items were made plural. When asking for a clarification, I got more incomplete sentences. I thought, “Really? This is acceptable as professional communication?” I’m troubled that even adults are adapting this lax attitude toward communication in professional environments. Being able to communicate effectively is such an important skill. I imagine that it is not only frustrating for the person deciphering the communication, but also for the person who isn’t being clearly understood.

  130. 245 PabloS
    November 13, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    You really brought your point as simple as you could of. I agree that the generation of tomorrow might suffer in great numbers if the educational pursuit doesn’t improve.

  131. 246 Denise Vastola
    November 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I was wondering if all that texting in shorthand was going to impact literacy of younger generations. Now I know! On a related note, my aunt, a retired school teacher, got all over my second cousin for her poor language skills during a conversation. I felt a little embarrassed for the kid, but better she should hear from a family member that she sounded ignorant — when she is far from it — than lose out on a job because of it.

  132. November 13, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    The statistics are truly amazing. As a father of a freshman in college I can see first hand the results of illiteracy taking hold in our society. There are so many causes for the current trends that trying to place the emphasis on any one issue will certainly fall short of an effective solution.
    My daughter graduated as Valedictorian of our high school and it was not because everything came easy as so many say. It started at home with support and dedication from parents who cared and listened to the trials and worries of a young adult. That support and love for our child grew into a desire to be a responsible, hard working young adult. I believe a person, young or old, cannot reach their true potential without ‘character based’ ethics and this starts at home.
    Some are blaming the media source for the lack of proper literacy but is that truly the problem? Or is it lack of discipline that prevents us from not succumbing to the distractions of an information based and socially saturated environment? Other cultures are fighting the same battle and as they mature and social disciplines relax, they fall prey to the effects of a nonproducing majority.
    I am sure this comment will ruffle some feathers but I am also sure that many people feel the same way but are afraid to speak out for fear of offending someone. If that is the case, so be it. If that is what it takes to start a debate about values, then I will carry that burden.
    Thank you for the opportunity to express myself and congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  133. November 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I graduated from high school last year, and while I am currently taking a gap year, I have had the opportunity to watch college from a unique standpoint as my mother returned to college. She’s read me some of the papers/fellow student reports that she was to critique, and many are appalling.
    I don’t claim to be a perfect writer, or to always remember grammar rules and correct punctuation. I overuse commas to the extreme. That being said, I’ve seen some papers that were absolutely horrific.
    Times are changing, and while it’s important to embrace forward evolution in our culture, ‘txt spk’ is not – and never will be – considered an improvement when used in a college paper. I’m not saying that there aren’t times when I use it, or that it doesn’t have a place, but a college paper? College is *supposed* to be training for furthering our learning and training us for the careers that we’ve chosen. Somehow I think people may have a problem with the next generation of doctors and lawyers writing in texting abbreviations.
    All of this to say that I enjoyed reading this post. Congratulations for making Freshly Pressed!

  134. November 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I stumbled upon your post and found it quite refreshing, all the while thinking that it confirmed much of what I have long believed to be true. As a supervisor of twenty plus years, screening applicants has long been one part of my job that I dislike due to the increasing illiteracy of our nation. Sadly – but ironically – I gained a reputation for sending back applications to our HR Department marked in highlighter wherever there was a grammatical error. I’m not sure what will happen from this point forward, as many of our up and coming educators today are the very same ones who grew up using ‘txt spk’ in their everyday lives.

  135. November 13, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Last year, during my junior year of college, a guest lecturer came in to speak about a program he had developed for local juvenile delinquents. At the end, he wanted to let us know that he would gladly consider us as interns; we simply needed to state that we were in that class that day in our cover letters. He actually had to emphasize that we needed proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar on our cover letters and resumes, or we would not even be considered. We all laughed, but the truth is that several people from our school had used internet language on their resumes.

    It’s pathetic.

    It’s pathetic that professors now need to have an “email etiquette” portion of the syllabus to remind people to treat them with respect. I mean, professors even have to remind students to greet them with “Hello” or “Hi” instead of “yo.”

    It’s a sad commentary on where our society is headed and I’m proud to say I’m not a contributor.

  136. 251 marlowesnymph
    November 13, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Ah! I agree with you to the fullest. What is going on in this country? At work, when I had my one year review done, my boss’s biggest critique was that I sound “too much like an English major” when I write my incident reports. Are you serious? As opposed to what? Our receptionist, an AMERICAN young woman, once wrote an incident report that said, and I am not joking, “He felled on stares. I helped him wit it all. He fine.” WHAT?!?! I’m so glad you said something. This is such an important issue.


  137. 252 StalkeeBrew
    November 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    This is so sad! I’m in school now studying to be an English teacher and students now are so far behind that it honestly makes me question how much help I can really give; I’m no superwoman. The entire school system needs to be revamped, but no, people are too worried about standardized testing to teach students anything practical.

  138. November 13, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I completely agree with you. I’m a college student too–an English Major at that–and it appalls me to find that some of my fellow English Majors cannot even construct a sentence properly. Some can’t recognize the difference in their/they’re/there or your/you’re.

    That being said, internet linguistics is really pretty interesting. I like studying the progression of internet lingo in the English language. It’s really pretty cool, and I think it’s all well and good to communicate through shorthand and use the new vocabulary of Web 2.0, but I also believe that there should be a line between peer-to-peer communication and peer-to-supervisor communication.

    but its lke u kno whatevr!!1 l8terg8ter!

  139. 254 sandyvanasch
    November 13, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for addressing this subject.

    I am a senior citizen but have a story to tell about American education.

    I couldn’t read and was passed along from grade to grade despite this fact. Most of the teachers didn’t care if a child didn’t “catch on.”

    The NEA (National Education Association) has an agenda other than educating children. So lack of concern shows up in many ways. Yes, there are dedicated teachers fighting a losing battle–short funds,low salaries and other problems outside of their control. That is why I blame the NEA for the sad shape American Education is in today but it started 40+ years ago. Its political in nature.

    In 7th grade, my English teacher, Mr. Jenkins took time and care to teach me to read. That changed my life and future. Thanks to one dedicated teacher!

    Sandy Van Asch

  140. November 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Something I have noticed is that the youth of today do not know how to speak properly. So it follows that they can’t write.

  141. November 13, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks sheriji.

    I’d like to point out to all that this post on functional illiteracy includes only those who cannot read or write. A separate discussion concerns those who can read and write, but cannot reflect. True, unadulterated reflection on a given text, body of literature, or film seems unheard of these days. I would classify the college student you commented on as “illiterate” and the remaining culture – those who have no clue as to how to apply those skills – as “functionally illiterate.”

    Perhaps the problem is not, “why do our schools neglect these skills?”

    Perhaps we should ask instead, “why do we refuse to use these skills, if we have them?” Inaction seems to reign as the great teacher of our day.

  142. 257 The Sewist
    November 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I am in the UK and have spent 10 years teaching on the Skills For Life programme addressing the supposedly catastrophic literacy and numeracy failings of the 20 percent of our population who were decided to be functionally illiterate and/or innumerate. This was broken down into 5.2 million illiterates and a whopping 15 million innumerates.

    We have to be careful about the numbers bandied about with regard to literacy or illiteracy. The government of the time under Tony Blair decided to set the literate/illiterate bar at what are called Level 2 Qualifications. This equates to Grades A-C at GCSE which are the exams all students sit in the year they turn 16 years old.

    This bar was arbitrary and resulted in a decision that everyone who has never taken GCSEs or their predecessor, O levels, or any other formal qualifications in maths or English must be functionally illiterate.

    No-one considered that the people who run our country by running shops, restaurants, offices, factories, local councils, hospitals and government offices perfectly adequately without having ever taken and exam in their life might not actually be functionally illiterate because the do actually function in society and in businesses. Many of our most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders never did O Levels and did really badly in school but have still gone on to achieve huge success. All these people were lumped together and blamed for the supposed failings of British society.

    The hand wringing over the 20m figure and the tables of other countries doing better and doing worse led the government to intervene in a huge way and finance free classes for anyone without a Level 2 qualification. In practice, what happened in many cases was that we were accrediting prior learning: students didn’t need to learn anything new in order to pass the tests.

    Other students however, could name the school teacher who put the nail in the coffin of their self-esteem and left them feeling that they were no good at anything academic. My mother was one of those people and she was never given the opportunity to do any exams at 16 as she was asked to leave school at 15.

    Every generation has bemoaned the lack of literacy of its pupils so your complaints are nothing novel.

    That said, I think that we are in a difficult place with education at the moment. We no longer live in a world that needs the skills that the educational establishment is providing. Students in the Far East appear to be better than UK and US students in many measures but they are only being taught to achieve what they think we did 50 years ago. We are comparing our kids to countries who are comparing theirs to our previous generations without considering that we aren’t teaching in huge classes and expecting kids to learn facts by rote any more.

    We no longer need to teach facts but we do need to enable students to find facts and evaluate the information they find. Honestly, why are we worrying about cursive handwriting and pen control when most adults rarely write with pen and paper any more? Why do we spend years teaching children mental maths strategies when most people have a calculator on their phone and very few people pay for anything with cash? All IT training is nearly useless as soon as the ink is dry on the syllabus because new stuff is happening all the time. Does anyone remember learning how to use Word Perfect and life without a mouse or touch screen?

    All this stuff raises so many questions that do not have simple answers but in the meantime I am home educating my younger two children (who have plenty of social opportunities, thank you for your concern) and appreciating all the good things that my teenage children can do and the richness they bring to the world.

    Have a look at this and see if any of it hits any buttons for you

    and then go here for more Royal Society Animates http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/

  143. November 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    For those who question whether or not capitalisation and punctuation are really essential to comprehension, it depends on the reader’s skill: poor readers are almost completely unaffected by the absence of such niceties, while good readers can be completely thrown.

    Think of it as direction and information signs along the highway. If you’re tooling along at ten miles an hour, it doesn’t matter much if a sign is difficult to make out since you’ve got plenty of time to look at it. But if you’re a competent driver going 60 mph then an unclear sign can really screw you over.

    So no — if you read slowly, word by word, with frequent backtracks for comprehension, then such niceties as punctuation and capitalisation are quite unimportant. But if you have a high degree of literacy then it really matters.

  144. 259 noothergods
    November 13, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Lancelot, you are very correct, it is frightening to me what people are willing to believe these days. I recently held a temporary federal job (I’m sure anyone familiar with U.S. Law can figure out what that was likely to be), on the first day of the job I had an argument with three of my co-workers, all recent highschool graduates. The topic of debate, whether there were 50, 52, or 54 states in the union. I was hardpressed to believe that public schools are no longer able to impart to their students that there are 50 states in the union, including Hawaii and Alaska, but apparently this is no longer part of the curriculum. Moreover they would not take reasoned and informative arguments, preferring the authority held by wikipedia (we did not have internet access at the time) to potentially solve the argument. I never was able to convince them of the truth.


  145. November 13, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    The ability to communicate with others through a standard set of rules everyone can understand is vital. I know I’m not perfect when it comes to grammar, but we all have to care and try if we want to succeed at anything.

  146. November 13, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    As a current college student, I can totally back up that this is NOT an isolated incident. I want to bang my head against a rock half the time when we are assigned to peer edit papers – some of them are THAT bad. We all make mistakes some time: grammar errors, spelling mistakes. But writing that poorly is just so unacceptable – this isn’t Myspace, Facbeook, or a text message, and even if it were, who are you talking to or posting for that can understand things like that?! It’s totally craziness.

  147. November 13, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    I find being a university student to be really annoying these days. I want to learn. I love to learn. But I see these people in the same level classes as me and they barely know the difference between to, two, and too. But even if that isn’t bad, they frequently talk as if they were in an online chat. I’ve seen postings on blackboard that are complete non-sense, in the most honest sense of the word. By the time you reach 300-400 level classes a student should expect some form of intellectual curiosity from their peers. For what other reason do they participate? I find it really hard to continue when so many others are so far behind. But I believe that they haven’t been cheated, they just aren’t willing. That is more frustrating.

  148. 263 jatimlex
    November 13, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I was brought face to face about the lack of literacy when the ARMY found out I could type and took me out of my primary MOS and made me a tech-writer, I was to interpret military data on artillery and write manuals on a sixth to eighth grade reading level, this was 1982, I was shocked. Today I posted Rudyard Kipling’s The Gods of the Copybook Headings:
    I believe your post can be reconciled with that poem.I’m not an educator, this must be exasperating. A friend of mine who is probably in his last year as an professor at Aquinas College has shared the same problem he’s had.

  149. 265 Friday for Everything
    November 14, 2010 at 12:09 am

    You’re preaching to the choir, here. My landlord’s daughter brings me college assignments to proofread now and then and they make me want to cry. She makes your boy sound bright. Yet, she gets B’s and C’s with work I would have been given a D for in 6th grade. What bothers me the most is the nature of the problem. It’s been a long time since I took an english class and my grammer and spelling skills have become rusty with disuse. I make errors here and there, so I’m not one to be a grammer nazi. But this girl, and it seems, most of her friends, never had much in the way of skills to start with. I’m not seeing a few spelling errors or run on sentences. I’m seeing gibberish. Literal gibberish. Maybe it would make sense as a series of tweets or something, but on paper it’s a mess.

    Part of it is the fault of her parents. There isn’t a book in the house, and I remember the time her mother informed me that reading is a stupid waste of time and I should come and watch ‘Jack Ass-The Movie’ with them instead.

    I politely declined.

    That doesn’t let the schools off the hook. I’m in Southern California (cry for me) and out here the standards have been on a downward trajectory for years. When I went to highschool I needed 1 semester of math and 4 years of P.E. to graduate, but at least we still read the occasional book. Now my doctor tells me there is no reading list. His kids watch a movie in class and answer a few questions about it. I suspect the reason the school does this is because they know many of the students couldn’t make it through the books. How can you achieve literacy if you never read anything longer than 140 characters? And if that’s public education’s commitment to literacy, why would science be any better?

    I love books. I gain great pleasure in life from reading both fiction and non fiction. I feel genuinely sorry for people who are missing out on the great history of human ideas and imagination to be found in books-and are so uneducated they don’t even know it.
    Rant away. Maybe if enough of us rant and holler it will make a differece.

