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Category Archives: English

Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy: Part 3 of 3

In Conclusion, in case you are wondering why I included Mexico in this comparison, the PEW Research Hispanic Trends Project reports that “The number of Hispanic students in the U.S. public schools nearly doubled from 1990 to 2006, accounting for 60% of the total growth in public school enrollments over that period. There are now approximately 10-million Hispanic students in the nation’s public kindergartens and its elementary and high schools; they make up about one-in-five public school students in the United States. Most if not all of these students come from the poorest population in Mexico, and they bring with them the same attitudes toward education they held before they came to the United States.

Ranking functional literacy in English speaking countries and Mexico

1st Place: In the United Kingdom, 80% read at Level 3 or above.

What explains the UK having such a low functional illiteracy rate? The Guardian.com reports that the “UK publishes more books per capita than any other country.” Does this translate into the UK being a more literate society? If this is one reason, it might be a cultural difference between the other major English speaking countries with similar cultural heritages.

2nd Place:  In the United States, 65% read Intermediate Level or above.

3rd Place: In New Zealand, 55% of adults read at level 3 or above

4th Place: In Australia, 53.6% of adults read at level 3 or above

5th Place: In Mexico, 64% of adults do not have a high school degree or its equivalent, and the The World Bank estimates that in 2012, 52.3-percent of Mexicans lived in poverty in their home country compared to 15% of the U.S. population, who live in poverty— and 25.6%, or about 12 million are Hispanic, and 35% or 6 million of the 16 million children who live in poverty in the U.S. were also Hispanic. In fact, in Mexico, over half of Mexican youth at age 15 are functionally illiterate and cannot solve simple equations or explain basic scientific phenomenon. WorldFund.org

In addition, the New York Times reports that many of these children who come from Latin America are boys between ages 15 and 17 when they arrive in the United States, and they come from some of the poorest regions in those countries. Do you think these children arrived in the U.S. functionally literate in their own language?

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy: Part 2 of 3

Literacy is the ability to read and write. In modern context, the word means reading and writing in a level adequate for written communication and generally a level that enables one to successfully function at certain levels of a society.

The standards of what level constitutes “literacy” vary between societies.

In the United States alone, one in seven persons (i.e., over 40 million people) can barely read a job offer or utility bill, which arguably makes them functionally illiterate in a developed country such as the US.

In 2003 the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), conducted by the US Department of Education, found that fourteen percent of American adults scored at this “below basic” level in prose literacy. More than half of these persons did not have a high-school diploma or GED. Thirty-nine percent of persons at this level were Hispanic; twenty percent were Black; and thirty-seven percent were White.

Now, to compare the five countries listed in the post to the United States.

First – Mexico: The OECD reports that 7.2 years is the average years of schooling of adults in Mexico.

Second – Canada: In 2012, Indicators of Well-being in Canada reported that 22% of adult Canadians had less than a high school education in addition to 16.5% reading at Level 1 or Below Level 1. Canada has five literacy levels. Canada’s Below Level 1 and Level 1 are equal to Below Basic in the United States. 83.9% of Canadians read at levels 2, 3, and 4/5. If Canada measures literacy the same as the United Kingdom, then 48.5% are ranked at Level 2 and below and are functionally illiterate.

Third – United Kingdom: The Telegraph reported that one in five Brits is functionally illiterate—that’s 20% that read below level 2, the common definition of functional illiteracy, and the OECD reports that the UK is ranked 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries. BBC.com

Fourth – Australia: Uses the same five level literacy skill level rating system as the UK and Canada, and in 2006, almost 46.4% of adults read at Level 2 or below and were functionally illiterate. abs.gov.au

Fifth – New Zealand: The distribution of literacy skills within the New Zealand population is similar to that of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Analysis of New Zealand Data from the International Adult Literacy Survey reports that 45% of adult New Zealanders were in Levels 1 and 2 for prose literacy. EducationCounts.govt.nz 5731 and EducationCounts.govt.nz 5495

Sixth – United States: 14% or 30 million were ranked below basic on the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), and 49% of adults who ranked below basic had less than/some high school but did not graduate from high school or earn a GED/high school equivalency. The United States has four literacy levels compared to five for the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 87 percent of American’s read at basic or above.  65 percent read Intermediate and above. As reported by the OECD, one in six adults (16.6%) in the United States scored below level 2, in literacy.  nces.ed.gov

Part 3 Continues on November 19, 2014 or start with Part 1

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 _______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy-is-Normal-a-classroom-expose-200x300

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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The Obvious Threat of Public Education to the One Percent

In a recent online discussion, it was argued by one voice that the public schools have failed, because they don’t teach independent thinking.

