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Category Archives: Reading

A Conspiracy Theory that turned out to be Real

On July 4, 1776, The Declaration of Independence said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Read Slaying Goliath, and learn that some of the wealthiest and most powerful Americans are trying to take away our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I was a public school teacher in California from 1975 – 2005. During those thirty years, I worked 60 to 100 hours a week during the school year. I took work home seven days a week and couldn’t wait for the winter and spring breaks, not because of the time off from teaching, but because I’d have time to catch up correcting student work. After all, teachers have to sleep, too.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan released a report that was a lie. That report was called “A Nation at Risk,” and it painted the nation’s public schools as failures.  After that misleading report, teachers were called lazy and incompetent. The public schools were blamed for the prison population in the United States that was really caused by Presidents Nixon and Reagan’s war on recreational drugs like marijuana.

The critics of the public schools even came up with a misleading term that was also a lie. It was called “The school to prison pipeline.” There has never been a school to prison pipeline in the United States.

After “A Nation at Risk,” came the Self Esteem Movement that got its start in Catholic K-12 schools and from the pulpit of evangelical Christian churches. When that failed, teachers were blamed again. However, the majority of teachers, including me, did not agree with the Self Esteem Movement that put pressure on us to stop failing students that refused to learn and inflate grades so children would feel good about themselves, even if they didn’t deserve it.

That top-down failure was followed by The Whole Language Approach to teaching. English Lit Teachers like me were told to stop teaching mechanics, grammar, and spelling because it was boring. We were told that the kids could learn that boring stuff just by reading on their own, except most kids do not read on their own.

A decade later, when that Whole Language Approach that was forced on teachers also failed, teachers were blamed again.

That is why, back in the 1980s, I started to think there was a conspiracy theory to destroy the public schools. Over the years, as one top-down movement after another to improve the public schools failed, I convinced myself that it could not be right that someone was trying to destroy our public schools.

Who could be that cruel, that greedy, that monstrous, to deliberately demonize teachers and blame them for almost every problem in the United States? The critics said teachers were lazy. The critics said we were incompetent. The critics said our labor unions were corrupt and were getting in the way of improving the public schools.

I retired from teaching in 2005 and swore that if I was forced to teach again, I’d instead rejoin the U.S. Marines and fight in Afghanistan against Islamic terrorists. Since I had already served in the Marines and fought in Vietnam before I was a teacher, I knew that being a teacher was way worse because of the way teachers are treated in this country.

When I retired, I took a 40-percent pay cut and left without medical insurance, but the critics said teachers were greedy, and our retirement systems would cause the states to go bankrupt. I live in California, and about 6% of the state’s annual budget goes to support the teacher retirement system.

If you believe that retired teachers are greedy, let me sell you a vacation home on a moon orbiting Saturn. I understand the view of Saturn’s rings are incredible.

Read Slaying Goliath, and you will learn that what I suspected back in the 1980s was real. There has been a movement in the United States for decades to replace the nation’s democratic, transparent, public schools and destroy the teaching profession. That disruptive movement wants to replace the people’s public school with a profit-driven, often corrupt, secretive, autocratic, private school system that operates without rules and oversight.

Read Slaying Goliath, and you will learn that the leaders of the publicly funded, private-sector charter school industry are mostly deceivers and liars.

Read Slaying Goliath, and you will learn that the leaders of the publicly-funded private/religious voucher school industry are also mostly deceivers and liars.

When you read Slaying Goliath, you will learn who those liars are. You will learn who is behind the disruption of our public schools and how they are subverting our Constitutional Republic to strip us of our rights. Then maybe you will be angry enough to support and even join the passionate resistance of parents, grandparents, teachers, and children that are already fighting to save America’s public schools.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and disabled Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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How to punish and bully children into hating education and books

Over on Gadfly On the Wall, I read how some of Pennsylvania’s Legislators  want the people of that state to foot the bill for unimpeded corporate charter school growth with little to no accountably but with almost unlimited opportunities to cheat and steal from the public.

If this legislation passes, this will be a legislated license to make theft legal – a perfect storm for frauds, cheats and thieves. And to think, to create this perfect-profit storm, the elected corrupt are willing to throw OUR children under a tank and let the tank roll over them crushing their spirits and any chances that they will grow up loving to learn and read.

Be warned publishers and colleges, in a decade or two the sales of books will plummet into an abyss and so will enrollment in the nation’s colleges.  And contrary to popular rumors that no one reads anymore, the publishing industry is not dying, yet, but under the autocratic corporate education industry’s rank and punish system, I think those sales will start falling soon as children learn to hate education and reading.


