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Category Archives: literacy

Born into poverty

On November 2, in a comment for one of my Blog posts, Dienne wrote, “You also conflate [meaning ‘confuse’] being ‘poor’ with deep poverty and clearly you have no experience of the latter.” Source: The Ravitch Transformation—an educated awakening

After I read Dienne’s comment, I thought she was right.  It took a few days before the light went on inside my head, and I called my 82-year-old sister, who said we were all born in poverty—I also arrived in poor health with a severe learning disability. I knew about the poor health and the learning disability but I had forgotten about the poverty because it was my life and as a child—and even later—I never thought about being poor or disadvantaged even though we were. I just didn’t think about it.

When my mother met my dad, she was a single parent with two young children—my older brother and sister. She met my dad before World War II, and survived with the help of the federal Food Stamp Program that issued the first food stamp in 1939. Source: Snap to Health.org

My sister was born in 1931; my brother 1935, and me in 1945.

Before the Food Stamp Program, California—always a progressive state—had a welfare system that served single women and children in the 1930s, and my mother took advantage of that lifesaver too.

Due to the Great Depression [late 1929 – early 1940s], my mother and father dropped out of high school at age 14, but they left with a lifesaving skill known as literacy. Both were avid readers. My dad read westerns and mysteries. My mother read romances but without the graphic sex. The romances she read went as far as holding hands and that was about it. During the Great Depression, unemployment reached 25%.

Before World War II, my dad was unemployed most of the time, and he was an alcoholic who often vanished for weeks at a time when on a drinking binge. He worked a number of odd jobs: for instance, at Santa Anita race track mucking out horse stalls; trekking into the local LA mountains to fill huge burlap bags with oak leaves he sold to nurseries, and in an ice cream factory. At one point he was so desperate he was caught breaking and entering and charged with burglary. I found the arrest record among my mother’s papers after her death.

During the war, he worked at the Long Beach Shipyards but that job ended with the war and the curse of unemployment returned leading to more serious drinking and long absences. To survive, my mother earned what she could from housekeeping and doing laundry.

A few years after I was born, a family friend—my Catholic godfather—helped my father get a job in a concrete company where the workers belonged to labor unions. The higher pay allowed my parents to buy their first—unfinished—house.  

That house was in Azusa, California. When we moved in, it had no doors; no windows, and no finished walls. The only room in the house that offered privacy was the one bathroom that had plywood nailed to the open two by four framing. The outside of the house was wrapped in tar paper—so I lived in a tar-paper shack.

Each pay day, my dad drove home in his used, rusty pick-up truck loaded with windows and doors for the house. The furniture came last.

Then—just as it looked like we were joining the blue-collar middle class—there was a strike when the union demanded better pay and benefits followed by unemployment when my dad was fired along with others after the strike ended.

I was born into poverty and my father earned good money in construction when he worked and when he didn’t work—which was often—he collected unemployment and drank. He stopped drinking in his late 50s and died at age 79. My mother died at 89. My brother, who spent 15 years in jail, lived to be 64, was an alcoholic, a smoker and illiterate. My brother and his large family lived in poverty and bought food with the help of food stamps.

But I was the youngest, and my mother made sure I learned to read after the public schools tested me and said I was too retarded to learn to read or write.

At home, using a wire coat hanger as a painful motivator, my mother taught me to read; I graduated from high school; joined the U.S. Marines; fought in Vietnam and went to college on the G.I. Bill breaking the cycle of poverty that I was born into. Because I learned to read—against the odds—I’m hooked on books and have been learning about the world from National Geographic Magazine for as long as I can remember.

Yes, Dienne, I did not grow up in extreme poverty but I tasted the poverty and didn’t notice the so-called bitterness. Maybe that explains why I felt more comfortable teaching children who lived in poverty during the thirty years I taught in the public schools—I wanted to be a catalyst that might help lift some out of poverty by teaching them to read and write like my mother taught me. I just couldn’t use a coat hanger, but I could tap into the tough pit-bull discipline the Marine Corps instilled in me.

