Friday, July 21, 2006

Why Johnny Can't Read

In "Why Johnny Can't Read: Schools Favor Girls", a study indicates that even sons of college educated parents lag behind girls in reading in high school.

The interesting part came at the end of the report:
In separate research that Kleinfeld is also preparing for publication, she has possibly gotten to the root of the problem.

"Here's a fascinating fact," she said. "There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls."

"Why? In school, teachers emphasize reading literature and talking about character and feelings," she said. "This way of teaching reading does not turn boys on. Boys prefer reading nonfiction, such as history and adventure books. When they are taught at home, parents are more likely to let them follow their interests."
It seems my homeschooling friends may be on to something.


At 7/21/2006 12:08 PM, Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

The book "Why Gender Matters" mentioned this as well. Boys prefer history and other non-fiction to fiction and character-driven books. (I always think of Bart Simpson reading Johnny Tremain. "They should call this Johnny Deformed!")

That's certainly true in my case. The last non-Harry Potter fictional work I read was years ago. Maybe pre-2000.

Some extreme examples of how boys can fail to interpret literature (both at my expense):
1) We watched "All Quiet on the Western Front," and my teacher asked SPOILER: why the main character died at the end. I said, "He stood up in a trench during a time of war." Apprently it was symbolic of how he could never go back to his old life.
2) A friend of mine had me read a poem by TS Eliot (Albert J. Prufock, I believe it was). I had no idea what it was about and when he told me, I went back and read it and still had no idea how that was in there. He has since given up trying to broaden my horizons into literature.

At 7/21/2006 1:32 PM, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Your homeschooling friends have always been on to something. Public schools, unless you are in an extraordinary area, offer poor education that often includes leftist indoctrination and tries to jam all students into a square shaped hole no matter how many shapes they might actually be in. To make this easier, the make the hole bigger (the lessons targeted to the lowest common denominator) and students come away ill-educated and clueless.

At 7/21/2006 1:55 PM, Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

Oh yeah, the episode where Bart read Johnny Treamin was while he was being homeschooled. I'm pretty sure it was the Whacking Day episode. Great episode. On the short list of best ever.

At 7/21/2006 4:36 PM, Blogger Jeff the Baptist said...

"teachers emphasize reading literature and talking about character and feelings"

They also fail to emphasize important things like plot construction and the actual mechanics of writing. Which is a damn shame. Boys might be a lot more interested in reading if we ever got to write things other than book reports. If instead of observing and recording, we were also creating. Then it might seem like more of a living and exciting thing.

At 7/21/2006 5:11 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Public school isn't the horrible thing some say it is. There are opportunities students get through public education that simply cannot be duplicated in a home environment, including competitive sports competition (which is not the same as most independent league play), state-wide music competitions and events (like All-State chorus, which had a pretty huge impact on my life), and even experience in dealing with other cultures within our own society.

At 7/21/2006 5:21 PM, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Actually you can duplicate all those, it just takes the existence of sports leagues and musical opportunities outside organized public schools. It costs you some money to set it up, but it's available in cities.

In any case if the school is failing to teach what it ought and teaching nonsense besides, the lack of an opportunity to play football or the flute is worth doing without.

At 7/21/2006 7:44 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

I'm sure people set them up, but I can't imagine the caliber is anywhere near the same in most cases just by virtue of having a really small sampling of kids. You're not going to see many sports scholarships coming out of a homeschooled arena, for instance. I certainly have nothing against independent leagues of whatever kind. I hope all home schooled kids can get that kind of opportunity. I still wouldn't give up my All-State chorus.

At 7/21/2006 8:07 PM, Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

I think in some areas homeschool kids are eligible for public school sport teams. I know I've read about it happening.

At 7/21/2006 9:21 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Yes. That is true. It's definitely not happening in Appoquinimink which from what I've heard is hostile towards homeschoolers. It depends on the state/community.

Delaware has an incredibly active homeschool movement. There are so many activities and co-op goups that if a person wanted, they could spend all their time socializing, and not educating!! So they have to pick and choose what activities are best for their kids.

At 7/22/2006 11:40 AM, Blogger gutshot said...

I'm sure people set them up, but I can't imagine the caliber is anywhere near the same in most cases just by virtue of having a really small sampling of kids. You're not going to see many sports scholarships coming out of a homeschooled arena, for instance.

Yes Andy, you have a good point about organized events. It's almost like we pay for these things. OH YEAH! I forgot, we do pay for them. Yet any time one tries to suggest ways to improve the public education system, the elitist, tenured, snobbish teachers' unions cry foul. "HOW DARE THE PUBLIC TELL US HOW TO RUN OUR SCHOOLS!!!!"

But here's the thing...I thought that schools were required to accept homeschoolers for athletic competition. Maybe I'm wrong.

At 7/22/2006 12:43 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

It depends on the state or local laws and varies from place to place. Some places do welcome homeschoolers into their sports and music programs and sometimes even some classes while others do everything they can to annoy and burden homeschoolers.

Personally, I think the best PR for public schools would be to welcome homeschoolers. If they demonstrate that they have great programs, some homeschoolers might be interested in attending.

At 7/23/2006 3:18 PM, Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

I loved your reflections on "getting it" in English class.
Hoot!!! Your "he stood up" answer was, of course, correct!! Just not "deep".

I was a young reader and I typically "got it". In some cases in my HS classes, I was the ONLY person in class getting it....but then I have a feeling that private and Catholic schools generate a much more literate product than nay public shcool these days. Shame on us!!

In fact, "getting it" is not an easy thing for anyone in any age and the less we have school kids access the "cannons" and explore these tenets of great literature (just as vital as plot construction et al) the less smart will be the populace.

The gender question has merit but the nothing has convinced me of it so far. These studies add in valuable arguments.

At 7/23/2006 3:42 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

It would certainly make sense to me to allow homeschoolers to take part in organized public school activities. Homeschooling families are still paying for those activities to a reasonable extent, after all.

Let's not go blaming the teachers' unions for the problems in school systems. If you want to blame someone, blame the upper level administration within counties (or districts, or whatever your state uses), and blame government institutions for not having any understanding of our education systems.

Both of my parents are or were teachers. In recent years, teachers have been tasked with filling out more and more paperwork that hardly pertains to the subject matter. In Anne Arundel County, MD, where my mother teaches, they have a new superintendent at either the county or state level every 2-4 years, which means that the curriculum changes drastically in similar intervals. The kids at my mother's school can't even spell the name of our county, because social studies has been reduced to a once a week, half hour/hour subject along with science in order to focus almost entirely on teaching to the various required tests mandated by the state and national governments. Schools that do well on these tests get rewarded, which is largely an arbitrary distinction. If, for example, my mother's elementary school has a large influx of illegal immigrant children next year, their test scores will drop, which means the school will receive less help in fixing the problem. The teachers know what is wrong, but they are largely powerless to change the system. All of this, combined with the mediocre pay teachers receive, is why we have a shortage of teachers in general.

Homeschooling is great, but we can't expect (nor would we want) every family in America to follow that course. Our public school systems aren't perfect, but they are important just the same. Let's fix the problems in the public schools while encouraging responsible parents to consider homeschooling, but let's not blame the teachers.


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