“Being yelled at by a teacher made me not want to learn.”

If you live under a rock and haven’t heard about this for profit, private-sector rank-and-punish system for OUR children and not theirs, read all about it here:

Schools Matter: A Former KIPP Teacher Shares Her Story

The New York Times: At Success Academy Charter Schools, High (useless test) Scores and Polarizing (bully) Tactics

Charter School Scandals: Gulen Charter schools 101 + webinar video

Currently “The United States has the largest publishing industry in the world – in 2012 the U.S. market was worth just under 30 billion euro and represented around 26 percent of the total global publishing market. The book publishing industry claimed the lion’s share of that amount, with revenues totaling almost 29.5 billion dollars in the same year, a number which has since decreased to only 29 billion dollars. The market currently appears to be relatively stagnant, as both revenue and unit sales have failed to show significant changes in recent years.” For more information see U.S. Publishing Industry’s Annual Survey Reveals $28 Billion in Revenue in 2014.

The odds are that another U.S. ranking will soon fall as children learn to hate learning as they are punished and mentally tortured and bullied repeatedly.

The U.S. is currently ranked the 4th most educated country in the world thanks to the traditional, community based, democratic, transparent, non-profit public schools with a long history of success regardless of the lies and misconceptions supported by the likes of Arne Duncan, David Coleman, Bill Gates; the union busting, poverty wage paying Walmart Waltons, and Eli Broad, etc.

You do not teach children to love learning and reading by embarrassing them in front of their peers. If you aren’t sure what bully behavior looks like read it from All Nurses.com: A short list about bully behaviors. For instance: fault-finding, nit-picking, nagging, isolation, breach of confidence, social exclusions, lack of credit for efforts, yelling, treated in a rude-disrespectful manner, giving little or no feedback about performance, prevention from expressing self, dirty looks, etc.

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

Crazy is Normal promotional image with blurbs

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Where should literacy start—at home or in school?

According to Zero to Three.org, “Literacy often begins early, long before children encounter formal school instruction in writing and reading. … Many young children begin to learn about writing and reading well before they start elementary school. ”

In addition, Parents.com says, “Reading is an addiction that parents should encourage well before their baby’s first birthday. … When you read to children, they’re getting your full attention, and that’s what they just love. Nothing—no TV show or toy—is better than that. Reading to babies is also a great way to immerse them in the sounds and rhythms of speech, which is crucial for language development.”

We also hear a lot in the media about Finland’s PISA ranking, and how great their public schools are, but where does literacy start in Finland for most children? Stuff4Educators.com says, “Finland has a completely transparent alphabet code and most parents teach their children to read pre-school, as it’s easy to do.”

In addition, Stanford University psychologist Brian Wandell said, “Historically, people have assumed that all children’s brains come adequately equipped and ready to learn to read,” just as with learning to speak, which occurs naturally without much training.  But, he said, “Sometimes, there is a natural distribution of capabilities. Reading is probably the hardest thing we teach people to do in the education system.  There are some kids who are just going to have a hard time.” – The DANA Foundation.org – Your gateway to responsible information about the brain.

But, surprise, surprise: “People who read ‘lots’ and fiction ‘lots’ outscore those who read ‘lots’ but fiction only ‘somewhat’ or ‘not much’. This is because a wider range of vocabulary is typically used in fiction than in non-fiction writing.”  – Economist.com

However, the mandated Common Core language arts and literacy standards puts more emphasis on reading nonfiction even though we know that fiction uses a wider range of vocabulary and leads to a higher level of literacy and a higher level of literacy equal college and career readiness.

And that is why I have a problem with the term “school to prison pipeline”, and the corporate education reform movement that blames only teachers for children who are not college and career ready starting as early as kindergarten and the impossible NCLB mandate that 100% of 17-18 year olds be college and career ready before high school graduation—no country in the world has achieved this at any time, even Finland.

If there is a prison pipeline, it starts in the home and not in the schools and it is linked to literacy, because “75% of prison inmates are illiterate.” – Invisible Children.org

The BBC reports, “that falling behind at the very beginning of school can be the starting point for permanent disadvantage.”

Therefore, parents and/or guardians, if you want to help your child to be college and career ready and have a better chance to stay out of prison, start reading to your children early and don’t wait until kindergarten for teachers to do your job for you. Parenting is more than just giving birth, feeding the child and providing a TV to entertain the kids in addition to a place to sleep. Instead of letting your children become addicted to TV and texting, get them hooked on books before they start kindergarten. In fact, reading is a healthy addiction that every child should have starting at an early age.