    Hey, it worked in Whoville.

  150. November 14, 2010 at 1:14 am

    I’m not entirely proud of being raised in a state known as: America’s worst public school system (Hawaii). At least I have a lifelong accrual of cultural enlightenment instilled in my sun drenched brain. Indeed our US schools need help… Now.
    Thank you for the reminder.

  151. 267 Ryan
    November 14, 2010 at 1:59 am

    I completely agree with what you are saying. We really need better methods to teach literacy within schools. As a university student, I am offended to hear my peers speaking unintelligible English and dumbing down my college experience. One class I looked into taking for a couple of weeks before ultimately dropping it was a linguistics class called Understanding Language. One of the main pushes of this class was that there is no good or bad English, only certain dialects and accents. Is this one reason we see functional illiteracy? A teacher who is less willing to offend his or her students than to teach good grammar and literacy? It is just a thought.

  152. November 14, 2010 at 2:20 am

    That’s just sad. I’m a high school student and even I know this is a problem.

    When I was younger my mother always stressed the importance of reading and proper grammar. This idea was also drilled into my head by my eighth-grade English teacher. Now, writing is one of my strongest passions, and I take pride in my ability to clearly convey my thoughts.

    That’s why I hate the way the English language has been abused by my generation. The difference between there, their, and they’re was something I learned in the third grade; when I peer-edit papers, I’m astonished to see my classmates making this mistake.

    Our modern technology only enforces illiteracy. I am one of the few people I know who hasn’t fallen victim to Facebook and Twitter. I don’t use either site because I know they’ll destroy my English skills.

    If we’re supposed to be the future, I’m scared of what this country will become.

  153. November 14, 2010 at 5:04 am

    its good know that kind of literacy .
    see my first blog also gurgaonproperty.wordpress.com

  154. November 14, 2010 at 5:40 am


    Just wanted to let you know that I am a university student and that there is still hope for the future of literacy. I was born and raised in the Philippines and we just currently moved to New Zealand. My family and I found out rather quickly that we followed grammatical and verbal rules more strictly than those who were born and raised here. As children, my father always encouraged us to text with whole words! So I never really got used to using text language (except when I’m in a hurry).

  155. 271 Michael Migliori
    November 14, 2010 at 5:47 am

    Mark Passio in no uncertain terms describes how the global society functions. He explains how academia is but one facet of the pyramid (symbol of the new (really old) world order and of base consciousness). His video, a four part series is available on You-tube under the title ¨What on Earth¨ Teachers and Parents if you truly believe in and emotionally care for the advancement of human consciousness please avail yourself of invaluable instruction. Illiteracy is an important objective of the present world rulers and is managed by those who strive to bring about the destruction of human consciousness. I wish you, dear readers, much joy and bliss.

  156. November 14, 2010 at 6:28 am

    So true. And not just in the US, it’s dreadful here in Australia too. I am just now returning to part-time study after about 8 years of office work. When I came across the first spelling mistake in the textbook, I was forgiving. When I realised there was spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors, or even just layout mistakes, about every other page, I was pretty disgusted. Sure, it’s a textbook produced by a small business, but seriously, didn’t they get someone to read the bloody thing before they went to print? Fiction lover that I am, it was hard enough to plough through a dry and badly-constructed textbook in the first place. But to make me want to through the book across the room every second page??
    Technology is the culprit, but our education systems seem to be allowing it to happen.

  157. November 14, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Wow. Due to the enormous response to this, I’m only responding direct to your post as I do not have enough time to read it all. Well done!

    I am not a teacher nor do I live in North America yet i can relate to this rant. In fact, my boyfriend would only know too well how much all of he above grates on my nerves. I do believe technology has great deal to do with the rise of illiteracy.
    I work for a large corporation and the amount of unprofessionally written professional emails and documents are unbelievable.

    I’m extremely worried for when the times comes for me to have children. I would certainly hope they do not grow up using text speak and abbreviated slangs.

    Thanks for the great post.

  158. November 14, 2010 at 7:29 am

    A couple of days ago I met a 16 year old girl (I’ll call her Cory) who I will mentor for the next year. She’s intelligent — that was obvious in the first 5 minutes — attractive, fairly well spoken for her age. She also doesn’t care about much of anything, especially her grades. As long as she slides through with a D, she’s fine — or so she says. After spending the last five years in Thailand teaching students who are eager to learn, work hard to improve their skills and almost cherish their teachers, I found my 20 minutes with Cory to be a real wake-up call. How do you get someone to care?

    I’ve had time now to reflect and sit with the issue. Being a transpersonal psychologist, my attention turns to the bigger picture. Cory is caught in the trance, completely relying on her circle of friends and the contraction of her family’s poverty to tell her who she is. She has one thing in common with many of my Thai students. She hasn’t been asked to think. She’s also learned passion is dangerous because it’s obvious that if she’s passionate about something, she’ll get shot down. No one has modeled for her the ability to creatively solve a problem or the art of making a choice, learning from that choice and then applying that learning to the next choice.

    As I read these words, I see the pit yawning. It would be easy for me to fall into the same hole regarding my work with her. Believe me, I’ve felt overwhelm and that “up against the wall” feeling whenever I’ve thought about her. But I must be very careful not to spend my time with those feelings and with continually assessing her problems. Instead, I’m choosing to follow what I know — that everyone cares or wants to care, that there is a longing in everyone to grow in their own unique way, that everyone wants to be heard and seen for the amazing being they are.

    Of course I also realize that next week, I’ll sit down with Cory again. What will I say? What will I do? At first my more desperate feelings make me want to tell her things, to tell her how important school is and what good grades can help her achieve and on and on. But if I want to live into what I know is true about her, I need to begin to open the world of choice in front of her and let her struggle with it, just as I’m struggling with it now. I need to let go of the need to push Cory to make the choice I want her to make and instead shed some light on choice-making and the exploration of possibilities.

    I know, as we sit together next week, the feelings of wanting to change her, save her and make her into what I would like her to be will be right there as well. We’ll see how I do, what choices I make in the moment, how well I follow what I know and model that for her.

    As people who care deeply about students and who work in a very outmoded system, we need to support each other in knowing there’s not an answer, but rather a set of opportunities each day. We may think we know what needs to happen or we may feel lost in overwhelm about what we see as wrong. But it seems to me that if we come together in our strengths and in our simple “not knowing,” the creative impulse ignites, ideas form and the next step is illuminated.

    I so appreciate your post. Reading your words totally ignited my ability to see my situation more clearly. This is what we do for each other in the moment.

  159. November 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

    First of all, let me just say that I agree: there’s a huge problem with the attitude many American students have as they approach education. There’s apathy. Lots of it. And an attitude that, no matter what they do or do not do, the consequences won’t really hurt them that much. I’ve spent the last 7 years teaching High school, so I’ve seen it all and I know a vast majority of that comes from the home. But not all of it.

    Secondly, thank you for answering a question I always wondered about: what happens to those barely-made-a-70-to-pass-H.S. but now-playing-a-sport-at-college students? THIS is obviously one of those cases. It’s sad.

    Thirdly, what few people consider when they see statistics about America’s “failing” schools is that, unlike most of the countries we seem not to measure up against, we test ALL of our students, honors level to SpEd, and every single one of them is counted in our statistics. None of those other countries does that! America has the attitude/idea that every kid deserves and equal chance: sure they do. But that ‘equal chance’ does not mean every kid belongs in college! If every kid goes to med school, who the heck is going to fix my car when it breaks down or make $50/hr putting in my new toilet?

    Fourthly, (and this is really my most important point) we offer precious few opportunities for the kids who lack the motivation or IQ for college to receive other training. Sure, there are trade schools out there, and sure mechanics, stylists, welders, etc. make damn good money in the U.S., but NO ONE in America’s schools is encouraged to say to a kid, “maybe you’d be better off going to technical school.” Teachers are required to treat (and teach) every kid like they’re on the same level academically and are off to Harvard in a few years. As funding is cut and cut and cut at our nation’s schools (the school I was teaching at saw a millions-of-dollars cut 4 years in a row, seriously!) the first things to go are the arts and technical programs!!! The kids who are struggling academically (and let’s face it, with an IQ of 85 they’re going to be) NEED something they can be good at like welding, auto shop, carpentry, etc. so that they feel motivated in those classes where they’re struggling, too. When we cut the electives that give them a feeling of success and offer them nothing non-academic to study it’s no wonder they don’t try and then end up either failing or getting by just enough to move on and become “somebody else’s problem.” THIS is what No Child Left Behind has created; this is the monster no one wants to acknowledge.

    NOT every kid needs to be in college, but America’s ideals about wealth, social status, class, and privilege make them all feel like they’re ‘not good enough’ if they choose a non-academically-driven career. That is stupid. Until we start singing a different tune as a society, understanding that a secure, stable job IS a “good” job regardless of the degree of education the job requires, accepting that not everyone can be expected to have the same abilities, and making our education system reflect that, you’re going to keep seeing kids like the one you mentioned. Period. The problem lies with every single one of us.

    • November 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

      I agree totally, and in response to your last paragraph, the result we see is colleges functioning according to the business model (students having to repeat classes = more tuition dollars) and becoming trade schools, and the “dumbing down” of the curriculum to meet all the needs of everyone, even people who would be much better served somewhere else.

  160. November 14, 2010 at 9:02 am

    As the mother of a 19 year old daughter who can’t spell certain words or uses them out of context…..they’re, there or their…….I have to say….what has happened to the educators of our society? Is it not up to them to teach our children not to sound like idiots when they write or speak? We parents can help also and I try, but she’s at the age where she looks at me, shrugs her shoulders and says, ” you know what I mean”. This is also a girl who quit school during her Senior year, very disappointing! I’m not so sure she is the only one to blame for lack of interest in school. I look at adults my age, who went to the SAME schools I did. I learned, why didn’t they?

    I work at a medical office in Omaha, Nebraska, and you would not believe the number of adult male truck drivers who can’t read/write. They want us to fill out the paperwork for them! Our doc tells us not to do this, that if they can’t read or write, he refuses to pass them for their DOT physicals. It simply amazes me! And not in a good way.

  161. November 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I can’t help but think that technology is to blame. Never has there been such a large number of people on the planet that has had access to public dissemination of their writings, in any style.

    The visibility of bad writing is now dominant in the life of many people.

    Imagine, if you do not read books or articles but spend most of your time on Youtube and Twitter, what you see for most of your daily existance is writing that almost never includes complete sentences.

    It then becomes a culture.

  162. November 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I dont think the kid was seriously intent on being academic in his e-mail and felt your blog post was a little snide to be honest. He was just being lazy in his casual chat with you through an e-mail, relax.


  163. 281 Me too
    November 14, 2010 at 10:19 am

    I think I have that student! I share with you an e-mail I received this week, verbatim.

    “prof, did u get my project because i sent it through email becasue i couldnt sent it through black mail”

    It was unsigned, and sent from an AOl e-mail address that was anonymous, such as student@aol.com. I tell my students that I will not answer any e-mail that isn’t signed. And while Stephen McElligott may be correct that the student was writing in a casual manner, school is preparation for a professional life, and this sort of communication would not be acceptable in a business situation. If we don’t prepare our students for life after college, we are doing them a disservice.

  164. 282 Jean
    November 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Based on the number of comments, you clearly have hit a nerve.

    I want to respond to one specific point, the passivity you see in students. I am a teacher educator, and based on what my student teachers encounter in their various classrooms, children are being systematically taught this passivity from their first day of kindergarten on. Not because teachers value passivity, but because of the culture that has grown up around the dominance of those high-stakes (for the adults in the system) standardized tests mandated by No Child Left Behind. Yes, teachers teach to the test. This is seen as their job–if they don’t do enough test prep, they will be chastised, or if a beginner, fired. The tests assess fragmented and basic stuff, and all that test prep, to say nothing of the tests themselves, chew up a huge percentage of the available teaching time. The default response to both of these facts is to “teach by telling” and to at least subconsciously consider the measure of success of a lesson to be the number of correct responses students put on worksheets. This means teachers train students to be passive, not because they don’t value thinking, but because passivity yields the appearance of success. At least for awhile.

    So the passivity we see in learners in upper grades and in college isn’t because of some decline in character among young people, it’s the direct result of the teaching they’ve been exposed to. Nor is the style of teaching due to widespread character flaws among teachers. It’s the natural response of millions of individuals to the pressures created by the system’s mindless reliance on flawed data as the sole measure of success. Some, even many, individual teachers and students resist those pressures, but we shouldn’t have to fight the system to be good teachers or intelligent students–the system should be supporting us, and in it’s current form, it does not.

    IMO 🙂

    • November 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      I agree, and address this in the “My response to your response” post, and specifically Bloom’s taxonomy. They’re being taught facts, not higher order thinking, and we will ALL pay the price for this. Who’s going to invent the next laptop or the next cure for cancer when all most students can do is remember ~ 70% of what they’ve been told?

  165. 284 partialview
    November 14, 2010 at 10:49 am

    The number of responses you’ve got shows you are not the only one sighing at the predicament. I suppose it is the responsibility of the society as a whole to ensure the children do not turn out to be ‘mindless’. Mindless is a term I like to use often for things and people devoid of the basic virtues as we know them (most basic being writing full sentences and complete words.)

    I wish there is some positive change a-coming.

  166. November 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

    What “scares” me is that there are thousands of young people like him- lazy, illiterate, ignorant and they can vote!

  167. November 14, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Just by having to scroll down as far as I did, I would have to say that A LOT of people care about this subject, myself included. I have always been of the opinion that, people as well as students, need to be sent to a ‘re-education’ camp when they do something this stupid. The ‘re-educating’ would be something along the lines Orwell’s 1984…

  168. 287 cookiemomma
    November 14, 2010 at 11:00 am

    I care very much! I am a mother of 3 amazing kids with unique personalities, and raise them to be so. The one characteristic that each have in common is the love for books (although the type of books are way different). I will never understand how parents don’t see the need for reading. I know I am not the best parent in the world, but I (like most parents) want my children to get the best opportunities available and I don’t see how they can have those without being able to read. It is sad that today’s society overlooks illiteracy because they are great on the playing field. We are also very dedicated New Orleans Saints and LSU Tiger fans in this house and appreciate talent, but talent needs to be enhanced in order to have a very well-rounded individual. Just sayin’

  169. 288 moyafry
    November 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I wish I could say I was shocked, but I see this kind of functional illiteracy too much. What is really scary are poorly written email cover letters for job openings. It’s safe to say if you can’t write ani email, we probably don’t want you for a job in communications…

    Someone probably already shared this link, but you should check out the movie “Waiting for Superman” about the failing US education system. It’s scary enough,l but I’m sure even worse from a teacher’s perspective! Check out the trailer here:http://waitingforsuperman.com

  170. November 14, 2010 at 11:29 am

    As a fourth grade teacher in a “highly impacted” title I school, I definitely care. I feel that a lot of my colleagues have the attitude to just “get students to the next grade level” instead of helping students to succeed and actually TEACHING them. It’s sad.