I have a problem with Dienne’s comment about me having no experience with “deep poverty”, because I doubt that many Americans have much if any experience with deep/extreme poverty like we find in India or Africa. According to a piece published in the Washington Post, “The number of [U.S.] households in extreme poverty is 613,000, or 1.6 percent of non-elderly households with children.”

But almost 50 million people in the U.S. live in poverty, and 43% of those whose literacy skills are lowest live in poverty.  Source: News With Views.com [Note: You may want to click this link and read the post to discover one of the challenges teachers in America’s public schools face—something they have little or no control over regardless of the unrealistic goals and demands that were set by Presidents Bush; Obama and Congress]

To break the poverty cycle, there must be an early intervention starting the moment a woman living in poverty discovers she is pregnant. The intervention must include proper nutrition [including health care that I would have never received if my dad had not been a member of a labor union] and by age 18 months, the child must be introduced to books, magazines and newspapers with weekly trips to the library where there are active literacy programs that could be adapted to serve these children. The intervention should include mandatory workshops for the parents to teach them how to be better parents. This intervention must include regular supervision that only relaxes its vigilance when the child is reading at or above grade level after sixth grade.

Next Sunday, December 8, 2013, I will post my review on this Blog of Diane Ravitch’sReign of Error” [already posted on Amazon]—a book that I highly recommend every literate American read and every illiterate American listen to. We must declare war on ignorance of public education in the U.S., because there is a deliberate campaign backed by billionaires who inherited their great wealth [the Koch brothers and the Walton family, for instance] or were born into the middle class and then became billionaires [Bloomberg & Bill Gates], who have one goal: destroy and strip the democratic process from public education in the U.S. These individuals have no clue what it’s like to live in poverty and how it impacts a child’s ability to earn an education and escape poverty. I was a horrible student in the public schools, but I was also an avid reader—I just didn’t read what teachers assigned as homework. Ravitch not only exposes the plot to destroy America’s public schools but she also offers a detailed road map to improve the public schools more than they have already improved in the last century.

_______________________

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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What parents can learn from “The After School Routine”

Because I use the WordPress platform to Blog, I will Reblog the occasional post from another WordPress Blog that I want to share.  But this time, the post is from a Blog that uses Blogger as its platform, so I’m planting pull quotes and leaving links with a recommendation that parents should click and read “The After School Routine” by Robbie Cox.

Robbie Cox says, “The key to finding out anything is to ask questions. And I am never happy with one sentence answers. So I keep asking. ‘Oh? What did you do at recess?’ And I am able to find out more from her that she would not have volunteered.”

http://www.themessthatisme.com/2013/11/the-after-school-routine.html

Study after study, survey after survey shows that the average American parent spends less than three-and-a-half minutes in meaningful conversation with their children in a week—and the time spent in meaningful conversation is shrinking. For example, years ago, the same surveys said it was five-minutes a day and that wasn’t enough.

The conversation that Robbie Cox is having with his nine-year-old daughter is daily and it is meaningful and it is linked to education—something every parent needs to know is what is going on at school with their child.

Cox says, “It’s about an hour to an hour and a half, Monday through Friday, August through May. It’s the routine. It’s also how parents can find out what is happening in their children’s lives.”

If you are a parent, the parent of a parent or plan to be a parent, then you owe it to yourself and those children to click that link; read that post and learn something from another parent who talks to his daughter a lot more than 3.5 minutes a week.

That’s what my Crazy Normal Blog is all about, parenting and education, and the post on Robbie’s Blog is a perfect example of what I want to promote.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in Education, family values, literacy, Parenting

 

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Are children really hungry to learn?

Chris Morris writing for Plugged In may have accidently revealed that all children are not hungry to learn—as some public school critics want us to believe.

Morris wrote, “You have to give school officials in Los Angeles credit for a good idea: put iPads in the hands of over 650,000 students to give them the most advanced learning tools available in an effort to boost their interest in academics.