However, I disagreed.

Evidence that the public schools work well—just not the way the one percent wants—comes from several surveys where the opinions of the top one percent are not included, because they can’t be reached.

I mean, if you wanted to call Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family or the Koch brothers, and ask them questions to a survey, how easy would that be? It’s obvious that the responses to surveys do not come from the one percent but from the 99 percent who are easier to reach.

Therefore, if anyone really want to know if the public schools do the job they are supposed to do, stop looking at standardized test results and look at the product of the public schools—that product is the majority of American adults and what they think reveals a lot about what they learned in the public schools when they were children.

Global Warming

Gallup reports that A Steady 57 percent in U.S. Blame Humans for Global Warming, and that is a clear majority. But, Greenpeace.org reports the Koch brothers spent almost $68 million since 1997 to fund groups that deny the causes of climate change.

 

What explains the public’s 77-percent approval rating of the Nation’s Public Schools?

From Gallup we discover that while the nation’s public schools only earn an 18-percent approval rating, 77 percent of parents gave the public schools their children attended an A or B grade indicating the real quality of the public schools, because how can parents honestly grade the rest of the nation’s public schools when their children have never attended them?

But Red State.com reports that “Bill Gates spent hundreds of millions to get unions, businesses, think tanks and states on board with Common Core standards developed by people who have no business being involved with the education of children.”

Alternative energy versus oil and coal

Gallup reports that Americans Want More Emphasis on Solar, Wind, and Natural Gas instead of the current focus on nuclear, oil, and coal. This begs for an answer to one question: if a HUGE majority of Americans want more emphasis on solar, wind, and natural gas, why is the focus on oil and coal? The answer to that question comes from Climate Progress: Dirty Money: Big Oil and corporate polluters spent over $500 million to kill climate bill, push offshore drilling

Gallup says, “No fewer than two in three Americans want the U.S. to put more emphasis on producing domestic energy using solar power (76%), wind (71%), and natural gas (65%). Far fewer want to emphasize the production of oil (46%) and the use of nuclear power (37%). Least favored is coal, with about one in three Americans wanting to prioritize its domestic production.”

Creationism versus Evolution

The National Center for Science Education reports that 64 percent of adults with less than a high school education believe in creationism while only 31 percent of college graduates do.

Did you get that—64 percent of Americans with less than a high school education believe in creationism? It’s obvious that ignorance leads to a lot of wrong-headed thinking.

 

Conclusion: I think the problem is ignorance and/or poverty in addition to elite private schools where the children of the rich, powerful, and famous learn that whatever they want, they can buy it—but the public schools teach the majority of children, who do not come from wealth, how to think independently through critical thinking and problem solving.

The one percent—of course—can’t accept that, and the public schools must go and be replaced by schools the one percent controls so the schools stop teaching children how to think independently and, instead, turns them into drones.

I wonder if it’s time to bring out the pitchforks and sharpen the guillotine, and then let’s invite the one percent to a party. Is the U.S. ready for its second independence day yet?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

 

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Persistence Pays Off!

Over the years, as a teacher and a parent, I offered this advice to my students and children: “Follow your dreams but have a back-up plan. Sometimes your dreams don’t pay the bills.”

When we follow our dreams, whatever they may be, we often face failure and rejection, which may lead to depression and giving up. Since this is the story most people experience, it helps to read one where someone did not give up on her dream and struggled for almost a decade.

Amanda Hocking’s story is inspirational and the foundation of that inspiration was her persistence.

It wasn’t easy. She says, “In the past ten years, I’ve probably got hundreds or maybe thousands of rejection letters.”

As the rejections and criticism saying she couldn’t write arrived in the mail, she thought, “This sucks! I should just give up.”

However, her passion to write kept her going. In a recent post on her Blog, Hocking says, “You cannot control everything that happens to you. But you can control how you react to it and how you feel about it.”


In the first video, The Young Turks discuss Amanda Hocking’s story.

Tired of rejection, Hocking turned to the Kindle e-book in 2010 and self-published. She says she grossed $2,000 in 2009.  Today, she is a millionaire.