_______________________

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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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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Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy: Part 1 of 3

There are many ways to measure the success or failure of public education in the United States, and one way is to compare functional Illiteracy in the United States to similar English speaking countries and Mexico, because culture plays an important role in children’s attitude toward education and literacy.

It’s arguable that the four MOST similar countries/cultures in the world, when compared to the United States, are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, because they share an Anglo Saxon heritage, culture, and the same language. In addition, almost 80% of the U.S. population is white alone (in 2013, 77.7% were white), and the more than 13% who are African American, who have been in the U.S. for several generations, due to slavery, are no longer linked to an African cultural heritage. If you doubt that, consider that 78% of African Americans are Protestants and 5% are Catholics and—forced—immigration from Africa stopped and/or slowed drastically after the Civil War in 1865. What this means is that African Americans with roots that reach back 150 years or more are culturally American. If interested in this topic, I suggest you read a study out of Yale: African vs. African-American: a shared complexion does not guarantee racial solidarity

The United Nations defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language, and it’s arguable that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn—if not the most difficult—if it is your second language. To understand this, I suggest you read 10 Reasons Why English is a Hard Language

The BBC asked, How many hours does it take to be fluent in English?

Huan Japes, deputy chief executive of English UK, a trade body for language colleges, says a rule of thumb is 360 hours—120 hours for each of three stages—to get to the standard the government expects benefit claimants to reach. …

Dr Elaine Boyd, head of English language at Trinity College London, says, “If someone is really highly motivated, they can learn really quickly. It’s common for children under the age of 11 to be very immersed and be fluent in about six months.” …

Philida Schellekens, a language consultant, says that when she researched English language learning in Australia a decade ago the figure of 1,765 hours was used. That could mean four years of classes. It signifies the standard needed to do a clerical job in an office.

In English Spelling Confuses Everyone, Professor Julius Nyikos, a linguistics expert born and raised in Hungary, learned numerous languages in his elementary school, high school, and university training. He came to the US in 1949 and, after a few years of studying English, was able to continue his profession as a linguist that he began in Europe. He spent many years as a professor at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania studying the languages of the world. In his scholarly article for the 1987 Linguistics Association of Canada and the United States Forum, titled “A Linguistic Perspective of Functional Illiteracy,” he made the statement, “It would be both ludicrous and tragic if it took lawsuits to jolt us into the realization that neither the teachers, nor the schools should be faulted as much as our orthography [spelling], which is incomparably more intricate than that of any other language (emphasis added). If English is not the absolute worst alphabetic spelling in the world, it is certainly among the most illogical, inconsistent, and confusing. This is due to the developmental history of the present.”

Part 2 Continues on November 18, 2014

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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).

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

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).

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

 
 

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Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education, (seriously) needs Tutoring

On her Blog, Diane Ravitch reports: “According to Duncan, our kids are dumb. Their parents spoil them. The kids don’t work hard enough. Furthermore, our culture stinks: No one takes education seriously, except Duncan, of course.”

How does Arne Duncan—with President Obama’s obvious support—want to fix this problem?

The answer: close the public schools and turn America’s children over to CEOs and corporations cutting parents out of the k – 12 education process. For instance, the Walton family of Wal-Mart infamy. Do you really want Wal-Mart teaching your kids?

Ravitch says Duncan was a basketball player, and we know that Obama loves this game. We now know that Duncan and President Obama have several things in common: For instance, they are both from Chicago (the University of Chicago was the birthplace of neo-conservatism in the United States and both Duncan and President Obama attended this university); President Obama is 52 and Duncan is 49; they both enjoy basketball and want to destroy America’s democratically run public school districts—all 13,600 of them (a goal of the neoconservative movement in the US: See Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools by Tara M. Stamm)

“President Obama chose Arne Duncan, who, previous to becoming CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, had little experience in education. Together they have promoted policies that are the antithesis of his campaign promises. Rather than supporting teachers as professionals, he has attacked teachers as the central problem, and along with Duncan, applauded the mass firing of teachers in Falls River, Rhode Island.” (Zezima, 2010, Buffalo State.edu, digital commons)

Arne Duncan should learn a few facts, and I volunteer to be his teacher. Send him to my house, and I will tutor him as only a former U.S. Marine can; I have a multiple-subject life credential and successfully taught in the public schools 1975 – 2005.

If Mr. Duncan accepts my offer, I won’t let him go home until he proves that he’s learned what I’ll teach him.

For instance, he will learn that the public schools have done and are still doing their job, and I will do this by mostly focusing on American adults 18 and over.

