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Visit her web page at: peoplethathurt. The first companion books in this series are: "The Ugliest Word" Jessie, the protagonist, writes, "Divorce is the ugliest word in the world Even though Dad's not dead like Granny. I'm sadder The second companion books in this series are: "Bad Secrets. They've longed to see them free from the effects of abuse. Are you an author? Help us improve our Author Pages by updating your bibliography and submitting a new or current image and biography.

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Parents are not asking for values clarification and self-esteem therapy. They are not asking for kids to slowly learn on their own through osmotic "developmentally appropriate" programs. Parents and scientists are appalled with the failed New Math programs invading our schools. The problems seem to be coming from the top - from places like the NEA, the Dept. Parents need alternatives. Some are home schooling, others are trying private schools or charter schools.

But how I wish that more public schools would recognize that children can learn and gain true self-esteem in the process if only they are taught, challenged and motivated. I'm coming from the perspective of a Christian parent who wants a broad, diverse education for his kids. But note that the issue of phonics versus whole language has nothing to do with religion - it is entirely an issue of scientific evidence on what works best to teach kids how to read. Yet proponents of whole language often brand anybody in favor of phonics as an extremist from the religious right.

More smoke and mirrors to avoid the real issue! I don't expect public schools to endorse my religious views - but I don't want my views and values deliberately undermined by elitists who think they know what's best for society. Fortunately, most teachers strive to be equitable in their treatment of divisive issues. My recent experiences in opposing a terribly biased sociology textbook highlights some of the blatant propaganda that is passed off as fact. It was a real eye-opener for me, one that has moved me to stay more involved.

A few years ago I was greatly disappointed to read the proposed Educational Standards by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Page after page of meaningless language is used to describe vague "educational outcomes" that signal an educational system out of touch with reality and more focused on "process" and attitudes than on actual learning, with little attention to such things as grammar.

The more recent standards, " Wisconsin State Standards for Literacy in All Subjects ," seem much more reasonable in that grammar is given explicit attention and there is a sense that there are some serious skills that students need to acquire. This is progress! The adoption of Common Core, however, is not progress, in my opinion. Many parents who peeked under the covers of the program have been troubled by what they see, and it's been a boon for home-schooling.

The reading section on page 5 of the standards is even more troubling. Minimal literacy seems to be the goal. My seven-year old son already exceeds ALL of the grade 12 reading standards e. I wish I could be proud of that sure, he's a bright boy and a good reader, thanks to a great mom and intensive phonics , but it's sad to see such shallow and subjective goals, so devoid of serious content. Frankly, anybody can slam dunk if the goal is low enough.

Fortunately, I found one section of the standards that does give solid, specific, content-based goals that will require serious learning and achievement. Unfortunately, that area is dance. But enough picking on the Wisconsin standards - it's time for me to "combine and embed" some original sentences on other topics. Consider the Federal Government's emphasis on national standards.

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Is this really altruistic, or is it about Federal control? The contract for the Federal grant money "clearly left the local school boards out of the picture. She writes,. Just when I was having some luck in slowing down approval of this new bureaucratic structure, who arrived in Northbrook, Ill. This level of support for our Consortium underscores the importance to the Clinton agenda of wresting control of schools from local school boards and implementing educational programs that emphasize socialization at the expense of academic knowledge.

The educational establishment NEA, education schools, PTAs argues that child-centered, self-constructed instruction will be followed by corrected spelling and memorization of multiplication facts. Whether we interpret this defense as disingenuous or not, the true results are clear and documented: a decline in performance when hard and fast academic standards are applied.

Or how about asking for a million volunteers to teach kids to read in third grade when we spend multi-millions paying teachers to do just that in kindergarten and first grade? In addition to concerns about what is taught, I have concerns about how things are taught. The trend now is away from lecturing that's the allegedly antiquated "sage-on-the-stage" model , homework, and memorization, moving instead towards teachers as mere "facilitators" or coaches assisting "child-centered education" and incorporating group learning, self-esteem therapy, etc.

It can all sound nice, but what are the results? You may be interested in learning about Project Follow Through , as reviewed in the booklet "Educational Philosophies" - an excellent work by Dr. Jeffrey M. Project Follow Through was the largest educational study ever. It showed that Direct Instruction - teaching the "old-fashioned" way using a carefully planned approach - was much more effective than other teaching philosophies like "learning-to-learn" or "cognitive" education or programs focused on self-esteem rather than basics.

Direct Instruction was more effective not only in terms of basic skills like reading, but also led to better results in "higher order thinking" skills and self-esteem. Do the "new" methods work?

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  • That's rarely addressed. But serious studies show that many of the new approaches are ineffective fads compared to the traditional techniques that today's "progressive" fadsters berate. For example, consider this report from Time magazine, Oct. There are many more examples where experimental programs are doomed to failure at a time when our kids really need educational success. What needs to be done? Parental involvement and grass roots vigilance, done with a spirit of reasoned concern rather than antagonism.

