A Brief History of Education:  (Share this message if you agree.)

When we rate our schools today, what are we holding up as the standard for a good education? Look at studies comparing test scores of public, private and homeschooled children, and you will see children in 2013 being compared to other children in 2013. That may seem like a logical thing to do, but is it the best?

In public schools, we take the scores of all children and find an average. You, the parent, get to know whether your child is above average or below average. The private and homeschool groups work with the same standards, but with the addition that they compare their results to the public schools, to set themselves apart.

While America compares itself to itself, the rest of the world is beating up our students on standardized tests for reading, science and mathematics. In the PISA 2009 tests of 15 year olds, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics. We came in behind Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Estonia in both math and science.[i] I’ve heard lots of excuses why these studies are either unreliable, or don’t show the true quality of American education. So, let’s look at how we are doing in a totally different way.

A Helpful History Lesson

I recently finished reading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Though I am a pretty good reader, I had to use a dictionary on occasion, and often struggled with the complexity of Dickens’ sentence structures. This was a popular book when published in 1850.

Today, I came upon a test which was given to eighth graders in Bullitt County, Kentucky in 1912.[ii] If you would like a humbling experience, the footnote will lead you to the Bullitt County Historical Society website which has the test (including the answers) on view. You will discover a test that few of today’s high school graduates could pass. One hundred years ago, this was a test for eighth graders.

Regularly parents proudly tell me, “My eight year old is reading above his grade level.” What they may not know is that it was common for eight year olds to be able to read the King James Bible two hundred years ago. Not only have we allowed our standards to deteriorate to the point that the rest of the world is passing us by, our students are a mere shadow when compared to American children one hundred and two hundred years ago.

If we are ever going to see our children get smarter and our schools get better, we must stop comparing to the average to make ourselves feel good about how badly we are doing. To become the best, we must compare to the best, and then do better. That is the point to reading.

[i] http://www.jaxdonald.com/2012/06/oecd-education-rankings.html

[ii] http://www.bullittcountyhistory.com/bchistory/schoolexam1912ans.html

astronaut with PTR

Henry Skinner-Larsen is the author of Point to Reading , the PTR Jumpstart Manual, and Point to Reading the Bible. The principles of Point to Reading™ are based on the belief that our children are smarter than we imagine and can learn way faster than we allow. We can best help our children by building a love of reading in them. That way, children can learn and teachers can teach. The key is locking in the love of reading while they are still young, and before any number of challenges can steal it from them. http://www.pointtoreading.com

 

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