“But the $1 billion plan is taking some heat after students in the nation’s second-largest school district cracked the tablets’ security settings to forgo reading, writing and arithmetic and instead post on Facebook and play games during class time.”

Morris was wrong. It wasn’t a good idea.

Do you really think this is going to work? “School officials, as you might expect, quickly confiscated the iPads and went to work improving the security settings.”

If hackers from anywhere in the world can break into the U.S. Department of Defense, do you think any security setting is going to stand for long? If you believe that, can I sell you some acreage on the Moon and Mars where you can build a vacation home?

“The U.S. General Accounting Office reported that hackers attempted to break into Defense Department computer files some 250,000 times in 1995 alone. About 65 percent of the attempts were successful, according to the report.” And on September 13, 2011 the Huffington Post reported, “Foreign hackers infiltrated the network of a defense contractor in March, stealing 24,000 military files in a single intrusion, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn disclosed Thursday.”

And that’s only two examples.

Kids want to play. Why? Because the average American parent raised the average American kid to feel good and have fun—and not to do the often boring work required to earn an education. Studies support this claim, and all the pressure and blame piled on teachers for kids not learning in school are not going to change that fact.

A report from csun.edu gathered data from 4,000 studies and revealed [click on the link to find more information from this report]:

3.5 = the number of minutes parents spend per week in meaningful conversation with their children

1,680 = the number of minutes the average child watches television per week

70% of day care centers use TV during a typical day

54% of 4-6 year olds preferred to watch television than spend time with their fathers

The average American youth spends 900 hours in school per year

The average American youth watched 1,500 hours of TV per year

Number of videos rented daily in the U.S. = 6 million

Number of public library items checked out daily = 3 million

“Millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual, according to Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free America board member Robert Kubey. Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms–two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse. These include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling miserable when kept from watching.” Source: Norman Herr, Ph.D.


Amazing example of a parent spending time teaching his children to read at a very early age.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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The Ravitch Transformation—an educated awakening

Until recently I had no idea who Diane Silvers Ravitch was.  After all, America has the third largest population [316 million] in the world after China and India, and I have trouble just remembering the names of all my neighbors.

But I was about to discover who Ravitch was.  My wife was on the road one morning listening to KQED, and when she got home she told me about this interview on the radio.

I went on-line and found the post and podcast at KQED.org, and read “Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education, spent years advocating for an overhaul of the American education system. She supported the No Child Left Behind Act, the charter school movement and standardized testing.

“But Ravitch recently—and very publicly—changed her mind. She looked at the data and decided that the kinds of changes she’d supported weren’t working. Now she’s a prominent critic of things like charter schools and school choice and she’s particularly opposed to privatizing schools.”

That’s when I discovered Ravitch wrote a book published  in mid-September 2013 by Knopf called “Reign of Error“.  After I read the storm of reviews on Amazon [twenty-two 5-star reviews compared to three 1-star reviews] of her book, I ordered a copy

I also Googled Ravitch to learn more about her because after reading the reviews of her work, I discovered someone who knows what’s going on with America’s public education system—and the truth might set America free so the people will support teachers instead of make them scapegoats for dysfunctional families.

For example, what does a teacher do when he or she assigns a thirty-minute reading assignment as homework and only three students out of thirty-four do it and this is what happens all the time? Where are the parents?

Diane Silvers Ravitch is a historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.

I was a teacher for thirty years in the public schools [1975-2005]. The schools where I taught were surrounded by a barrio where violent street gangs ruled the streets, but the schools were an oasis for students where dedicated teachers worked long, hard, frustrating hours—often sixty to one-hundred hours a week—to overcome the poverty, ignorance and violence that surrounded those schools. Just getting kids to do the homework, study and read for fun outside of the classroom was a big challenge.

I’ve been researching this same topic for years and writing about it on this Blog.  Are the public schools broken as the critics claim?

The answer is NO!

Today, America’s public schools are better than they have ever been in America’s history, and I have proven it on this Blog. And when I read Ravitch’s book, I’ll probably learn more about the misinformation, deceit and lies that has influenced millions of Americans to blame teachers and the teachers unions for problems they have no control over.