    And to the point on text/email talk: I’m 25, I text/email/blog all the time and I find it extremely annoying when people don’t use capitalization and punctuation using these medias. Urgh! I’d be pretty frustrated with your “functionally illiterate” student – how do these kids make it to college? Better – how do they graduate high school?

    Many of my students go on to fifth grade not mastering the fourth, but there’s little I can do to stop it because my students come to me knowing hardly anything from third.

    Where to go?


  171. 290 Matthias
    November 14, 2010 at 11:36 am

    “What can we do?”

    That is an excellent question. Some here have pointed to the sheer volume of distraction in the U.S. as a contributing factor. It is absolutely true. Unfortunately, as a product of the American public school system, I’ve been able to witness an even more fundamental, systemic problem: a totally inadequate incentive structure for teachers.

    Many of my highschool teachers were lazy and apathetic after years of dealing with troubled students. They were also old. Unfortunately, what that means is that when my school had to lay teachers off, in many cases the best teachers who were also our newest were let off first because of the “seniority system.” The result? Older teachers were functionally immune to being fired, even when anyone could see they were failing basic competence and performance measures.

    But the problem gets worse. When a student goes to a poorly functioning high school or district, he/she (and their parents) have little recourse. It is difficult or impossible to just “choose a better school”, and for that reason they sit, as I did, wasting away in classes with teachers who don’t care, and with textbooks full of information but lacking a motivated teacher. The result? Schools are shielding from real world ramifications of failure. Academic failure is protected.

    Could it be any worse? Unfortunately, yes. My state education system actively undermines alternatives to our failing public school system. The education board routinely denies charter licenses in the name of “protecting public school district enrollment.” I’ll translate that: “We want our kids to stay here, regardless of what it means for their future, because our federal funding comes on a per-student basis.”

    Do parents want choice? Are parents with children in failing systems desperate for some choice in the matter of where their children go to school? Absolutely. If they weren’t, then why do thousands of people show up to the Harlem Success Academy lottery every year? Why do the parents of children who aren’t drawn cry? And why do the parents of the lucky children literally dance for joy? It’s because, as the reporter in the video I’ve linked to below says, “their destiny is changed.”

    So what’s the problem? Is it noise and distraction? Partially, and that’s a cultural problem that we need to deal with. But moreso it is living in a well-funded education system that lacks almost any means of accountability. Accountability, and consequences for teacher and administrative failure is what we need to get this failing system back on track. There’s actually study on edreform.com specifically about the need for accountability that you can find here:

    Click to access closures.pdf

    Finally, I’d just like to say that I appreciate everything that you teachers are doing, whether you are in public or private institutions. I graduated from public school and was able to attend an amazing college, and have succeeded there. I could not have done it without your help, and I remember that constantly. I’m just afraid that (as evidence bears out) many other students aren’t as lucky as I was.


    • 291 Matthias
      November 14, 2010 at 12:27 pm

      Is there a reason that my comment about systemic problems in the school system didn’t get approved? I just graduated 3 years ago and was in one of the lowest funded districts in the U.S. and feel like I could add to the conversation – my post just didn’t get approved for some reason.

      • November 14, 2010 at 12:39 pm

        It just appeared in my pending folder — not sure why. How does WordPress decide which are posted automatically and which not? Does anybody know?

        Anyway, sorry about the delay — I’m having a little trouble keeping up, as the demands of my life continue unabated and the comments keep pouring in. It should appear now.
        Thank you for your comment!

  172. 293 elbodans
    November 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I am a teacher and, as such, I absolutely care! And, sadly, you’re absolutely right (referring to original post, not the three hundred comments, though I do agree with many of the comments as well!) It gets more and more painful to read student writing every year–I can say that and I’ve only been teaching for eight years! Several of my coworkers have had to go back to teaching basic sentence structure; I actually have to tell honors students that you have to capitalize a first name! Note–I teach middle school, so we’re talking 7th and 8th grade students. They should know this. I bend over backwards with interactive games and activities–supplemented by more traditional lectures, notes and worksheets of course (you’ve got to have a balance)–and after a week of talking about pronouns, students tell me that the pronoun in ‘Mary gave her grandmother a cookie’ is GAVE. Arrgghhh!!!!!!!!

  173. November 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I wrote something similar on my blog, inspired by this entry and another article, also posted on Friday, about functional illiteracy. Rather than direct people to scuttle over to my post, I’ll copy it in my reply –

    “Sometimes, I wonder how we, as human beings, are evolving in terms of communication. Illiteracy has dominated throughout human history. Yet, here we are today. Gutenberg had invented the printing press in the fifteenth century (although a Chinese printer invented movable type at the turn of the first millennium) and human knowledge exploded. Literacy has enabled us to self-learn and impart vast amounts of information. Mass production and availability of printed material helped inspire people to learn to read and encouraged generations to continue reading. Physical books were once novel and universally valued. Alas, the sense of newness is a subjective experience.”

    “Speaking in an anthropological sense, the archaic technology of the printing press is still relatively new to the modern masses of people, but tempting alternatives concerning how a person spends his or her unoccupied time grow every day. Over a hundred years ago, movies sounded the death knell for printed fiction. Today, talented writers and their stories skip print and weave tales through screenplays. I am certainly not lamenting the observation. I love a good story in any medium, but I cannot refuse my deduction. As a kid, I read books and thought those I enjoyed would make great movies. In college, I would say a favored movie would make a good book, and rarely saw a printed adaptation. I don’t think the thought has occurred to me since graduation in 1990, and I’ve heard no one say as much for at least ten years. I’m not saying that I have recently seen no original movies that deserve a book, but rather, I just don’t wish “it” anymore. Age has either robbed me of tiny dreams, or the concept of film-to-book has become irrelevant.”

    “I see articles about children no longer reading for entertainment. Because kids don’t read books, specifically, they are not properly drilled with the proper use of language or recognition of context, their text messages, sent to other functionally illiterate peers, are wrought with incomplete and/or fragment sentences, and often lack capitalization and punctuation. Their literally (in the sense of literature – but I can’t resist words with poetic double meanings) retarded friends reinforce the atrocious grammar. Despite the bold precedent set by Cormac McCarthy, whose work may unintentionally echo the state of literature in the modern day, commas are vitally important for understanding a concept or an idea. A comprehensible, ragged text messages does not accurately communicate thoughts. The writer assumes readers assume “meanings.” I’m sure the joke is much older, but I remember Moe of the Three Stooges say “Assume makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’” The warning seems ignored today.”

    “Ironically, in this exact and digital age, language studies (of which I wished I saved a bookmark to the web page) have shown the human brain naturally and unconsciously makes assumptions. The revelation explains why typos crop up in writing that has been proofread. Proofs aside, I learned people will read and understand a poorly spelled sentence. For example, read the obviously flawed sentence below:”

    “He jumpred off the roof an fel l on his back”

    “The sentence is perfectly comprehensible, but certainly does not belong in print – which has changed, in the endangered state of print. Sentences, such as the one cited above, appear in innumerable text messages, email, blogs and reader comments every day. This is the world in which kids learn to write. Like a spoken language, reading and writing involves the environment. Sure, it is possible to teach oneself to speak another language, but the self-learning process is too slow for a large majority of our distracted youth, and most adults. The flawed construction of the sentence is the direction language now takes. The printed word used to guard against such negligence, but kids are no longer reading – except the text from equally unmotivated friends. Kids today might as well be communicating telepathically, which may be the direction the human mind moves.”

    “Hopeful pondering is undone by a true-life image of people pointing at icons on a computer screen and grunting. As a species, we may be devolving. The printed word suddenly advanced and spread civilization, but now holds the human race in stasis. A vested publishing industry and authors, who have garnered a fierce and obsessively rigid fan base, hold the unmoving state in place. Still, fewer people are reading fiction. Lack of support weakens an enforcer’s grip.”

    “Regardless, the world moves on. The next generation will determine if we advance or lose our ability to communicate with each other. Ebooks are an option for exercising creativity, but people can now easily carry their entire collection of music and videos with them. My attempts to become professionally published and market my self-published material distract me from the real battle. How do written stories compete with convenient mediums of entertainment? I predict the next indication written fiction is failing, as presented with books, short stories and novels, is more people will download screenplays than books or short stories. Screenplays will become like the poetry viewed and traded today. New stories will stop appearing in print, then poetry will vanish altogether. In fact, the only reason screenplays will still be printed is for the purpose a story can go straight to film, DVD, Blu-ray or simply be streamed over the Internet. The screenplays will become collector items.”

    “My prediction for fiction is tied to the future of Internet technology. Soon, any writer will be able to upload their script to a site on the internet and pick from templates of music, scenes and digitally-spawned characters (artificial actors who look and behave like real human beings). The possibility is illustrated with free animation sites such as XTRANORMAL. Whole films have been constructed by teams of dedicated digital animators. If the economies of the world turns around, that same level of technology will come to the average person who surfs the internet, a single person who will whip out an award-winning movie within an hour. The hardest part of creating a movie will be writing a compelling story. A chance exists, the movie-creator who wins their award will be one of those people who have said “I wish I could write a book.” Creating a movie will be far easier than making an earnest attempt to write. Be prepared. My prediction also means that, like Youtube, or other media sharing sites, most new movies made by a single author will utterly suck.”

  174. November 14, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Your rant is very close to my concern. I am a Fourth Grade teacher, and over 75% of our students in this year’s Fourth Grade class are illiterate already. They cannot read on a beginning level. Now ask yourself this, “How in the world did these prospective citizens get passed onto Fourth Grade lacking the basics skills necessary for survival in the current grade level?” If you ask my opinion on the matter, it’s called, “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.” This stupid tactic has caused many teachers to simply pass on students who are not ready ironically leaving them further and further behind. Isn’t it sad that many teachers are afraid to fail or give anything less than a C to a special ed. student simply because of this law? Instead, they pass the kids on, and most of them are street smart and have figured to adapt to the laws and even “work the system.” What’s worse, they know that they will get resources from our government for free if they are labeled or are unemployed. So, why try? If we would force parents to be involved in their child’s education for fear of not receiving foodstamps(which most of them sell to buy drugs anyways) or other governmental funding/aide, don’t you think we’d have a more responsible generation? I understand the necessity of unemployment during the massive economic hardship our country has recently faced, but they should have to jump through hoops to receive their support just as we have to jump through hoops to get a tax break. After all, they’re getting the assistance for free.

  175. November 14, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Just read your posting on Functional Illiteracy and, after 20+ years in education, found it all too familiar!

    Only recently having time to explore the world of blogging, I’m looking forward to reading more.

  176. November 14, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Here is a solution: Disband and outlaw all teacher unions. They are creating a culture of teachers who are everything that you are now seeing reflected in your student: lazy, complacent, unmotivated, entitled, etc. What is the point of unions in the teaching profession anyway? If anything, the government is giving too much and expecting too little of teachers right now. Allowing unions into the system only allows bad teachers to be retained against common sense. Sometimes they are kept on the payroll while their teaching privileges are revoked, which only serves to needlessly deplete already strained education budgets.

  177. November 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Oh how true your article rings! Todays youth tend to write in acronyms and phonics. Might be OK for texting with your friends, but when it comes to academics and business proper spelling and grammar is a must! My grand-daughter knows not to text me unless it she uses proper spelling and sentence structure, otherwise I don’t reply back.
    The big question is: How do we reverse this trend?

    • November 14, 2010 at 1:55 pm

      The solution appears simple, though, in two parts…

      A. Repeal No Child Left Behind and free the hands of the teachers. Isn’t that what the Tea Party said?

      B. Flunk kids, social promotion be damned! If the bad apples aren’t taken from the bushel, all the fruit will rot.

      I think social promotion is a cause of the increased bullying at schools. Kids know their peers are learning disabled and will single them – because teasing those kids makes them feel superior and the act is self-awarding.

      Those kids who have more muscle than brain, but realize there is a target painted on their backs, will distract attention to anyone more vulnerable than him or her.

      Of course, kids that are flunked need extra supervision, not only with their studies but also their social lives. Lack of maturity and the ability to rationalize create bullies, and the flunked kids become likely candidates. This is one of the points that argued in the favor of NCLB (ex. Kids a year or two older than their classmates are immediately at a physical disadvantage.) Flunking kids potentially releases big and ornery cats into classroom. So, teachers will need the training of a lion tamer.

      Funny, another supporting argument for NCLB was a reduction of money sent to school. Because, according to a hypothetical lie (a tactic politicians use and call “presage”), less money will be spent on re-education if teachers teach correctly the “first time.”

  178. 300 Ani Sharmin
    November 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I care about this, too. I love to read and am concerned about the state of education in our country. It amazes me when people don’t care about reading or writing. It seems to me that too many people don’t care enough about education, seeing it as a necessarily evil to be done with as quickly as possible, rather than as a way to increase one’s knowledge and understanding of the world.

    Recently, I read Susan Jacoby’s book “The Age of American Unreason”. In it, she addresses (among other topics) the state of education and literacy in the United States, as well as the various influences that have contributed to the problem. I think she makes some good points.

    Thank you very much for writing this.

  179. November 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    You’re not the only one concerned about the literacy of the coming generations – believe me! While I am not an educator, policy-maker or anyone of profound importance really, I have been touched by the functional illiteracy you write of.

    I recently signed on to be a Mentor to college students interested in humanics and non-profit management. I have been horrified by the email exchanges I’ve had with mentees who apparently think it is completely reasonable to use emoticons, LOL, BTW, becuz,and LMK in what should be taken as their first networking exercise and movement toward potential employment.