    It can make a positive difference. Vigilance about what? About school curricula, textbooks, programs, and teaching methods. Be involved. Speak out to your school board, to teachers, to other parents at PTA meetings, etc. Help out, cooperate, express concerns tactfully, but know what's going on in your kids' school. Stay informed - and help others especially school board members to be informed. Finally, insist that fads like block scheduling and whole language not be adopted unless there is hard scientific evidence showing they work.

    In May of , my community the Fox Cities area of Wisconsin experienced a powerful reminder of the need for parents to be alert and vigilant about what public schools do with their children. An outrageous assignment from an inappropriate book resulted in a student being investigated by the Secret Service as a potential assassin. A year-old freshman was given an assignment by his world literature teacher to write an essay on one of 62 topics in the controversial book, "If.

    A1, the topic the student selected from the list was a question that "asked if the writer had to assassinate one famous person who is alive today, who would it be and how would you do it. Pause for a moment: do you see a problem with asking kids to write about how they would kill a famous living person?

    Are you outraged? Or, perhaps, do you instinctively wish to defend the teacher in giving this assignment, feeling that students need exposure to "broad and diverse" ways of thinking, and that any parents who object to such an assignment are dangerous elements of the radical Christian right?

    A Parent Concerned about Trends in Public Education

    Ideas have consequences, and ridiculous and outrageous ideas often have ridiculous and outrageous consequences. In this case, the student wrote an article about how he would kill President Clinton, expressing anger and hatred toward him.

    Shortly afterwards, the Secret Service was knocking at the boy's door. The student told the Secret Service agent that he would never assassinate someone but that he was just doing a school assignment. I'm not sure if any further action will be taken against the boy. Based on the statements from the teacher quoted in the newspaper this is "being blown way out of proportion" and "I didn't expect anyone to answer that way" , I don't think she understands the significance of her role in the matter, nor the irony of her turning in her own student for carrying out an assignment she gave.

    Parents, keep aware of what ideas are being given to your kids. I realize that questioning the use of the book "If" may be condemned as "censorship," but when schools demonstrate such irresponsibility, parents need to speak up. At the risk of being labeled "bigots" and "censors," parents must urge schools to use programs and books that promote rather than inhibit good citizenship and good values. This is not about burning books, but about choosing wisely from a huge selection.

    Why read pulp fiction when they could learn Shakespeare? Our kids are not guinea pigs to be exposed to whatever whims educators want to try. Our kids are human beings who need to be prepared for life, who need guidance and training in discerning truth from error and good ideas from bad. Encouraging kids to think about murder and other vices hardly qualifies as education.

    Parents, stay close to your kids, actively resist the harms that some school programs may impose, and supplement their education with instruction about right and wrong. To those who have resorted to other routes such as home schooling, I salute you. We may end up there ourselves. Many modern educational experts claim that teaching facts and academic skills is less important than achieving other social objectives. For some liberals, the schools must first change attitudes or provide nurturing in place of failed families or help establish equality and social justice.


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    For some conservatives, the schools must first prepare kids for the workplace by molding them into pliable corporate citizens, while others want the focus to be on family values, a competitive spirit, or other social or behavioral objectives. But the idea of simply educating kids seems to have taken a backseat to most educational experts and administrators.

    They miss the point that kids with real academic skills, especially skills in reading, writing, and mathematics, are more likely to overcome social barriers, more likely to have genuine self esteem, and most likely to be genuinely prepared for the challenges of life and the workplace. By emphasizing so many things besides a genuine, classical education, the educational establishment tends to sell our kids short and perpetuate many of the problems they claim to be solving.

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    Consider the case of Wesley Elementary School in Houston. Yet it ranks among the best schools of Houston, with first-graders placing at the 82nd percentile level in reading tests 50 points higher than the expected level for similar at-risk schools. What has made Wesley so successful? The answer is classical education in the form of Direct Instruction curriculum designed by Siegfried Engelmann, an example of the much ridiculed "sage-on-the-stage" approach. This Direct Instruction system boosts reading, writing, and math scores by 30 to 40 percentile points in at-risk schools.

    Sadly, Engelmann, like others who successfully defy popular fads in educational reform, has been rejected by much of the educational establishment. His success is an embarrassment to them. Direction Instruction has been developed and refined for decades, particularly at the University of Oregon.

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    It offers detailed packages and training materials suitable for almost any teacher. It is not for elite kids with healthy families, but was "shaped to succeed in the educational killing fields of urban America. And it is focused on a classical education, giving real competence in reading, writing, and math to enable kids to soar in their educational future. Engelmann's slogan is, "If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught. It was in Switzerland where I first encountered his name. As a Swiss educator described his interpretation of Piaget's work to me in warm, glowing terms back in , I remember feeling most uneasy about the entire premise of Piaget's approach, which seemed more suited for a naive communal experiment than for real education.