President Abraham Lincoln said it best: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Maybe the time has finally come for all or most of the American people to stop being fooled about the state of public education in the United States and shift the blame to where it belongs—dysfunctional families that do not value the work it takes to earn an education.

Public teachers in the United States should get the same support that Americans give the troops that are fighting this country’s endless wars, because there is a war being waged in America’s classrooms too.

Discover It’s the parents, Stupid

_______________________

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

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

 

 

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 5 of 5

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America is a complex multicultural, multiracial country with the world’s third largest population behind China and India. Finland doesn’t compare.

 If you are still not convinced, then let’s look at literacy levels by race in the United States There are four literacy levels: below basic, basic, intermediate and proficient. We are going to compare Intermediate and proficient—the two highest literacy levels—by race.

Sixty-eight percent of whites read at the two higher literacy levels; 54% of Asians; 33% Blacks, and 27% Hispanics. Source: National Center for Education Statistics at nces.ed.gov

The National Association for the Education of Young Children [naeyc.org] says, “Children take their first critical steps toward learning to read and write very early in life. … But the ability to read and write does not develop naturally, without careful planning and instruction. Children need regular and active interactions with print. …

“The single most important activity for building these under- standings and skills essential for reading success appears to be reading aloud to children (Wells 1985; Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini 1995). High-quality book reading occurs when children feel emotionally secure (Bus & Van Ijzendoorn 1995; Bus et al. 1997) and are active participants in reading (Whitehurst et al. 1994).”

In addition, naeyc.org says that parents and family members should read daily [in front of and with their children]; read to children and encourage them to read to you; encourage children to use and enjoy print for many purposes; continue to support children’s learning and interest by visiting the library and bookstores with them on a regular basis.

This latest nonsense that children should just have fun and play to age seven before starting school and then start learning to read is a recipe for a disaster of biblical proportions. Learning to love reading [and books] should be a fun activity that starts in the home at an early age as it does in Finland.

However, because the evidence suggests that too many American parents—especially among Blacks and Hispanics—do not make reading/literacy important at home; early education programs that start at a young age and focus on literacy must not be abandoned.

Another way to look at this issue is to study the family values of Black and Hispanic/Latino students who are successful in school and are reading at or above grade level. What is the difference between successful families and those who are not succeeding?

I’m sure we don’t need a study to answer that question.

Return to Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 4 or start with Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 4 of 5

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What factors in America’s Black community/subculture play an important role that makes it difficult to achieve functional literacy?

Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity [Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]:

Black: 35%
Hispanic: 33%
Other: 23%
White: 13%

Single Parent Households by race [Source: Kids Count.org]

Black: 67%
American Indian: 53%
Hispanic or Latino: 42%
White: 25%
Asian or Pacific Islander: 17%

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing says, “The powerful impact of poverty on literacy development has been well documented. Children of poverty, in addition to the obvious problems they face, have very little access to reading material ; they have fewer books in the home, inferior public libraries, inferior school libraries, and inferior classroom libraries, (e.g. Duke, 2000; Neuman and Celano, 2001). This means, of course, that they have fewer opportunities to read, and therefore make less progress in developing literacy.”

 “Children from broken families [meaning one-parent families. I understand from my research that the term broken families is not politically correct in the United States at this time] are nearly five times more likely to suffer damaging mental troubles than those whose parents stay together, Government research has found. It also showed that two parents are much better than one if children are to avoid slipping into emotional distress and anti-social behaviour. The findings say that children’s family backgrounds are as important—if not more so—than whether their home is poor, workless, has bad health, or has no one with any educational qualifications.” Source: Daily Mail.co.uk

Continued on September 27, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 5 or return to Part 3

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 3 of 5

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Comparing the on-time high school graduation rate by race for the entire United States shows a truth many may not want to admit.  And before you blame it on racism and discrimination consider that Asian-Americans are a minority with a history of brutal discrimination in the United States, but that discrimination has not held them back from achieving academic success.