    Furthermore, their use of “text English” oftem makes it impossible to understand what it is they are actually asking, stating, or explaining which leaves me wanting to rip my hair out (and theirs too)! All of this abbreviated word/phrase nonsense has ultimately made communication more cumbersome and less accurate. And don’t even get me started on the devastation texting has created in the world of dating…. Watch for a future post at Ms. Flanigan’s Flings about Datng n Txt Disasters.

  180. November 14, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    This is a sad state of affairs. Blame it on the Educators who want to teach crap that has nothing to do with education. It is cool about self esteem and all of that but when a person can’t add two plus two. They think it is five or ten or seven. You get what you get. A kid feels good about themselves but dumb.

  181. November 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I think, first of all, it’s an attitude problem. You pointed out the dilemma that faces instructors/teachers: “…they show up, sit there, what else do they need to do? Not to mention their inability to function in face-to-face situations, their lack of respect for authority, and their dependence on technology to the point of obsession…” Students don’t care; they don’t believe they should have to care. An entire generation, and perhaps the one before it, has been deluded by the idea that they may choose to adopt the popular and pervasive bad attitude toward God and any form of authority AND that it won’t hurt them. Only a reversal in this attitude problem will make a difference.

    My question back to you and to our country is this: What needs to happen to enlighten our children? They’ve been duped!

    • 304 jumpstation
      November 15, 2010 at 11:05 am

      They haven’t been duped. They’re parents allow this to happen by detaching themselves from the education of their child. School isn’t daycare so mommy and daddy can have the day to themselves. Education starts at home, school augments. Its too easy to once again blame the education system. Yeah it isn’t what it could be but failing to pick up the slack? Educated parents who have good grounding and principles in education and knowledge have children who are more or less the same. It would be truly unwise to turn your young student over to an education system and hope for the best? Why not have your hands in your child’s education? “Oh it isn’t my responsibility to educate my child, that is what school is for” I heard that argument the other day. I couldn’t be appalled, its what this country has come to.

      • November 23, 2010 at 8:48 pm

        Then there is absolutely no reason to ever send your child to school, since apparently it’s not their job to teach them. So if its not the school’s job to teach them, and schools aren’t a day care. What is school for?

        Once again, this is why I’m homeschooling. Yet I also get a lot of negative attention about that. Apparently, a lot of people think it is impossible for parents to teach their children. I care about my children’s education and therefore I will be the one responsible for it.

        Though if I couldn’t do this for my children. I would like to know I could send them to someone that would take responsibility for their education. For some reason I thought that was what a school was. A place to send your children to learn when you can’t teach them yourselves. A organization of people, that was taking the responsibility of educating children.

  182. 306 aviatrix
    November 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Enjoyed of reading your post. I’m a senior student from Iran and it was interesting to know what would be the output of educational system there, because some of my friends and I have already worked on this issue and tried to apply some of methods in pilot phase here. We have had a strict system that is changing it’s attitude these days.

  183. 307 Kristen
    November 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I am proud to say that, though I regularly make use of Twitter and Facebook, almost everyone I “follow” uses proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. My mother enrolled me in a private school for religious reasons from age six to age fourteen and I honestly do believe that the smaller class sizes and emphasis on actual accomplishment helped me in countless ways. We were taught to be competitive learners and often told that we performed better than the public school in our town. When my classmates found out that one boy’s mother was doing most of his homework for him, we were all scandalized and said so openly to anyone who would listen. There was also a large emphasis on reading, one that seems to have influenced my personal library of over five hundred books. I should mention at this point that I am twenty-two.

    Last year, I had a roommate who might very well have been functionally illiterate. When she learned I was an English major, she began to ask me to read her papers for her. When I gave them back, she was shocked by the sheer number of corrections I had noted. This girl also often spoke incorrectly even when reminded otherwise (“I’m going to warsh my clothes”) and believed that “flustrated” was a word.

    I have so much more I could add, but I am being forced to type on my phone. My laptop is getting repaired. I hope that I have not made any obvious errors here, though it ia possible given the lack of spell-check on a Blackberry and the fact that I can only see roughly five words on the screen at a time.

  184. 308 missdisplaced
    November 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I don’t think it will matter much. Our Corporate Overlords want us all to be low-wage slaves who can’t critically think, read, write and hence, make trouble.

    “They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want a population of people sitting around the kitchen table thinking about how badly they’re getting fucked by the system that threw them overboard 30 years ago.” George Carlin

  185. November 14, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I found this to be a very interesting post. As a teacher of English Conversation in Japan, I don’t see grammar and punctuation errors made intentionally, but I do see the passivity that you talk about. The students come to school, they chat with their friends, they draw in their books, they sleep in class, and basically ignore the teacher. I find it insanely frustrating, because I’m trying to make class fun and interesting for them, but in the end it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I really do think a lot of responsibility is the parents, but in the Japan the school system also has a lot to do with Japan’s lack of improvement in ranking. Society is changing, and curriculums written even 10 years ago don’t suit children of today.

  186. 312 cocobambi
    November 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    That’s shocking… I completely understand your frustration though (My dad is a writer so I have been drilled from a young age how important it is to be not just literate but to write properly).
    I live in Australia and we’re kind of in a similar boat. People are so so lazy when it comes to grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Some people can’t even get things like “his” and “he’s” right. I grew up in Hong Kong before moving here and the people I knew there were miles ahead of the people here…even though English is Australia’s first language. I worked in a supermarket while I was in college and my BOSS asked me how to spell “communication” one day.

    I think society today is to blame…kids are taught how to use the internet by the age of 4. No one is taught to value things like classic literature or poetry. I think a lot of schools are actually getting lazy – they do movie evaluations as opposed to book reports, a lot of schools allow calculators in math class, kids become so accustomed to shortcuts and as a result they don’t feel the need to, well, use their brain.
    My partner’s sister is just finishing highschool and going through her final exams, the other day I was talking to her,asking how her studying’s going & she says to me “Oh, I left one of the exams after like 10 minutes. Everyone else did, our teacher was a dick, he didn’t teach us anything anyway”
    Even if those kids in her class were struggling in class, surely they could have picked up a text book to do a little extra work – I mean damn, it’s their SENIOR year – but it was a perfect example of kids preferring to just hide behind a lazy excuse to justify why they didn’t have to study or more importantly, pass. It’s disturbing.

    Thank you for posting this – it’s an issue that really needs to be talked about and hopefully, fixed.

  187. November 14, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I’m late to the conversation here, but I want to throw in that it sickens me as well. My last post overlaps a little bit with this, so I want to share it with you.


  188. November 14, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    their lack of respect for authority, and their dependence on technology to the point of obsession (facebook, texting — to the point where whole papers are written in textspeak — no commas, no apostrophes, no capitalizations).

    oh my God, the way some teenagers in my country write their Facebook status/twitter updates etc, they’re ruining our written languange by mixing numbers,alphabets,capital letters, all in ONE SINGLE word. here are some examples from Facebook status/twitter updates :

    “gOOd m0rn!ng ev3rybodY. it’S sUnd4y. i hOpe aLL oF y0u w1ll h4ve @ 9ood t1me tod4y witH fr13nds or f4miLy!”

    i want to shoot all of them to death, if i could 😆

  189. November 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    I wish there was an easy solution to the education problem. Unfortunately, it seems that education and economics will always be engaged in a game of tug-of-war leaving all parties exhausted and bruised. The bigger issue is that education is a long term investment and we live in a short term world. As a society we all get fired up about the problems of education and yet it is rare to find someone willing to spend their own hard earned money to improve the system.

    I am a first generation college student from a middle class family. I will say that although the system is flawed, I am thankful that there is a system to begin with. I will be graduating at the end of another semester and it would not be possible without the assistance of government loans and grants. More importantly though, it would not be possible without the support and encouragement of my parents. That is the first step and the first problem. Education is infinitely more difficult when elementary teachers are forced to act as parent and teacher. How is a child supposed to learn when he goes home to parents who can’t read or write? How is a child supposed to learn when she goes home to a home full of abuse and drug addiction? How is a child supposed to learn when he is forced to support his parents? Parents are supposed to protect, nourish and care for their children, not the other way around.

    Beyond that, it amazes me how easily our education system lets children slide through without ever being educated. I am in one of the most prestigious engineering programs in the country and it astounds me to see the incompetence of some of my peers. Please don’t get me wrong, I have met some of the most intelligent individuals during my time here, but even after endless reports and presentations I see some of the same illiteracy. Sometimes it turns driving over a bridge into an act of bravery.

    To be fair, it is not just the students. Colleges are equally economic institutions as they are educational. Everything comes down to money from overcrowding to cutting classes. Classes become so large that it is nearly impossible for professors to interact with students and dorm lounges are turned into sleeping quarters. To make things more difficult, professors are hired for their research capabilities since research brings in the money. I can say from experience that this is a major issue for engineering programs where students are forced to hang by a thread as some of the most brilliant researchers struggle to convey complex concepts. In many of these cases classroom learning becomes passive because it is simply too difficult to follow scattered ideas and students are forced to be proactive outside of the classroom, seeking help from textbooks and other students (Though textbooks are often just as ill conceived).

    As for the technology, I will have to defend this one to some degree. I have always had a pet peeve for “textspeak” especially with new keyboard technologies that make it quick and easy to text in proper English. I will also agree that technology can sometimes be a hindrance to education. I myself have been guilty of paging through Facebook during class but then refer to the previous issue of having to sit through an hour of scattered lecture. However, my defense of the technology dependent age is solely based on the value of comprehensive analysis tools, information sharing and networking capabilities. Regardless, I will concede that there is a difference between using technology as a tool and becoming dependent on technology as a lifeline.

    Anyway, I will end here for fear of rambling on. I hope that my perspective can shed at least a few valuable insights. I often feel this topic has been beat into the ground with no real progress. At the risk of breaking down your clever paradox (something of which I am always a fan), I will conclude with the statement that illiteracy is never functional.

  190. November 14, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Unfortunately there are no easy solutions. The problems are based in politics, economics and our ever changing culture.

  191. November 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    This reminds me of one of Michael Moore’s docs.

  192. 318 alastor993
    November 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I’m a teacher, so I feel your pain!

    There are a lot of ways to get students involved in their own education, but it is hard work (for the teachers). Tere are also programmes like MYP where all (or most) subjects work together. The idea is that if the subjects work together on a certain theme the student will be submerged in this theme and thus learn better and more. Also, the teachers of different subjects will agree on what they introduce (so that they know when the student learns essay writing for example) so this won’t happen twice and you can build on each others work.

    I also think that students don’t know how to learn. At the moment I’m working in China and their favorite way of learning is through reciting! When there is a test coming up all they do (ALL NIGHT LONG!) is reciting. They don’t know that their brain will stop input after 45 minutes. They don’t know that reciting will only store the matter in their shortterm memory. Tehy don’t know that they need sleep to process what they have learned.
    They don’t know any other ways of learning! I think the only reason the Chinese are ahead is because they keep going, they have no choice than to study hard and long.
    It is starting to change, but it will be a long way…

  193. November 14, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    As a lifelong autodidact, I can’t say the educational system served me particularly well — school was, from beginning to end, my idea of hell. I’m a college dropout. From art school, no less. This wasn’t the school system’s fault. I was just one of those kids that didn’t do well in that format.

    But if I’m worried, everybody should be worried. And I’m worried. What frightens me the most about the latest crop of young minds isn’t so much their weak academic achievements; rather, it’s their failure to learn how to learn. After all, what you don’t get in the classroom is still available later on. You can continue to learn for a lifetime — but not without the tools of mind required to do so.

    Last month my first novel was published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster. I’m not waving this around as proof that us unlettered boobs can go on to greatness (it’s a horror novel, nothing highbrow). I mention it because if I hadn’t ‘learned how to learn,’ the thing could never have been written. Creating the novel required a skill set I did not acquire in school.

    Meanwhile, I’m seeing a generation coming up that cannot express complex thoughts, cannot synthesize information into logical conclusions, and cannot communicate in standard written or spoken English. Is this the product of texting and shorthand formats such as Twitter? I don’t know. I don’t think so. It seems more likely that this is a species of rebellion, amplified by a dumbed-down, bureaucratic approach to curriculum that emphasizes test results over the development of intelligence. More pervasive, however — and maybe this is my age talking, not anything ‘real’ — is what appears to be a kind of self-defeating malaise, a scorn for anything that does not amuse, or which isn’t easy.

    They complained about the jazz generation of the 1920s, too, and its constituents ended up enduring the Depression and winning WWII. So who knows? But I have hired and fired some of this latest generation — they’ve proven useless, lacking any rigor of mind or capability to self-start.

    It’s a dilemma.

    • November 14, 2010 at 9:36 pm

      Congrats on your published “Rise Again.” I’ve read the excerpt on Amazon. You discredit yourself saying your were lucky to find a publisher for your genre. Your character, a runaway little-sister, is immediately engaging and your writing is easy to read. The best of luck to you, I hope the book sells – I know my young nephews and nieces still read! Although, I think that was because of the Twilight series.

      Yeah, the zombie market did dry up fast (heh)and I think werewolves will even be more short-lived, but you broke through! I’ve had over a hundred rejections from publishers and agents since I unveiled my Pazuzu trilogy last year – leading me to self-publish with the insurmountable task of marketing my books with no budget (I’ve been out of work since 2008 and have only sold a handful of books). I give away the ebook version of the first book in my trilogy, Pazuzu – Manifestation, for free. I also give away, online and ebook copies, short stories on Smashwords.

      Publishers just don’t seem to “get” my story in which “God Goes Away – Alien Gods Bring a New Hell – Demon Fights Evil with Evil.” I do say the critical idea is underneath the action in the books, where heathen terrorists destroy the Promised Land of the Chosen, but that explanation is futile when I admit that layer is beneath the narrative of a battered wanderer with amnesia and incorporeal demon looking for a mortal body. I guess, my mythology is like an onion.

      P.S. If you’re still in Pasadena, you’re practically my neighbor. I’m in Sunland. Do you know of any no-cost writer groups in the area?

      • November 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

        Thank you. I write solo, so don’t know any good groups, but I know there are some excellent ones in the general area. More writers in Los Angeles than New York.