    Piaget taught that children go through cognitive stages that are largely independent of instruction from the teacher. They just need to be nurtured through their own stages of self-discovery instead of being taught according to any particular schedule. The watered-down, "developmentally appropriate" approach of so many educational theorists seems rooted in what are said to be Piaget's findings but one educator assures me that the modern implementations are based on misunderstandings of Piaget's valuable work.

    Engelmann's consistent and persistent success shatters such notions - and thus Engelmann is shunned. The NEA, the Dept. Instead, we continue to hear more about self-esteem, "learning to learn," cooperative education, diversity, recycling, peer mediation, conflict resolution, and so forth, with such dismal results that President Clinton is calling for a hundred thousand volunteers to go into third-grade to try to help provide reading skills. But we don't need an army of volunteers in third-grade. We need genuine education in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade so that third graders will already be reading at levels far beyond anything we've seen in the past several decades.

    For more information, see my page, " What the data really show: Direct Instruction works! Farris, President of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, published an article summarizing the overwhelming success of our nation's 1. By definition, the national average is at the 50th percentile. Farris explains:. In public schools, whites significantly outpace minorities in reading scores whites: 57th percentile; blacks: 28th percentile; Hispanics: 28th percentile. In math, home schooled whites score only marginally better than minorities do 82nd percentile vs.

    In public schools, the disparity is huge: 58th percentile for whites, 24th percentile for blacks, and 29th percentile for Hispanics. Why is that despite their constant lip service to the goal of equal opportunity, public schools continue to deliver abysmally low academic quality to minority students? Home schoolers have broken out of the ugly, demeaning stereotype of racial underachievement.

    Why can't government schools do the same? Both figures exclude the costs of the building in which each child is taught. Farris also notes that the data show that parental education is not a very significant factor in home-schooling success. There is no statistically significant difference in home-school achievement between parents with and without college degrees, nor is there a significant effect due to parents having or not having been certified as a teacher. Why is home-schooling so successful?

    In addition to the hard work and parental involvement that home schooling fosters, Mr. Farris argues that home schooling inherently focuses on the individual child, while public-school reformers try to devise plans for "all children" that lead to "one-size-fits-all mediocrity," as exemplified by Goal programs. Farris offers analysis that agrees well with my experience. My wife and I are frustrated with the painful mediocrity of our schools and are beginning to seriously consider home schooling.

    We know the teachers work hard and really care, but the curriculum that each class has been given is intrinsically mediocre. Excellence is hindered by the system, including Federal and State bureaucracies and national and state teachers unions, not by any lack of desire on the part of most individual teachers. To home school or not to home school, that is the question. Right now we are pursuing a charter school concept in our town that could result in a school using a solid curriculum, free of the maddening fluff and wasted time that so frustrates some of my kids.

    We'll keep you posted as we explore our options. When my oldest son went through one of my towns "excellent" public middle schools, I was dismayed at the school's dismal lack of focus on academics. So that you are kept up-to-date on the availability of Finding Wheels , please send Penny Rosenblum an email and ask to be added to our mailing announcement list rosenblu email. What she finds on her journey vacillates between beauty and darkness. Her story is also a testament to the power of silences and naming, claiming Truth despite uncomfortable truths, and the healing grace found through story.

    There is so much to love about this book, and so much to discuss. Readers will be grateful for having spent time with Black Girl White Skin. His wide range of life experiences are unique in the low vision community. These experiences range from daily life events to exotic adventures. He has trapped and put radio collars on black bears for science, snorkeled with manta rays, rappelled into caves, and kayaked down rivers. He shares specifics and experiences in the following situations: home, school, work, travel, outdoor adventure, and social settings.

    In addition, he offers thoughts for parents and other supporting individuals who are interacting with low vision children. Too White to Be Black and Too Black to Be White By Lee Edwards This book gives insight into what life can be like for a black person with albinism growing up in the black community and the impact public humiliation, intimidation and ridicule can have long-term. It can serve as a guide for parents and young adults about dealing with the hardships of living with albinism.

    She learned to adapt by going over, under, around, and through physical challenges in her path. Living with Albinism By Elaine Landau This book provides introductions to subjects in areas of the middle-grade curriculum including science, social studies and the arts. Suddenly, he has a new word for himself: albino. But they hunt people with albinism because body parts are thought to bring good luck. Soon Habo is being hunted. To keep his life, Habo must run, not knowing if he can ever stop.

    Ryan Although a child with albinism has been raised in a loving home, she dreams of a bully. She awakens and shares her dream with her mother and is compassionately reminded of her unique beauty. Platinum Prison By Adam Salter Set against the colorful backdrop of the psychedelic 60s and glam 70s, follow Pete on a journey of discovery as he tries to find his place in life and searches for acceptance and love. A Blind Guide to Stinkville By Beth Vrabel This is a small-town story that explores many different issues—albinism, blindness, depression, dyslexia, growing old, and more.

    But with help from his stuck-in-thes Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.