The Asian-American on-time high school graduation rate was 93.5% in 2010 [Source: Bloomberg.com]
For Whites: 83%
Hispanics: 71.4%
Blacks: 66.1%

Next, a look at the Hispanic/Latino culture:

If we look closer it is easy to discover the cultural differences between the average family values of Hispanic and Blacks in America when it comes to literacy and education, and it has nothing to do with racism or discrimination.


Only parents can make sure that the TV is turned off and homework gets done.

 For example, Inside Schools.org reports that Mexican youth have the highest dropout rate in New York City. “Mexicans are both the fastest growing and youngest major ethnic group in New York City, with nearly half under the age of 25. Yet only 37 percent of the city’s Mexican population, ages 16-24, are enrolled in school…”

Why the high dropout rate among Mexican students in NYC?  All we have to do is look at Mexico for a powerful example that demonstrates how the average family values an education in this culture. “High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Mexico, 36% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, much lower than the OECD average of 74%.” Source: oecd better life index.org

Regarding Latin America and the Caribbean, usaid.gov says, “By the time these students reach the 6th grade, 20% will still be functionally illiterate. … Many factors contribute to the low literacy rates, but primarily disorganized schools and poorly trained teachers. … When children cannot read, it limits their ability to learn other subjects such as math or science and also impacts their ability to participate in society in the long run.”

If people are not taught to value education in their home countries before they immigrate to the United States, why should that attitude change after they arrive in America?

Continued on September 26, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 4 or return to Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 2 of 5

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Why can’t America just copy what Finland does in its public education system?

Because Finland’s population of 5.2 million is almost 100% white and 79% belong to the same religion, the Lutheran Church—and I’m sure that this has something to do with family values being similar and not as diverse as in the United States. [Note: In America there are more than 310 different religions and denominations and almost 30 million do not belong to any religion]

For a fair comparison of Finland to the United States [with a population of 316.7 million], we should turn to Wisconsin where the population is 88.2% white.

Why did I pick Wisconsin? Because its on-time high school graduation rate is 90.7% compared to the national average of 77.9%.

There are also other states that compare to Finland. For a few examples:

Vermont’s population is 95.4% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 89.6%.

Minnesota is 86.5% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 87.4%

North Dakota is 90.1% white, and it also has an on-time high school graduation rate of 87.4%

Iowa is 92.8% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 85.7%

Now let’s look at the state with the lowest on-time high school graduation rate in America—Nevada has a white population of 77.1% [below the national average of 77.9%]. Hispanics/Latinos make up 27.3% of Nevada’s population and 8.9% are Black or African American.  And Nevada’s on-time high school graduation rate was 56.3%. Source: America’s Health Rankings.org

How about comparing the on-time high school graduation rate by race for the entire United States?

Continued on September 25, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 3 or return to Part 1

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 1 of 5

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The UK’s Telegraph reports, “Formal schooling should be delayed until the age of six or seven because early education is causing profound damage to children, an influential lobby of almost 130 experts warns.”

Why do I disagree with these so-called experts?

The last time fools [my opinion]—like these—sparked a revolution in raising children, it led to the average American parent boosting a false sense of self-esteem in his or her children raising a generation of narcissists and/or sociopaths as recent studies have pointed out.

The self-esteem hot-air bubble also led to inflating grades and dumbing down the curriculum in the public schools so children would feel better about themselves. [See New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths and We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists]

I’m sure some of these so-called experts will argue that in Finland children start school at age seven, and Finland has one of the most successful public school systems in the world.

But what you will probably not hear is that most parents in Finland start teaching their children a love of reading as early as age three—at home; are very supportive of education and teachers and that Finland’s teachers, who are in charge in the classroom, belong to a very strong teachers union.

Parents in Finland do not wait for teachers to do their job for them—a job made difficult for teachers in the United States where many children who have not been exposed to books at an early age have no love of reading when they enter the classroom for the first time [at any age].