Amanda Hocking is now the rock star in the e-publishing world – selling hundreds of thousands of self-published e-books. Her young adult paranormal books have caught on like fire, getting her attention from the traditional publishing world and even Hollywood, which recently optioned one of her trilogies in addition to Hocking signing a contract with St. Martin’s Press for $2 million.

Amanda Hocking was born in 1984 and completed her first novel at age 17. She has now written twenty-two novels (published and unpublished).

USA Today reported, “Like writers from time immemorial, Hocking’s motivation to create a fantasy world stemmed from harsh reality.

“I grew up poor. I was an only child,” says Hocking, whose parents divorced when she was 11. “We lived out in the woods. We couldn’t afford cable.”

A rocky adolescence followed. “I was really unhappy … really depressed. Me and my mom fought constantly.”

According to USA Today, three things saved her:

One—the computer her parents gave her for Christmas when she was 11.

Two—the day her mother told an eighth-grade counselor to stop nagging her daughter to find other activities besides writing.

Three—she completed her first novel at 17, wrote constantly, took writing classes at local colleges and regularly queried agents and publishers, only to be rejected until she was already a self-made millionaire at 26.

Since dreams do not come with a guarantee, there is always the chance they may not come true but without persistence, they don’t stand a chance.  No one that has climbed Mt. Everest did it in one leap. They did it one-step at a time. For Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, the climb took seven weeks from the base camp to the top.

It took almost a decade for Amanda Hocking’s dream of being a successful author to come true. For me, the same dream took more than four decades. In both cases, persistence paid off—something all young people can learn.

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The Raptor and the Rats

One of the raptors ratted me out, and Grendel called me to his office to sizzle me in his hot seat. He yelled at me for going against Sauron’s orders. He moved closer until I could smell the dead flesh of vulchers and cigarettes on his breath.  He demanded that I admit guilt. I suspected the motive was grade inflation.

I stared at his jugular wondering how fast it would take to tear it out with my teeth. Like Beowulf, I wanted to destroy the monster. To my dismay, as my PTSD was getting ready to launch, the VP, who was there to witness this interrogation, stepped forward and stopped us. 

I think she saw the hunger in my eyes.

After school, she came into the teacher’s lounge, as I was getting ready to leave campus.  We were alone.  She looked around with a tense expression and made sure the hall leading to the staff lounge was empty.

Then she leaned closer and whispered. “You were right.”  And she quit a few weeks later to accept a position in another school district abandoning us to the beast.

Damn! Talk about the rats leaving the ship. Soon, teachers started clambering down the ropes to escape.

Part three of three
Back to part one

See more about Grendel here.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart.

 

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Having Sex with Elephants – dedicated to the corporate education reform movement in the U.S.

This poem was inspired by a teenager who never did homework and often distracted the other students while he avoided doing the class work—he was a want-to-be comedian, who seldom made it through class without being sent to the office. Most teachers eventually struggle with one or more adult children like him, because they are biological adults. They are only children because the law says so.

There was no warning.

What’s it like to have sex with an Elephant?” the adolescent asked.

He didn’t even raise his hand.

That’s what the want-to-be elephant fornicator said In an English class with thirty-four silent, stunned expressions.

His face was pale and bloated,
Old and mindless
But very much in charge of chaos.

What’s a teacher to do
While teaching the use of commas?
The solution

Was an hour’s work
Writing the referral followed
By after school phone calls
Sherlock style to find the illusive mother,
Who said, “My son has no problems
With his other teachers
So what are you doing wrong?
He said you’re mean to him!

When I called the want-to-be elephant fornicator’s
Other teachers and read the comments
In the permanent file,
The truth reveled itself
Like a colorful, crazy Picasso painting.

The want-to-be elephant fornicator was in trouble in every class.

The mother lied,
the fabricating caregiver
who rocked his cradle.

Since I was so mean to the this teenager
Administration moved the want-to-be elephant fornicator
To another class where he terrorized that teacher
While basking in the laughter of his peers

With this want-to-be ‘elephant fornicator’
It was a game
Called musical classrooms.

It wouldn’t surprise me if
One day he hosted the Tonight Show or was elected to Congress.

If I could have found an elephant for this loony Kafkaesque comedian, I would have. He must be thirty now, and I wonder what he has done with his life. Is he in prison for shooting up an elementary school, or is he the CEO of a billion dollar corporation funding the war against America’s public schools, or is he homeless?

