Whose Job is it to Educate our Kids?

Allow me to start out by saying I am not looking for someone to blame. We are already doing that. The parents blame the teachers; the teachers blame the parents; and everybody blames the government. So far, blaming hasn’t been effective in improving education in America. Here’s my question:

If we believe that education is necessary for the future of this country,

who is going to make sure that every child gets an education?

I ask this question for two reasons.

Reason #1: If somebody doesn’t step up and become responsible, there is no reason to expect things to get better. In fact, it appears that education and reading, on the whole, may be getting worse. One thing is for sure, we have not seen real improvement in the last twenty years, if testing and studies can be believed.

Reason #2: I have spent fifteen years speaking to people about education in general, and reading (the foundation of education) in particular. For the majority of parents, they believe it is the school’s job to teach their children to read, and thus to learn. For the rest whose children are grown, or who have no children, they give me a blank stare because they are convinced it definitely is “not their job”.

The consequence of this lack of responsibility with reading and education:

  • One out of four drop out of high school[1]
  • Two out of three drop out of college within five years (did you know that?)[2]
  • Seventy per cent of prison inmates have poor reading skills (Nat. Institute for Literacy, 1998)
  • Two out of three eighth graders read below what the government considers proficient. (On a scale of 0 to 500, proficiency is rated at 238. How’s that for setting a high standard.[3]

The saddest part is that few believe this sinking ship can be saved. So those whose children haven’t drowned yet are satisfied because their family is sitting in the end of the boat which is still above water. Many think the problems of high school drop-outs are not their problem…until a drop-out steals their car.

So, who is going to save education in America? Do you believe Congress will do it by passing some new law? Will the answer be found in our Courts? Are we expecting our school boards to choose the right curriculum and hire the right teachers—that somehow this will cure the problems? Though good people in each of those groups are doing everything in their power to make a difference, the past sixty years have shown that the answer will not come from any of these places. If you disagree, then you might as well stop reading any further, because you probably won’t like the real answer.

If none of these groups hold the answer, then who is left? Individual people—you and me. Parents. Grandparents. Adults without children. People who care about the future of this country. By the way, the future of this country means our children and grandchildren—yours and mine.

What can one person do? For a million kids, not much. For one child, one person can be the difference between whether that child sinks or swims. You will find the answer to this question in Point to Reading: Hope for the Future through the Love of Reading. I am not going to tell you what the book says here, because that’s the book’s job. But, I promise you that the answer to turning around reading and education in this country, and doing it in a matter of a couple years, exists right now.

In less than five minutes, I can show any adult how to transform a child’s life through the love of reading. But I can’t make an adult do something he believes is somebody else’s job. If a nation can put a man on the moon, I believe it can figure out how to educate its children. When Kennedy set the goal in 1961, the technology for getting to the moon didn’t exist. The goal of building a love of reading and learning in our children already does exist. We can do this.

If you found yourself in a boat that was filling with water, what would you do? Would you complain and blame, or would you grab a bucket and start bailing? Read Point to Reading and then grab a kid and a book. Our boat is sinking.

[3] http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2011/2012457.asp

astronaut with PTR

Henry Skinner-Larsen is the author of Point to Reading and the PTR Jumpstart Manual. The principles of Point to Reading™ are based on the belief that are children are smarter than we imagine and can learn way faster than we allow. In addition, we can best prepare our children for success by sending them to school already knowing how to read. That way, children can learn and teachers can teach.


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