Why what works in Finland will not work in the United States will be revealed in Part 2

Continued on September 24, 2013 in Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better: Part 2

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_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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An Alternative to a School Suspension or Expulsion

I walked to town this morning to see The Family, a film with Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones.

But this post is not about The Family. It’s about a Contra Costa Times headline I saw halfway to the theater about Bay Area schools suspending suspensions and turning to alternatives in place of suspension.

This issue is not new to me. I taught for thirty years [1975-2005] and for sixteen of those years I taught English, journalism and then reading at Nogales High School in La Puente, California.

At Nogales, we had a place to send kids who refused to cooperate in class and/or who continued to disrupt the learning environment even after being warned several times to stop the unacceptable behavior.

Sharon Noguchi wrote the piece for the Contra Costa Times, and she reported, “Pressed by law enforcement, civil-rights advocates and the realization that the way they disciplined students was failing, schools are keeping on campus more kids who talk back, throw tantrums or even threaten teachers.”

In addition, she wrote: “But teachers at schools elsewhere say taking away the option to suspend creates a disciplinary void and sticks them with rowdy or even dangerous kids in class.”

As a teacher at Nogales, I usually dealt with rowdy or dangerous kids on a daily basis. But I could not suspend even one of my students from school. I could send them to an in-house suspension center that was called BIC—meaning Back in Control or Behavior Improvement Center. I have no idea what BIC meant. I may have asked once but forgot. I like both options, because they are both true.

A certified teacher who was working toward an administrative credential was in charge of BIC at Nogales—most of the time. Nogales had about 100 teachers on staff and there were between 2,300 and 3,000 students [depending on enrollment], and BIC is where we sent the rowdy and dangerous students who refused to cooperate in class.

For example, I send students to BIC almost every day and they were usually the same students. The teacher in charge of BIC once told me that 5% of the students earned 95% of the 20,000 annual referrals to BIC—that would be between 115 to 150 students earning 19,000 of those referrals or 126 – 165 each.

The primary job of a teacher is to teach the subject he or she is responsible for. This job can take 60 to 100 hours a week and that time includes creating lesson plans and correcting student work.  When in class, teachers are involved with students and there is seldom any time to sit down and plan or correct. If a teacher teaches five classes for five hours a day for five days, that is twenty-five hours in class. The rest of the sixty to one-hundred hours is mostly spent planning or correcting work.

With an average class load of 34 students or 170 a day in five different classes, it is difficult to impossible to play the role of a therapist-parent replacement who is expected to undo the damage of dysfunctional parents and/or guardians who are responsible for the home environment that caused a rowdy or even dangerous student to become that way in the first place.

A teacher’s job is to teach the subject he or she was hired to teach and to make sure the annual standardized test scores teachers are held accountable for show improvement so the media and critics of public education will have less fuel to criticize the public schools and demonize teachers—something far too common in the United States.

If school suspension is not an option, schools must provide a place on campus where trained professionals deal with overcoming the damage caused at home and in the child’s environment. Most teachers do not have the time to do this.

For students who do not show improvement, he or she should be taken out of the home and sent to a juvenile boot-camp school where he or she lives in military style barracks with teachers and administrators trained to be tough disciplinarians—for example, modeled after a U.S. Marine Corps boot camp that doubles as a school. 

Every punishment or stick should come with a reward or carrot. The rowdy and/or dangerous child who earned his or her way into a book camp school instead of a suspension/expulsion from a regular public school must earn his or her way out of the boot-camp school with improved behavior, literacy, math, and writing skills.

And those kids who fall off the proverbial-behavior wagon in the regular classroom get sent back to the book-camp school automatically.

Oh, and I enjoyed watching The Family and can’t understand why the average fan and critic gave this film a SO-SO review as reported on Fandango.  I think they missed the point that children and even parents are a product of the environment they grow up in and life is relative to that fact—something that many in America elect to be deaf, dumb and blind to.

Discover It’s the Parents, Stupid

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.

His latest novel is the award winning 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 kill Americans.

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