  194. November 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I have two children — my daughter is 15 and a sophomore in high school and my son is 18 and a freshman in college. When my son reached high school, I thought it was just me remembering how much harder I had to work in high school compared to the work I saw him doing, and now see my daughter doing, but I don’t think that’s the case. The expectations for high school students today seem to be incredibly low. My daughter recently read The Odyssey in her English class. She is not a “reader” meaning she doesn’t often read for pleasure, and was really struggling with the text. Her teacher — HER TEACHER!!! — suggested she could just use Spark Notes instead of reading the book and still pass the unit. I made her read the book. In fact, we read it together.

    My son, who graduated in the top 25 of his class and is a pretty smart kid, found himself at a loss when he got to college and was faced with actually having to think about his work. I’ve spent a great deal of time with him on Skype since he started school in August helping him re-learn *how* to learn and teaching him how to do real research. I edit his papers for him and make him revise and rewrite constantly. This is something I learned in 9th grade and here he is in college and not able to do this basic step in the writing process. He’s learning, though.

    I know it drives my kids crazy, but I constantly correct their grammar and spelling, even in texts and on Facebook. I can only hope that eventually they’ll develop the habit of using the language they way it was intended.

    What has occurred in our schools in the last 30 years that allowed this happen and how can we fix it????

    • 323 Ah Man
      November 14, 2010 at 10:58 pm

      I symphatize with you but I assured you that it happens to too many countries, including mine. I think law makers have been to busy looking at their own needs more than the national interests. I agree with you that the last 30 years was neglected and we have shifted our energy to more things that are worldly, materialistic and weapons.
      Nothing will ever repair the situation and in my country even teachers are struggling with the command of English! We were once the colony of the British and are proud that the fact I can write this paragraph witout much effort.But sadly the new generation cannot mimic me, let alone doing research. The new generation, where ever they are, are jjumping into a more judmental mode rather than analysing issues, looking for solutions and deciding for themselves. Sad, I dont’t care too.

  195. November 14, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    I guess I can say that I care.

    I’m part of this generation that you’re talking about. I’m still in high school and I have seen more than just illiteracy among my peers. I see plain apathy. Nobody cares. Sadly enough, anyone who does is branded as out of touch. But the worst trend I’ve seen among my peers is the lack of a grasp on reality.

    A visiting teacher from China recently told us that the mathematics that we are working on in the senior year of high school (trigonometry and physics) is equivalent to math at their elementary level (ages five to seven). She also stated that all of the technology that we’ve acquired an addiction to is designed by predominantly Asian and Indian engineers, and that unless we step our academic game up, we won’t stand a chance in the future global world.

    Sure enough, my neighbor and I were the only ones paying attention to the teacher. The other ones were texting.

  196. November 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Sad, really.

    But it’s the truth.

  197. November 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Sadly my son is functional illiterate. He will be 21 soon and is attending community college. He is limited in what classes he can take because he could not pass the Compass college placement test.

    He would never attempt to write such a long email.

    This person must have passed a placement test. Maybe they are just lazy.

  198. November 14, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    You’re not the only one to have noticed this trend, as I’m sure you well know.

    From Memphis:
    Mimeo.com officials say it’s hard out there for an employer, despite Memphis metro area unemployment hovering above 10 percent.

    They reported sifting through at least 20 applications for every person hired in lower-level jobs and estimated four out of five job-seekers flunk a basic skills test.

    “There is a constant flow of candidates,” said marketing vice president Jeff Grill. “The problem is that no matter what the position, it’s a struggle to find people that have the education, skills and attitude needed to succeed in a fast-growing/changing entrepreneurial technology company — the very type of company that should be attracting motivated candidates.”

    For the full article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

  199. November 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm


    While I agree with what has been said about parents, the school system, etc., I find it difficult to distinguish this posting from one of someone who is high on drugs.

    Drugs are available everywhere. If you are older than 16, you will have been exposed to drugs and have friends that use them if you do not. And, these kids will insist that drugs have no effect on your brain other than to make you relax and be more perceptive. At least, that has been my observation.

    You can say this is the result functional illiteracy, but it sure manifests like someone abusing drugs. I can handle the “k” for okay, the “u” for you, the “r” for are. It’s just symbols and a sort of language kids use. (We used to use something called “pig latin” and thought it was fun.) But, the inability to connect thoughts or frame a question, this inability is similar to those whose brains have been fried with drugs.

    And the ugly part of it all is that when these kids can’t pass a class, it’s easier for them to get “high” and forget their failure. And, then they will blame the teacher, along with their parents, along with the community. At least, that has been my observation.

    It is more than just a learning issue. I think if you compared drug usage in China, Japan or other countries where the kids do so well with those of our kids, it would show a correlation. I would be pleasantly surprised if it did not. Of course, statistics about illegal drug usage are difficult to collect, so this is nothing more than conjecture on my part.

  200. 330 Miss Andrea
    November 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    I care! This is frightening. I cannot even imagine what the state of this situation will be like when my children (who I haven’t even had yet!) are at this point. What has happened? What exactly is the root of the problem? And will it even get better or only worse? Thanks for sharing and best of luck.

  201. November 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    As a college student, I have to say that I do not see much of that in my peers. Whenever I do hear about it, I’m somewhat shocked even though apparently it happens everywhere.
    I think America puts too much money in some of their crappy programs like “No Child Gets Left Behind”. Do you want to know what that did at my high school? Kids graduated, but no one really learned. If you were not willing to be in honors classes (difference between honors and regular was insane), then you were not going to learn – and all we knew it.
    If one is not willing to learn at a basic level and has no learning disability – then psh, they should not be walking around with a high school diploma.
    In honors classes, you did not even learn. You just did a ton of pointless brain dumping, never to be used again…

  202. November 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

    This is a super great love here.You blog.I the content to come.

  203. 333 David W Harper
    November 15, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Have you watched the documentary, 2 million minutes?

    Thoughts on the movie?

    David from Canada

  204. November 15, 2010 at 1:28 am

    I’m from Generation Y, and I’m may not be the best at spelling myself, but I do agree with this blog post. I actually really hate it when my friends and family abbreviate words. I tend to crack a hissy fit, especially during a face to face conversation.
    My family never promoted reading, my family is more a family of gamers. I played on the Atari and Amiga when I was very little. I grew up on gaming, but it took my own will to actually pick up a book and read it. Actually it was more of a rival type thing. I had a friend who loved reading, it’s all she ever did, and when I was forced into stay at her house for a month, I started to feel jelaous over how fast she could read, so I tried to do the same. When I hit year seven I realised how much I loved Scifi/Fantasy novels and slowly started to read more. I wanted to write better, I wanted to be better then my peers. And as a result I always did well in English, especially when it came to writing my only little stories for class assignments.
    I was proud of how hard I tried.
    I still read to this day and can still claim my undying love for books.
    All it takes is a little interest in a genre to get you started. Or in my case, a little rivalry.
    I really hope the later years of Generation Y and Generation Z pick up the slack, because I’m ashamed to lumped together with them..

  205. 335 jocelyn143
    November 15, 2010 at 1:54 am

    “Literacy” is a broad issue to resolve. I think that the basic root when it comes to literacy is not only pointed to one to three reasons. I find all the comments quite interesting,relevant and educational. However, I did not stumble into comments which pertain to “lack of financial capacity” as one reason in not being able to gain extra effort in acquiring a “language skill”. No offense meant, I am a product of a third world country. I admit that my fellowmen cannot afford to send most of their children to school.It hurts, yes, that instead of seeing those children studying, I could see them in the street asking and begging for a few bucks. Parents ought to send their children to School. But, how could they? They themselves never experienced being in School. I could not do anything about it for now… I wanna make a big change… I want to start it with myself… =(

  206. November 15, 2010 at 3:21 am

    I agree with you entirely! Some years ago an article in the Guardian reported that: ‘Job hunters need to improve their spelling’ according to recruitment consultants (Jobseekers need a spell with a dictionary, January 6)

    My response was as follows:

    I wonder if these consultants have ever considered whether the owners of Toys R Us, Kleeneze, PHONES4u, and Vodafone require some assistance with their grasp of the language?

  207. 337 Me
    November 15, 2010 at 5:20 am

    I am a community college instructor in Los Angeles and I just wanted you to know that I posted a link to this post on my class blogs for my students to read. This is what I’ve been teaching/preaching since day one and this post will be a part of class conversations tomorrow.

    As for the comments on hiring managers, my father was a director in the human resources field for decades. He always said he could tell a lot about a job applicant just from the way an application was completed (e.g. level of education, attention to detail, skill set or lack of skills, etc.).

    Agree with much of what has been said. I’ve taught grade school and at the college level and . . . . oy vey! I don’t even know where to begin.

  208. November 15, 2010 at 5:59 am

    On the bright side, you have had over 300 responses… so we definitely care out here! I have had a few of my friends ask for my help with their university papers or homework or writing assignments/cover letters/resumes, and am shocked to learn they can not spell, have no concept of grammar or punctuation, and don’t care. I have refused to help some of them at times, because I think it is sheer laziness.
    If you can’t even capitalize your own NAME, or write even ONE sentence that isn’t riddled with mistakes, aren’t you EMBARRASSED that you look so uneducated, so ignorant, and…well…stupid? Here in Canada (and in the U.S.A.), we have access to so much in the way of education. We can read whatever we like (no banned books), and take our education as far as we wish (university, secondary schooling, etc), while there are so many young people in other parts of the world who yearn for an education, who know nothing about Blackberrys, but would kill to read a book…
    Here’s what I have to say to this new narcissistic generation of morons (and I am not much older, I am only 23!): smarten the fuck up. Your ego is overinflated, and you do not deserve the over-the-top confidence that your lazy parents and indifferent teachers bestowed upon you. No one will care if you have great shoes, or that you think you will be famous. You are not a unique and beautiful snowflake. Get over yourself, because all of us are over you.
    You are a human being. Just like the rest of us. Hopefully, you can learn to read and write, and to obtain qualities such as empathy, compassion, diligence, generosity, and humility.
    Here’s hoping…

  209. 339 daniel paul jesse
    November 15, 2010 at 6:10 am

    As a student in the 50’s and 60’s, I can relate to the fact that teaching is not what it use to be.
    Now a dad and grand dad I realize what my mom and dad told and taught me was true.
    Reading writing and arithmetic are the essentials missing in much of the class rooms, plus the absence of the phonics teaching.

    I home schooled my children for that reason. All four of my children or successful, in college and or college grads, my oldest is a Doctor.
    One thing my parents taught me was how to learn to learn, I simply passed this on to my children.

    By the way I still have to use a spell checker from time to time, but I had to learn how to do that.

    all the best
    daniel paul jesse

  210. November 15, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Great post. According to the amount of responses, I believe that there are plenty of us who do care. Working as an educator for 21 years, it does bother me when I receive e-mails from students who write as though I am their friend. I firmly believe that teachers must teach specific skills to students, from appropriate emails to analyzing author’s purpose of a passage. We cannot assume that students come into our classrooms prepared. It is our job to prepare students for the 21st century workplace because if we don’t do it, who will?

  211. 341 afrodaiti1000
    November 15, 2010 at 8:15 am

    I really really liked this post infact it reminded me of an episode of Boston legal where the granddaughter of..jeez whats her name, I cannot remember but she’s a senior partner at the firm. Anyway the granddaughter had apparently shredded some type of test that is usually given at your schools on grounds that they , the kids in most public American schools were taught nothing and many of them seldom learnt a thing in school, this reality had dawned on her during a trip to Europe where in England she had been mesmerized by the youths understanding of their history in comparison to her home where most kids could hardly figure out which state borders which!!!

    I feel you and for literacy’s sake I hope your heard!

  212. 342 Shayna
    November 15, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I absolutely care! Though it matters to me, as a compassionate person, how this illiteracy will affect the future of our youth and how limiting it will be to them, what matters most is the impact I have on my own daughter. Parents! Pay attention to your kid’s education and don’t make excuses for this trend in their own lives. Require more of them. It’s a gift…. Education and literacy still matters.

  213. 343 Amanda Jump
    November 15, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Well, I am pleased to see that so many people care enough to comment – one way or another!

    I feel your pain. I was homeschooled until high school. I remember going to the library at a very young age and bringing home a stack of books taller than me to read. Thus, my love for the written word was born. Do kids even go to the library anymore – other than to borrow a computer or connect to the Internet? I was horrified in high school, and college, to discover foreign exchange students with better English grammar skills than my American counterparts. Good for the foreigners; but shame on us!

    Still, there is hope. But I think it will be very interesting to see how the tables of power flip in the future. The foolish will play their pretty fiddles as they one day fall obsolete, and the wise will play their trump card of literacy.

  214. November 15, 2010 at 8:58 am

    WHAT is happening to the world?
    I mean, seriously, the only way people actually converse is through texts and chat?
    What happened to verbal conversations?
    And the absence of punctuation and capitalization just drives me crazy.

  215. November 15, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I was wondering what this is called. Thanks for pointing out it’s ‘functional illiteracy’.
    I am a first year student in a UK university and I am literaly astouned by the attitude of my ‘colleagues’. I had a culture shock when native UK students started to ask me how you spell things like ‘contemporary’ (I am a Bulgarian, so English is a foreign language for me); I can’t believe my eyes when they can’t analyse a simple situation involving more than one person or statement. I think ‘rich’ societies (‘rich’ with money from loans, actually) have taught their children it’s ok to be not only mediocre but even less than that, and because everything happens so easy there is no challenge in their lives for almost anything.
    I also noticed people don’t feel comfortable when discussing stuff in person, and for the group tasks we have, decide it’s normal to ‘meet up on facebook to work on that’ while it’s far more productive to just sit on a table for 10 minutes and talk.
    I thought I would have a hard time in a foreign university because I wouldn’t be able to cope with what’s demanded from me. I am actually having a hard time trying to figure out how to work with a mass of ignorant and uninterested people around.

  216. November 15, 2010 at 9:40 am

    As a parent of 5 and 7 year old children, I too am disturbed by those facts, although not the least bit surprised. Every time this discussion comes up, I can’t help but recall some of George Carlin’s words from his near-final performance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q Sad to say, I think he’s mostly right. That’s why I feel it’s up to us parents to help fill in those blanks, to help encourage critical thinking and to augment what is already prescribed to them at the school with alternate perpectives and rationales.