Does it matter?

In today’s corporate war against the democratic, transparent, non-profit public schools in the United States—a country with the highest childhood poverty rate in the developed world—there are children just like this boy taking those annual standardized tests that are being used across the country to rank-and-fire teachers and close public schools so the corporate reformers can open opaque, for-profit, not-democratic, corporate Charters often riddled with fraud and mostly worse or equal to the public schools they are replacing.

In addition, consider this: The Washington Post reported, Major charter researcher causes stir with comments about market-based school reform. And from Business Insider, 4 Reasons Finland’s Schools are Better:

  1. Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling (k-12), and it’s not a mandatory test used to rank teachers and close public schools.
  2. More time for play. Finnish students spend 2.8 hours a week on homework. This contrasts noticeably from the 6.1 hours American students spend per week—that is if the American students are doing the homework. For instance, many of the children I taught for thirty years in the poverty-plagued public schools where I worked seldom if ever did the homework that was assigned. Too many also didn’t do much classwork. But today, the corporate reformers would blame me for what those children, like the boy in my poem, refused to do.
  3. College is free. In Finland, not only are bachelor degree programs completely free of tuition fees, so are master and doctoral programs. This contrasts greatly with the US, where the average student loan debt now approaches $30,000, and the total student debt is more than $1 Trillion. Who profits from this?
  4. In Finland, public school teachers are treated like professors at universities, and they teach fewer hours during the day than US teachers, with more time devoted to lesson planning. They also get paid slightly more in Finland. The average teacher in the US makes about $41,000 a year, compared to $43,000 in Finland. And while teachers in the US make less money than many other countries, the OECD found that they work the longest hours of all.

You see, corporate education reform in the United States is all about making money—PROFIT comes first—and has nothing to do with improving education or dealing with children who think out loud in a classroom about having sex with elephants, and this explains why the Chicago Tribune reported Expulsion rate higher at charter schools. In fact, those expulsion rates are more than TWELVE times higher than the public schools.

Where do you think those children go when they are kicked out of a profit-motivated corporate charter school—to prison or back to a public school or maybe both? After all, the United States has the largest prison population in the world and even Communist China, with more than four times the population, is in a distant second place. The U.S. has almost 700 people locked up for every 100,000 compared to 119 per 100,000 in China—that the U.S. media constantly reminds us is a totalitarian state that limits the freedom of its people, without mentioning that China isn’t throwing that many of its people in prison compared to the United States. – Prison Studies.org

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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A Square Peg in a Round Hole

I am the square peg that fit in a round hole. I’m the last guy anyone would expect to teach poetry, grammar, writing and literature.

In fact, I did not enjoy kindergarten through twelfth grade. In grade school, I was the puny guy bullies lined up to terrorize. In high school, I was six-foot four and weighed one-hundred-and-twenty-five pounds. If I turned sideways, I disappeared—a good way to hide.

In high school, I read an average of two paperbacks a day. During lectures, I sat in the back dressed in black wearing shades reading Andre Norton or Isaac Asimov or Ray Bradbury. I read a series of books about the Civil War while my history teacher talked about the Revolutionary War.  When other kids played baseball, football or basketball, I was reading about Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.

When I graduated, my GPA had a decimal in front of it. After high school, I joined the Marine Corps.

Then LBJ lied about the Tonkin Gulf incident and became George W. Bush’s role model for the future invasion of Iraq. What irony, a Democrat teaching a Republican how to use false evidence to start a war. That might be the only time a Republican learned anything from a Democrat.

I came back from Vietnam with a dose of Post Traumatic Stress and almost drowned in booze. When I was honorably discharged from the Marines in 1968, I had no idea what was causing me to wake up sweaty seeing Vietcong in the room.

I slept with an eight-inch blade.

In Vietnam, a sniper came within an inch of killing me. The round caressed an ear, and I thought, “God, get me home alive in one piece, and I will go to college like my parents wanted.”

In 1973, I graduated with honors with a BA in journalism from FSU. In 1975, at thirty, I earned a teaching credential at Cal Poly Pomona.  The MFA arrived later.

From 1975 to 2005, I taught English, reading and journalism in the public schools, and I didn’t torture or shoot anyone.

Discover why Substitute Teaching is not a “Tea Party”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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