  217. 347 NancyEH
    November 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Wow, the volume of responses to this post is telling. There are many of us who are frustrated with the absence of proper grammar and all that entails in American writing. HOWEVER, it’s not just kids.

    I just retired from having been a union representative for many years. I was often disheartened by the letters and other documents I received from school superintendents. The spelling was atrocious; the grammar worse. Many of these people held doctorates, but at no point in their education, apparently, did anyone tell them that their English skills needed work. I hate to admit that I often had to rewrite letters for members, as well. A simple business-style letter would be too informal, or incorrectly headed, or bordering on unintelligible.

    Writing is not easy, but at some point in the educational process – particularly high school and college – someone needs to have the courage and administrative back-up to say, “Enough is enough. You are going to learn how to write. That means, at minimum, performing a grammar check on every document you write AND understanding what the computer is telling you about what the mistakes are.”

    About the “administrative back-up” statement: I know there are many, many high school English teachers who do valiantly try to inculcate good skills. However, there are many more parents who complain that their child is being “picked on” when that teacher gives less than an “A”. Principals and superintendents then chastise the teacher for being too hard. I had one case in which a teacher was given a letter of reprimand for expecting too much from high school juniors in an honors class.

    The key is early intervention with strong follow-through. My local elementary school does great work, but it’s not supported at the high school. In only one example, students in Grade 8 here read Elli Wiesel’s “Night” as part of a Holocaust unit; they then read it again 3 years later as juniors! The expectations are not high enough.

  218. 348 B. Penn
    November 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. It is nice to see that other people are cognizant of these problems. I am currently a student of Literature in college and am constantly appalled by my peers. Yes, there are still people who value learning, writing, reading, and speaking grammatically and effectively but the numbers are minimal and decreasing rapidly. I think the major cause of this is the pervasive American trend that being “stupid” is “cool” and that being intelligent, valuing culture, the arts, working hard, etc. is nerdy. Also, I think that technology plays a huge role. That is not to say the benefits of technology do not outweigh the negative consequences, merely that children grow up with their heads in video games, cell phones, televisions and these illusions becomes their only world, they are absorbed constantly; obviously such a change is going to have detrimental effects (which we all would like to ignore because it is easier that way). I was born in the midst of this trend (the change from books to computers) but I think my saving grace was reading. I learned how to speak properly not from those around me but from the voices of the past in books. Without that I would be lost. I am nineteen years old and it scares me to admit that the generation I am a part of is one I do not trust with the future.

  219. November 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Let’s not confuse the ability to think with the ability to communicate. But either way, the answer is to replace iPods with books and PlayStations with stories. Imagine a world where EA Sports put as many resources into a game based on Sherlock Holmes as it does for Tiger Woods Golf? If Jonathan Swift were alive today, he’d have to add a clan of people known as the “Unpluggeds”

  220. 350 jumpstation
    November 15, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I wouldn’t call this functional illiteracy. I would more so think of African American or other minority males raised up in the late 70’s and early 80’s who never were taught how to read or write. Why? I had a Drill Sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was a black gentlemen raised up in Tennessee in the mid 70’s. He was a good man and a great Non-Commissioned Officer. He had an excellent vocabulary and spoke very well but only read at the 4th or 5th grade level. He sometimes had issues understanding memos so he would take me to the side and have me read them. He has no issue understanding what was read, only reading them. Paper work wasn’t usually an issue as he had remember and learned the words that were very common to paper work in the military but sometimes he would get lost. Please do not confuse a very poor education with the absence of education. Functional illiterates have tricks and methods they use to hide or negate their illiteracy, this person you spoke to obviously did not. I do understand that sometimes functionally illiterate people are put in a position where it cannot be avoided to use email or hand write something to another person but I think there is a difference between these two people. Even though he was illiterate through no fault of his own he excelled in the military and in his life, he was above functional.

  221. 351 jumpstation
    November 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I see so many people who sound educated but fail to see the source of this problem. I think very simply that our culture has put education on the back burner and parents have really let slip the reality that when a student gets bad grades you blame the administration instead of the child. Some cases is poor schooling I know but more often then not? Anyone can follow even the most poorly planned highschool literature course and destroy the grading scales with A+ work. Its the drive and motivation to do so that are lacking.

  222. November 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Great post, plenty of comments here and too many for me to read (in entirety). My two cents on this are:
    1. As many leading thinkers have noted, our current educational model is extremely out of date. It reflects the demands of an industrializing nation.
    2. Parental involvement declined rapidly as a result of the Baby Boomer generations fixation on material acquisition (more times working, working on image rather than on what matters most).
    3. New trends are emerging, that while disturbing – unschooling for example, that reflect the general dissatisfaction being voiced by certain segments of our population. The problem therein lies that these are a.) not one size fits all (but being shoe-horned as such) and b.) aren’t not systemically applicable nor scientifically/academically proven to be effective.

    What’s the answer? I’d suggest that, despite my own Fine Arts backgound, we need to move hard and fast towards a renaissance of the trades/trade schools. Not just the trades in and of themselves, but also a entire push to integrate Science and Math (as is being done by STEM) back to the center of our curriculum emphasizing practical application of what we learn. We are truly talking about the future well-being of our nation.

  223. 353 acrankywomansview
    November 15, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I’m home schooling my second grader this and was thoroughly surprised at what the curriculum was teaching. I’m not sure I ever had the kind of indepth grammar and writing teaching that is in this book, let alone in second grade. . .I have no doubt I’m making the right choise (my spelling and grammar are awful so, I’m re-learning along with my child). I was tempted to skip the section we’re on right now- it teaching proof reading marks. I’d never seen proof reading marks before and thought will she really need this? However, I came to the conclusion that I will teach it for the same reason I’m going to teach cursive writing (something the public schools here no longer teach) because it’s part of our traditional language arts. cursive writing takes different motor skills to do- how can that alone be bad for my kid? I think it’ll be good for her. Plus the artistry of the flow of cursive. Proof reading marks for lack of a better arguement just help her to be focused in on re-reading and actually finding those mistakes that need to be corrcted and it’s part of the traditional progression of completing a written work so, while I was tempted to skip it, I think I’ll include it and this article just solidifies that;) thanks.

  224. November 15, 2010 at 10:55 am

    This is a worrying trend. For decades, America has led the world in pushing the frontiers of knowledge and given hope to millions. it is sad that her great legacies will be left to rot in the hands of incapable children. It used to be that when the fathers ate sour grapes the childrens teeth are set on edge. Now it is the children who sell their fathers inheritance to strangers, causing their aged parents to die of hunger and cold.
    On a more optimistic note, anything that has been done can be undone. This post is one means of undoing the mistakes of the past. Keep it up.

  225. 356 sayitinasong
    November 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Wow… Things must really be bad if US is testing behind the UK in Science, as the public education system is absolutely shambolic in the UK.. not the private sector, but the state schools.. We (US and UK) are supposed to be the world leaders… what are we doing wrong???

  226. November 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Sad statistics indeed! It is so difficult to understand why people who write like your student ever were allowed to graduate. Sigh…

  227. November 15, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    ” I believe these discussions already include mention of the disturbing trend among 21st-century students where learning is seen as a passive endeavour — they show up, sit there, what else do they need to do?”

    I had a person comment on my own blog recently (they may’ve replied here; I haven’t waded through the 300+ responses) who believed that this is all a student SHOULD HAVE TO DO–show up, sit there, and let the teacher do their job. As in, it is completely the teacher’s job for the student to learn the material. Students shouldn’t have to study or spend time outside of the actual class learning the material–that is what the teacher gets paid to do.

    I’m still reeling over that one.

    • November 15, 2010 at 7:20 pm

      We can pretty well blame the education system for this, too. The whole thrust of “learner centred” education is that everything must be done for the student — oops, I mean “learner.” The education experts have identified dozens of learning styles (as many as 32 in some journals), and it is the responsibility of the teachers — oops, I mean “facilitators” — to cater to each. The three primary ones are Kinaesthetic, Visual, and Auditory. Along with this we have social and solitary learners, and by the time you’re finished catering, there’s no time to teach.

      Parents may have abnegated responsibility, but they’ve been encouraged to do so by the encroachment of “experts” in every aspect of the child-rearing process. “Amateurs,” such as parents, are no longer really welcome in the process. If many have handed over the entire education of their children to the system, it’s largely because the system has told them they’re bad parents if they do otherwise.

      The upshot is that students (damn! I mean “learners”) become aware early on that the education system is supposed to be catering to them in every way, and so come to expect that their only responsibility is to show up. If they do poorly, their cry is, “But the teacher isn’t teaching in the way that I learn best!”

      Oddly enough, the “way they learn best” tends to be in social groups watching unrelated videos on their laptops.

    • November 16, 2010 at 11:14 pm

      That’s not what I meant. They should not go home and have to teach themselves was my point. All learning should be in the classroom, because quite frankly that’s the only place it can happen.

      Unless your parents have set up a learning environment in your own home or you set one up yourself. You cannot and will not learn at home. Ever. It won’t work. That’s relying on the parents to teach the students or the students to teach themselves. So what are the teachers doing for eight hours a day then, if they aren’t just having the students show up and sit there?

      I don’t mean show up and listen and be done. I mean do all the work they would do at home, in the classroom under the supervision of the teacher that is teaching them. Just like how they used to do it when our grandparents were in school. They couldn’t send home work for the students to do, because the students didn’t have the materials they would need to do the work.

      You cannot guarantee that every student is going home to a peaceful learning environment, where they will be left alone for hours and be allowed to teach themselves. In fact you can pretty much guarantee that they aren’t going to such a place. So it would be better if everyone assumed that once the student walks out the door, learning will no longer be happening for that day. That is after all what happens.

      • November 16, 2010 at 11:32 pm

        First question: how old are you?

        Second question: what is your home life like?

        First point: When your grandparents were in school they were probably responsible for about 35% of the material children today are expected to learn, on the surface. They were, probably, however, better taught how to learn, and how to think, then students are today in the teach-to-the-standardized-test-or-you’ll-lose-all-your-funding world we find ourselves in.

        Second point: Teachers have a lot to “teach,” students have a lot to “learn.” These two things are not necessarily going to happen at the same time, nor should they. Unless people take some responsibility for their own learning it’s like pouring water over a steel surface — no matter how much you pour, it’s not going to soak in.

        Third point: I believe that many of us are talking about college students — we don’t “have” them for 8 hours a day; maybe an hour, an hour and a half, 2 or 3 times a week, at most. They, you, HAVE to do some of the work on their/your own.

        Your past two sentences strike grief and fear into my heart, for you and for all of your generation. And for all your teachers, past, present, and future.

      • 362 acrankywomansview
        November 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

        Oh, Jelzmar honey, learning goes on all the time. It’s so sad to me that you feel like learning only goes on in the class room- that’s just not true. I do understand what you are saying though (I think), that sometimes a home life might not be condussive to learning and being able to do home work. In that way it is important that as much as can be taught during the school day is but, I hope for you that you have a chance to cultivate a love of learning new things;) Having self motivation to rise (as much as possible) above your circumstances and persue personal interests and, the self discipline to do the systematic things knowing that grasping the fundamentals is the step you need to move up in any area of future learning. Good luck to you! I hope the picture, of what is undoubtedly reality for some, doesn’t ensnare you!

      • November 17, 2010 at 2:18 am

        Sheriji, I couldn’t post my reply underneath your reply, so here I am.

        I’m twenty-six.

        My home life was fine. We all were well disciplined, but both my parents had to work. Therefore couldn’t teach us when we got home. It was up to us and the teachers.

        My grandfather and great aunts went to school in school house in the country. All thirty-thirty students where in one room. They were given the lesson and then the work in the classroom. The teacher then went on to the next group. (We were talking about this at my baby shower last weekend.) My grandmother was more in the city, where it was four grades in one class. It was the same principal.

        They didn’t have to learn as much then as we do now. That was another thing we talked about, but they all knew how to do the things that some college students don’t know how to do these days. (At the community college that I went to after high school, we had to take a test to test out of a ‘reading compression’ class to get into English 101. I wish they would have let me test out of English 101, but that class was not optional. I was unaware that all colleges spent the first week of English going over what a subject and verb was. In fact, I’m pretty sure most don’t. It was common practice there, because most of their students came from my high school and they realized they needed it.) It doesn’t really matter that we have more to learn now, if we can’t even get them to learn everything they should know by sixth grade, before they graduate high school. I know about the tests and I’m against that also. Though every teacher that I’ve known that didn’t assign homework, did not have problems teaching their students everything that they needed to know. According to my husband his calculus teacher had them do all their work in class after the lecture. They made it through the entire book by the end of the year.

        I know that on here we are mostly talking about college, which is why I hadn’t brought up the no homework idea in any of my other comments. At the college level you are mature enough to be responsible for your own education. I go to school online (DeVry University). I’m really the only person responsible for my education. The teacher is there if I get lost, and to tell how well I’m doing. If we have idea on what would make the class better, than the teacher will try to incorporate it.

        College is different, because it is the student’s choice to be there. Therefore, you will already be working with people that are motivated and want to learn. Public schools don’t have this going for them. They also can go to the library of their own free will and don’t have anyone telling them what they have to do when they leave the classroom. They get to manage their own time around work and school, and they don’t spend half the time in class that public students have to.

        The comment I was replying to: She was talking about a conversation I had with her on her blog. I couldn’t reply to her post on here, because it was too far nested. So, we talked on her blog. In which, I was not talking about college students.

        Someone had said that is all the parent’s fault for not teaching their children after school. I had responded that its unfair to blame the parents, because it is not the parents job to teach the children. It’s the teacher’s job to teach the children and it is difficult for them to do this, if they aren’t anywhere near the children, when the children are doing all the work.

        Now I do understand that the home life contributes a lot to the success of the child. If you have very active involved parents that sit down with you and force you to do you work, then you will learn more. With our economy most parents have to work. That means that most parents can’t sit down and help their children with homework every night. Also, we have a lot of single parents, which means they have to have two jobs to supplement the lack of a partner’s income. They really don’t have time to teach or help their children with things that they don’t understand at school.

        There are a lot of high school students who complain about being overworked. There is way too much expected of them and it is a very frustrating experience. What gets me, is how many of them that do write very persuasive essays on the subject and talk about all their homework and extra curricular activities. The ones that have the intelligence and voice how unfair it is never talk about their job and or jobs. Everyone I knew in high school had a job. When you turn fifteen or sixteen you got a job. So homework after school? No, we had jobs. Extra curricular activities? No, we had jobs. We had bills to pay and a lot of my friends (not me) had to help their parents pay their bills.

        I tried to hold off getting a job, but my parents thought it was important that I had work experience. So I got a job. In between work and school, I was never home. My parents would fight with me saying I spent too much time with my friend. I didn’t even see them twice a week, and when I did see them it was for maybe two hours. It’s a bad idea to study in the kitchen, because then you eat. It’s also a bad idea to study in bed, because you fall asleep. Curfew is ten and I wasn’t rich enough to have a desk nor a computer. My life was not bad though. And I did get fairly decent grades, even though I didn’t have time to do my homework. I just aced the test instead.

        My point is that I know how hard it was for me, and I had it easy compared to most people. I was very frustrated with a lot of my teachers growing up. And I’ve learned more from the internet, in some cases, than I did in years of school.

        My last two sentences that scared you, I’d like to stress, I don’t believe applies to college students. Sadly it is true for most public school students. Either they are younger and don’t care about their education, or they are older and too busy to care about their education. Or they do care, but they are stuck and no one is helping them.

        How are we not setting them up to fail, if their learning depends on them studying on their own outside of the classroom?

      • November 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm

        To Jelzmar–
        You say, “They should not go home and have to teach themselves was my point”. Then you say, “So it would be better if everyone assumed that once the student walks out the door, learning will no longer be happening for that day. That is after all what happens.”

        You do not know that if learning takes place at home, or how much. I SUSPECT that you are right in many cases, but I do not KNOW this, nor do you.

        “Unless your parents have set up a learning environment in your own home or you set one up yourself. You cannot and will not learn at home. Ever. It won’t work. That’s relying on the parents to teach the students or the students to teach themselves. So what are the teachers doing for eight hours a day then, if they aren’t just having the students show up and sit there?”

        Again, this is not something you could possibly know. It might be true in YOUR case, but that doesn’t mean it applies across the board.

        However, I digress. Here’s what I really wanted to talk about.

        You’re missing one of the most major points about education today–when the kids show up to class, they have to be WILLING to learn. If they ARE WILLING TO LEARN in the actual classroom, then no, there shouldn’t be much they need to do at home. Homework shouldn’t be for a student to teach themselves the concepts; it should be for enrichment and review, to make sure they understand what they THINK they understood in class. It’s not unusual for a student to think they know something in class, but when looking at it later, realize they may be “fuzzy” on some of the details. Again, though, students must be WILLING to learn when they are actually in class. If they aren’t, then they will have to either teach it to themselves at home, or (more likely) they simply won’t learn it.

        As a teacher, I’ve witnessed apathy first-hand. Many kids do show up to school unwilling to learn. There are many reasons for this; sometimes it is because they live in an unpeaceful home (as you alluded to), and when they get to school, all they want to do is relax with their friends and “escape”. Sometimes it’s because they have a bad attitude toward authority. Sometimes it’s because they feel stupid and don’t want to be made to look stupid in front of others. Sometimes it’s because they don’t speak English well enough to even begin to participate. Sometimes it’s because they just don’t like school and that’s all there is to it. The reasons are endless. I even worked at a school for several years where I was not ALLOWED to give homework because we knew when the kids went home, most of them didn’t have computers, may not have paper, had to take care of little brothers or sisters, or had to take care of a mentally-handicapped, drunken father, etc.

        A teacher can be the most amazing teacher ever, can differentiate out the wazoo, can cater to every child’s need and learning style, and still get dismal results and little gains if the kids are apathetic.

  228. 365 Abed Islam
    November 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I care. I don’t know what to do about it either. In the very least it all starts with paying attention, educating, informing, etc. Thanks for sharing.

    To me it seems like whatever the real problem is perhaps part of it is that education as we have it, whether the system, the content, the presentation, the presenters, whatever portion of it in and of itself is not providing solutions to other problems. My parents come from a third world country. I did not know until late high school / early college that the country was considerably younger than they were. It holds that their friends, too, have a relative background. There is a pretty consistent story amongst them that they all knew what it was like to be impoverished, some of them, my father included, came directly from that sort of background. Others were a bit more fortunate, e.g. not having to travel in a boat every day to get an education but nevertheless they lived side-by-side with the extremely impoverished. To them they knew the one thing to get them out of the condition of impoverishment was education. This is what I hear from elders, it is also what I see in my cousins, nieces, and nephews. (I was born and raised in NYC, eventually some people from dad’s side of family are here, but all mom’s side remain overseas. I got to visit this year, first time in 14 years, … there’s a lot of change…. always a lot of struggling…)

    To me going to school was quite torturous. I have a brother half my age. I can see it on his face same days that despite not having the frequency of changing neighborhoods, schools, faces, etc. that I did growing up moving around all the time… in short… even if you are settled down the school experience remains unsettling. I personally think that before we even address anything in terms of education there needs to be some sort of institutionalization of manners (not a system in which if they are not mannerly, they’re punished, no. but something where they are taught respect. The average youth is going to end up in this strange trap where adults and figures of authority must first earn respect before it can be given… the strange part being they are never given the opportunity to earn points and the deductions start right off the bad. With respect gone everything else will fall apart.) even in public school. Without it many will not learn let alone grow.

  229. 366 slx
    November 15, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Play on sat? Probably a jock? Anyway, what is an E? I know of only two grading systems growing up. Abcdf and Egsn.

    8 billion people + Standard Deviation = A lot of average people.

    Well we Americans don’t value the bright students. How many gifted programs are there compared to the special eds?

    You are also welcomed to respond in the email with, “I don’t understand what you are writing, use proper grammar.”

  230. November 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    A love of learning is necessary to excel in life as well as surviving educational institutions whose rules at times are unkind, arbitrary and do not take into account the individuality and needs of the student. However the student’s email that is the subject of this post, written in texting abbreviations, shows a lack of communication skills as well as poor judgment.

  231. 368 bjvl
    November 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Well, of *course* achievement in science is down — the current American culture doesn’t value science or achievement in science.

    Science is something that is secondary to religion, in current American culture: witness the undermining of evolution.

    (If you want something particularly chilling, witness how the same techniques used to undermine evolution are now being used to promote a Geocentric solar system.)

    Of *course* we don’t have any widespread achievement in science, technology or mathematics.
    We’ve handed over control of our education to the religious fringe.

    • November 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm

      You know what’s more annoying that all of that? People who take every opportunity, regardless of how unwarranted, to complain about religion. I would recommend you do some serious self-evaluation to see if you have some kind of hang up on that topic. This blog had nothing to do with religion. Nothing. It’s not even a good attempt at a segue.

  232. November 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    This qualifies for a top 10 “blog post of the year” in my book.

    Despite how frightening it is to really think about it.

  233. 371 Cheryl Watson
    November 16, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    It is unfortunate that the young people are so dead set on doing things their way until it is going to cost them big time when reality becomes real. I go to school with a group of intelligent young people and they believe I am old fashioned. I find their way of communicating to like someone who never experienced education on any level. There is a time and place for everything. This is the time to become educated and practical in preparing ourselves for retirement. Smile! The world will continue to exist and maintaining a posture of hope for the future lies in the youth of today.

  234. November 16, 2010 at 9:22 pm


    I appreciated this post. I work in a business setting, and you would not believe how many professionals cannot communicate clearly in writing (yet they seem to prefer shooting emails versus picking up the phone interestingly enough).

    I think part of this is a teaching problem. But I think that more of this is lack of enforcement that education is important and a priority in the home. In most homes these days, both parents work. And when they get home, these parents are wrung out and don’t have anything left to give to their children.

    Now, I am not saying that women need to get back in the home. But I am saying that A parent needs to be in the home and our children have suffered from a lack of discipline and direction as a result of not having this benefit. Functional illiteracy is merely one symptom of the problem.

    • 373 acrankywomansview
      November 17, 2010 at 1:34 am

      Amen. There is such a need for a parent to be home and have enough energy to engage their children after school. I do stay home and I’m homeschooling this year but, the last two years my daughter was in public school. A parent has to 1. be dilligent (hsing spelling is a good thing for me too. . .my spelling clearly needs work) as hell to be on top of knowing what is being taught. For example, the math program our state has adopted is insane. I imagine my daughter’s teacher felt like hiding everytime she got a letter or email from me (and I had to choose one of the two as phone calls were discouraged). Then, 2. a parent has to be on top of homework. At an early elementary level my child was coming home with a hour of home work a night that required my help if it were to be done in any meaningful way (otherwise why bother?). I can’t imagine effectively helping my child to understand the importance of learning what she needs to after being at work all day and coming home to what needs to be done around the house. We’ve made our sacrifices to live this way- 1 vehicle, livingroom needs paint, couch *really* requires a cover, and no cable or fancy cell phones here but, I’m pretty sure my kids are better off for it. All that to say, 100% agreed. Parents need to plug in at home.

      • November 17, 2010 at 3:00 am

        See this is my point though. Most people can’t do this and single parents really can’t do this. That’s why it is important to learn things in the classroom and not rely on the parents to be on top of things.

        Also, I think everyone misinterpreted what I meant about the learning stopping at the door. After I left school, I did learn a lot of things. I was at work, so I learned how to cook and clean and all about health codes and safety. I meant that after I left my Trigonometry class that I would not be learning anymore Trigonometry that day. I do and always have loved to learn, but I simply did not have the time in high school. I didn’t even get to read for fun anymore in high school. Which was something I made up for ever since then. Every time I moved everyone, would beg me to get rid of some of my books.

      • November 17, 2010 at 7:27 am

        The notion of A parent at home is possibly faulty. Where did we get this from? I would suggest that the farther back you go in history you would find more women at home with the children BUT not necessarily more engaged (not the in manner we conceptualize this as in the 21st century). The farther back you go, the more work was required to ‘keep up’ the home. My wife stays home, she certainly works hard, but I would suggest my grandmother, great grandmother, etc. worked harder – hand washing clothes, possibly preparing all aspects of a meal (including plucking feathers, cutting up the meat of the animal, etc.), and so on. This would have to translate to less time to focus on the kids (compared to the leisure society we have created). So what has changed? What is the difference? We often speak of kids today being worse than their predecessors in terms of communication, articulation, independent thought, etc. My question is (and I don’t purport to have the answer) what caused the shift? I don’t want to be a cynical Gen X-er, but I feel it is probably the Baby Boomer focus on material acquisition and display of material items being valued over anything else.

        FYI – I do agree with the perception of young workers coming into professional jobs with very little ‘professionalism’ (as we call it in the classic sense). It is troubling. But I also look to this as something I need to take on as a challenge, as my generation fills the gap of boomers retiring WE become responsible for the stewardship and mentorship of today’s youth in the REAL world (whatever that is).

      • 376 acrankywomansview
        November 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

        @feet on the road- I think you’re partially right on about what caused the shift the other thing I’ll add (for better or worse) is feminism. The push to be concidered equal in position. Though, I don’t know one mom who’d rather be a work than stay home with her kids. I know some mom’s who sometimes miss their jobs but, most, once home, say it’s the best thing they did. that’s my limited experince based on my aquaintances over my adult life- both moms I know now and moms I worked with before becoming a mom myself. We faught so hard to be able to work outside the home and it turns out we’d rather be home with our kids, the problem is that winning our fight made it so that we almost have to be 2 income families to survive. So, now, woman want to stay home but, we almost can’t unless some pretty serious sacrifices are made. Like the ones I mentioned before and like living in a trailor for the first 71/2 years of our marriage rather than having a home and the only reaason we were able to afford a home now was because of the housing crisis. It’s ridiculous that a man is hardly able to provide for his family anymore without the income of his wife and who suffers? The kids cause what little time the parents do have at 4-5 pm after school and day care and work is dinner. Then if you aren’t busy catching up on all the necissary house work on the weekend or day off then the last thing you want to do with your kids is spend one more minute on what is perceived work- ie. school and home work. Yes, having both parents working (in my limited experience) does effect how much a parent has left over for the kids so, teachers are left at school baring the load. For my kid and 16-20 other kids who all have different learning styles and blah, blah, blah. They can’t do it alone and meet the required standards so, the work comes home to families that are too tired to deal with it and we have functional illiteracy as a standard. My job, proudly and happily, is to take care of my home and my kids. Our house runs well. We’re relaxed and peaceful. I wouldn’t go to work out side the home unless I absolutely had to (like my husband couldn’t work at all)- cars, phones, computers, great furnature, big TV’s, blah, blah, blah, don’t constitute an absolute need- roof over head, food, cleanliness, insurance and bare minimum transportation are. Ugh! I could on and on- things are so crazy and so inter-twined that I don’t know how we’re going to fix the mess we’re in. Wow- that’s a downer of a response. I guess I can only fix what is within my control to fix and that’s making my children the highest priority and doing what I think is right to make that ideal reality. I imagine that’s what the 2 income family feels they’re doing to but, from where I stand it doesn’t seem to work best that way.

  235. November 17, 2010 at 8:10 am

    If you want another young person’s perspective (I’m 22), here it is:

    When it comes to the family’s role in the learning process, it has more to do with having a role model at home and learning the right attitude towards education. So if the parents show respect for education and they are an example of how education helps in life, you naturally start to see it as an important thing in your life. And I think parents don’t need to sit with you helping with homework.
    What I was doing at school was: I would sit in the class, listen to everything the teacher is saying, try to understand at least 80 % of it and make sure that I either know who to ask for the other 20 % or know when to search for information. Because, I believe the UNDERSTANDING needs to happen in the classroom – and then, when you go back home, the only thing you need to do is write your homework to APPLY what you have just learned so that it makes more sence. I have almost never been in a situation reading a textbook trying to understand something – that’s what I used the classroom sessions for, and at home, I would only use the textbook for reference. It also leaves no need for the parents to help you learn – because you are learning with your teacher in the classroom, and applying the knowledge by yourself.
    The role of the parents needs to be to make sure kids have respect towards education. Even if the parents don’t agree with some of the teacher’s methods, they shouldn’t show disrespect for them in fron of the children – there are other ways to approach the problem. Children (and everyone) need some kind of basic authority at least as a starting point; they also need to realise that the education is their priority – you can’t be really productive in something you do with no specific goal.

    Something that bothers me though is the perspective of having unexperienced and ‘lost’ people coming to take the places of today’s workers and managers – does it mean the organisations and companies will struggle to find functionally literate people – I think that might be a bigger problem than we realise – because if you have a manager who can’t identify a problem, a situation etc., they won’t know how to cope with it and end up fooling around, hiring the wrong people (because they won’t have criteria for the ‘right people’ for this job), and ruining the organisation as a result.

  236. November 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Crankywoman – I think I need to clarify a few things (about my post):
    – My wife stays at home with our children (really now just 1 as 1 is in Kindergarten now). Best decision we made, don’t regret it one bit (her or me). But we didn’t do it because it is better than the alternative. We did it to mitigate risks. Meaning we wanted to have best shot at applying/enforcing our worldview, beliefs and structure on our children.
    – That last bit – structure, that is what it is all about. School is for school – formal learning, typically very rote and focused on memorization, sometimes inspired, but none the less it is the formal aspect (whether or not you agree on the content) of learning in life. All the other stuff, the stuff that frankly goes to the heart of the origin of this thread, is having structure applied in your life. That’s what parents do.

    If the parent isn’t the parent then who is? Unless you are working three jobs I disregard any comments about there not being enough time [and even if you, it can still work, I’ve seen it]. It doesn’t take much to truly be a good parent – apply structure, consistently, thoroughly and model the way.

    • 379 acrankywomansview
      November 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      ok- whatever- you asked “what caused the shift?” and I answered according to my views and experiences- no need to be all offened. And to answer who is the parent- right now, alot of teachers and day care providers are for most of the day. A personal case in point- a couple of friends who previously worked and now stay at home with their children: They don’t know how to potty train because someone else did that for their other children and this is now they’re first time doing it. Just one very small example of the job that many sacrifice to have both parents working all day. I’m not saying they were bad parents before hand- they were good parents they just had very devided time and energy and since your wife stays home you’re hardly the one to lecture me with the arguement that all it takes is “structure”. If that’s all it takes then why in the world is your wife staying home? Because you guys saw that one parent being home was the best thing for your kids: “Meaning we wanted to have **best** shot at applying/enforcing our worldview, beliefs and structure on our children.” And, I don’t want to argue with you- we’re saying some what the same thing from two different views.

  237. November 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    @ “Acrankywoman’sview”: A woman working does not mean her children aren’t important to her. A world where women are considered “inadequate” or “inferior,” or where it is decided by the patriarchy that her place is in the home is offensive to many. I’m glad you have the choice to stay at home; I don’t, and wouldn’t, anyway. I love what I do, and do it well. My children get plenty of my attention, a safe home to come home to (I am almost always here when they get home from school), and are also able to develop self-discipline and independence which will serve them in the future. I also worry that children who grow up feeling like their parents’ world revolves around them end up being adults who think that the world revolves around them, and it doesn’t.

    • 381 acrankywomansview
      November 17, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      I don’t mean to be offensive. Again, I was very careful to mention more than once that this was *my* very limited view of *my* experience talking with moms in *my* life. I know people who make it work with 2 people working and I also don’t look at moms who work with distain (that’s hard to see not knowing me or hearing my voise and my tones). It’s just pointing out something I’ve observed in my little world time and time again and what I think is in part it’s cause. I do not mean to say that a mom who works is a bad parent- I don’t believe that at all.

      • November 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm

        I wasn’t saying that you were offensive, but the ideas that governed the world before feminism were.

        I also think we are each limited in our own ways, and if our children’s only experience is with us as the hovering parent, especially when children are homeschooled, we risk limiting them likewise.

        For example, in each of your posts you have made many spelling and grammatical errors. If you were teaching your children, it is a likelihood that those same mistakes would be passed on. My parents were high-school graduates, working-class people; I did not grow up learning perfect grammar, and still have to work at certain things. If I hadn’t been exposed to teachers with more education and a “better” background, I might not have developed in that way.

        If you are a person who is unable to deal with a hard day at work and then another hard day at home, then either don’t work, or don’t have children. If you can do both, and do them well, then rock on.

        In any case, there are many, many good parents who work hard at their jobs; there are many, many bad parents who stay home and visit their dysfunctions freely upon their children.

      • 383 acrankywomansview
        November 17, 2010 at 9:47 pm

        First of all, I believe that it is important that my child have other influences in her life besides me for that very reason. She’s in a homeschooling co-op with at least three other teacher during the course of her day. My husband teaches her music class and a good friend comes and teaches her social studies and bible class. Second, I don’t creat the curriculum which means my flaws aren’t being taught and several times I mentioned that I was re-learning along with her. Third, I in no way made any personal attacks toward you but, you have insunated that I’m a “hovering” parent and that I’m less than “better” and “unable to deal with a hard day” so, I shouldn’t have children? Your correct spelling and better grammar hasn’t made you a better person. Good luck. I appreciated some of your thoughts but, I’m done here.

        • November 17, 2010 at 10:49 pm

          @crankywomansview: I’ve said no such thing(s); I didn’t even know that you were homeschooling your daughter. And I never said you shouldn’t have children — take a breath and read it again.

  238. November 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    @ “Jelzmar”: College age or no, if the student doesn’t want to learn, they won’t. The teacher can’t, and shouldn’t, be expected to hand the student everything they need to know on a silver platter. The teacher can be innovative, creative, fun, but the student has to bring their own creativity and energy to the table in equal measure.

    Some of the best learning I have ever experienced was when I was given just enough information to go work the rest of it out for myself; I also think those have been some of the most inspirational learning opportunities I’ve ever had, and believe my teacher deliberately created them as such.

    I teach piano lessons, as well as college courses. From the age of 5, I have a student for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour a week. Should I really expect that they can learn what they need to in that limited time, and don’t have to invest any of their own time or energy in between? NOTHING would happen. The same goes for things like developing reading and reading comprehension skills, memorizing multiplication tables, and solving “story problems” in the real world (which package of gum is cheaper per piece of gum? how much change will you get if you buy the apples and the bread?)

    We should all be learning, all the time. And no, no one’s saying that you should be walking around doing trigonometry problems in your head while doing your grocery shopping. But learning, of any topic, at any age, can not “stop at the door” of the classroom.

  239. November 19, 2010 at 12:38 am

    And now how to deal with the mind.

    1. One should maintain a fair degree of enthusiasm in order to keep the mind free from being sick. How well
    it has been said that success is moving from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.

    2. It is significantly true that we are the way we are made. Each individual, we are told by science, is
    genetically programmed. Yeh, there is an element of independent will present in all of us. It is this
    element which needs to be exploited with conscious effort to achieve a goal.

    3. Einstein believed that the difference in the achiever and the non-achiever does not lie so much in their
    intelligence as in their “attention – span“. As and when we declare something as beyond us, that is the time
    to persist.

    MBA Entrance Exams

  240. 387 Kyle
    November 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    The American government is not interested in education for the lower or middle class. Now this is not always a reflection of the teachers in the public schools but more so the budget and class size that each teacher has to work with. Whats is offered by the state and federal system is a token education program with a token budget.
    Home schooling is frowned on and not supported because they may just turn out children with a better education. Not good for a government trying to dumb down its citizens.
    When you we elect known lairs and proven criminals in positions of power who do nothing to support our children’s education, who spend trillions of our tax dollars on war and billions on weapons, when they don’t have the cash they borrow it to pursue more wars to the tune 54 trillion borrowed, why are we surprised ?
    after all we elected them and worship every word they say. even when they stand on tv and lie 945 times in one year to our face we still think they are great.
    get real parents, your child has basic functions when born, you the parent are responsible for the

  241. November 27, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Read and enjoyed your post!

    I believe the way that the American school system works — which includes the collegiate system, as well — is downright criminal. I graduated from a high school whose entire science curriculum included ‘natural science’, ‘biology’, and…. oh wait, that was it. The mathematics curriculum included beginning algebra, geometry, and financial math (for especially gifted seniors). I did not complete a single problem on my own (all answers were given prior to the tests) while I was in Geometry, and I passed. There was no art, and 9th grade girls were REQUIRED to take Home Economics, because we all know little girls are just baby factories and need to be trained early.

    In a country that prides itself on its power and society, that school should not have existed. There is absolutely no excuse for it. The sad thing is, we weren’t even close to being the worst, as my home state has enormous swaths of poorer school districts.

    Even if you have responsible parents in this situation, you can’t really get out of it. As another poster pointed out, home-schooling is frowned on and is NOT feasible for today’s average household (with single guardians or both parents working). You cannot move, and you cannot request to have your child transferred, since school selection is largely based on where you can afford to live.

    I suffer for that education every single day. I am unhireable, even though I am high-functioning (over 130 IQ) and extremely trainable. I cannot get into school, because I do not have funding and do not qualify for most aid. No one in this nation should have to be faced with this issue.

    • November 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      Tempest Ward: When were you in this school, and was it part of the public education system?

      • 390 Sarah Bonner
        July 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

        Bit of a necro-comment, but I wanted to go ahead and respond to your question. I was in high school from 2001-2005; and yes, this was in the public school system. The state in question was Louisiana, which is still not the worst state to be in for education. :/

  242. November 30, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Thirty-one percent of the students enrolled in my school are reading at grade level. I teach 5th grade and have students who are struggling to both decode and comprehend 2nd grade text. My question is the same every day. How have ‘we’ (I use that collectively to include all adults/support systems involved) failed these children? Is it the parents? Primary teachers? Focus on test scores? Clueless politicians making blind policy? Society as a whole? Me? Blame depends on where you’ve chosen to plant your feet on the issue of our failing schools. Change depends on all of us abandoning our finger pointing stances and working together as a society to improve our crumbling educational system. Thirty-one percent. More than a bit daunting. I could give up and start laying blame, but I need to roll up my sleeves and find a way to cram 3 years of reading progress into one.

    • November 30, 2010 at 9:03 am

      I applaud your recognition of the problem and determination to do what you can to mitigate the effects. I do feel compelled to add, however, that while there are likely many causes, one of the worst is an education philosophy that has over-complicated the whole process so thoroughly that it no longer talks about “reading and writing” but “decoding and encoding.” As our language dealing with education spirals into meaninglessness, the system finds itself unable to teach even the fundamentals that were common place in the days of blackboards and one-room school houses.

      • November 30, 2010 at 8:48 pm

        Ah, but then we’d be putting all the folks who create those clever new educational catch phrases and print the latest ‘research’ books filled edu-babble out of business. The more complicated, the more convoluted we make the problem appear, the easier it is for us to stand here scratching our heads and wondering how we’re ever going to fix this mess. Fundamentals, now there’s a solid word I can understand.

      • November 30, 2010 at 9:53 pm

        You are so right. Mea culpa. I mean, what would those people do if they were out of work. We know for certain they could never be teachers.

  243. December 4, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    In my experience children, teenagers, and most post-adolescents are living in a very passive albeit, accommodating society. The students have educators just about where they want them; yet, as long as we have folks in our profession who are taking attribution for a child’s behavior and subsequently a child’s learning prowess, nothing will ever improve. Why don’t we start with “the passive and accommodating society”?

    We by hook and by crook are catering to children’s demands. From the start of their academic career until they are accountable there is far too much unacceptable childish behavior. Most students come into class expecting the teacher to open their heads at the forehead and pour knowledge in as though it were coming out of a cereal box. But we are far from over insofar as these students don’t execute the energy to reattach their own heads!

    For the sake of not wanting this comment get to long here are some very easy suggestions with readily discernable results:

    Never, ever allow a student to use texting in a paper or otherwise in academia, period.
    Stop allowing teen students to accept a Certificate of Completion during graduation cermonies.
    Parents, parents, and more parental involvement which ostensibly means limited television, and all forms of electronic media.

    As an educator it is okay to be a hard-ass! I could care less about being popular, liked, or having a mustard stain on me from any parent. We need to start with less jargon, and get administrators with moxy. Again thank you and “tanner” I admire your inspiration and work ethic.


    • December 4, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      The trouble is that, as an educator, you are not always supported by your administration, so that if/when you do decide that what the student really needs is for you to BE a “hard-ass” you may be risking your job.

    • December 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

      What you have described is nothing more than the official “philosophy” of education: “learner-centred.” It’s all been about accommodating the students (sorry — learners) in virtually every way possible.

      When the foundation of the education system is based upon this, any attempt to go against it is an attempt to undermine the very system itself.

      As for being hard-ass and not being popular — I am definitely a hard-ass prof, I don’t cater to the students, and yet I have students switching sections and refusing exemptions to be in my class.

      Kids are kids. They like getting away with things — but they actually respect and like those who don’t allow them to, and who promise actual value.

  244. July 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I do care. I’m a GED teacher, and I know what you’re getting at. If you’re interested, below is a link to a post I wrote a little while back after getting back from a graduation ceremony at a small college where I was teaching at the time. I’d love to get your feedback, and since your blog and mine overlaps a little, I’m hopeful for a little dialogue about education.

    Here’s the link:

  245. 399 Lisa Fleming
    June 16, 2013 at 11:54 am

    The community college I attended required an entrance exam to measure your reading abillity. If you didnt meet the minimum reading requirement you were either placed in a remedial class or instucted that you couldnt attended the college. There are some books Ive tried to read but it doesnt interest me and I cant finish it. then there are books that grab my attention, and I may read it 3 times. Does this make me a functional illterate? I dont think so. In that case the author and publisher is to blame for not making their message universal so that everyone can comprehend. My favorite John Grisham book is The Brethren. I can follow his stories and stay intrested. But when I read other novels by some authors Im lost. I interpet things different. I think functional illiterate is the new token phrase for elitist to continue on a path to superiority. Just because you didn’t make what Im reading interesting or comprehendable doesn’t mean Im a functional illerate. It just means you didn’t explain it good enough😝

    • June 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      But what I’m writing about has absolutely nothing to do with whether you can maintain interest in a book or not. I’m talking about an inability to communicate via writing. You seem to communicate well and effectively enough, but to be confused by the point of my article. Perhaps this reflects a comprehension issue, but not illiteracy.

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