After all, more than 92% of Americans attend or attended public schools.

The U.S. Census reported that in 2010 there were 308,746,538 Americans and 234,565,071 were 18 and over. Eighteen is the legal age of an adult. For the rest of this post, I’ll use 234.6 million to represent all adults in the U.S.

Reading Worldwide.com says, “62% of all adults (145.452 million) in the United States own a public library ticket, no matter if they use it for borrowing poems, cookery books, or DVDs, consult legal references or use the public computer for filing online job applications. This figure was issued by the American Library Association (ALA) located in Chicago.”

Bookweb.org reported that approximately 62 million Americans are avid readers (age 18 and over). That’s 26% of adults.

In 2003, 29% of adults read at the basic prose level (68 million); 44% at an Intermediate prose level (103.2 million) and 13% at the proficient level (30.5 million).

Only 14% of American adults read below basic (32.8 million). If those numbers are similar to 2013, that means those adults are functionally illiterate, leaving 201.8 million adults reading at basic or higher.

If you think—like Arne Duncan and President Obama—that the majority of parents and public schools in the United States aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing (parenting and teaching), here are a few mind blowing facts:

There are more than 80,000 book publishers in the United States that generate revenues of $23.7 to $28.5 billion, and in 2001, for instance, consumers purchased 1.6 billion books—this does not count used book sales. In 2004, Americans bought 150 million old books. In addition, 90% of the 15,000 public libraries in the US spend more than $444 million on books annually (parapublishing.com).

In fact, 80% of Americans 16 and older say they read at least for pleasure; … [only] a fifth of Americans (18%) said they had not read a book in the past year (pew internet.org—the general reading habits of Americans).

Paid newspaper circulation for 1,387 newspapers in 2010 was about 43 – 45 million; (State of the Media.org); in 2012, there were 7,390 print magazines with a combined paid and verified average circulation per issue of more than 312.4 million subscribers (statista.com).

This means that the majority of adults had supportive parents when they were children and as children they learned what the public school teachers taught them.

Regardless of the parenting methods used, it’s obvious that a majority of American parents are doing a much better job of parenting than Mr. Duncan and President Obama think. But how do we discover who the parents and children are who are not succeeding and the reasons.

In a nationwide study of American kindergarten children, 36% of parents in the lowest-income quintile read to their children on a daily basis, compared with 62% of parents from the highest-income quintile (Coley, 2002).

Children from low-SES environments acquire language skills more slowly, exhibit delayed letter recognition and phonological awareness, and are at risk for reading difficulties (Aikens & Barbarin, 2008).

Students from low-SES schools entered high school 3.3 grade levels behind students from higher SES schools. In addition, students from the low-SES groups learned less over 4 years than children from higher SES groups, graduating 4.3 grade levels behind those of higher SES groups (Palardy, 2008).

In 2007, the high school dropout rate among persons 16- 24 years old was highest in low-income families (16.7%) as compared to high-income families (3.2%) [National Center for Education Statistics, 2008].

Children from lower SES households are about twice as likely as those from high-SES households to display learning-related behavior problems. A mother’s SES was also related to her child’s inattention, disinterest, and lack of cooperation in school (Morgan et al., 2009).

“Many factors were found to predict at-risk status that were independent of the student’s sex, race-ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.

Controlling for basic demographic characteristics, the following groups of students were found to be more likely to have poor basic skills in the eighth grade and to have dropped out between the 8th and the 10th grades:

  • Students from single-parent families,
  • students who were overage for their peer group, or students who had frequently changed schools;
  • eighth-grade students whose parents were not actively involved in the student’s school, students whose parents never talked to them about school-related matters, or students whose parents held low expectations for their child’s future educational attainment;
  • students who repeated an earlier grade, students who had histories of poor grades in mathematics and English, or students who did little homework;
  • eighth-graders who often came to school unprepared for classwork, students who frequently cut class, or students who were otherwise frequently tardy or absent from school;
  • eighth-graders who teachers thought were passive, frequently disruptive, inattentive, or students who teachers thought were underachievers; and students from urban schools or from schools with large minority populations.” (nces.ed.gov)

There’s an old Chinese Proverb that says, “Teachers open the door, but you (the student) must enter by yourself.”

Mr. Duncan, if you and/or President Obama don’t understand what this ancient Chinese proverb means maybe what we told our daughter when she was seven will help: “It doesn’t matter if your teachers are incompetent, boring or incredible and amazing, it’s your responsibility to learn”, and our daughter earned straight A’s in the public schools from 3rd to 12th grade graduating with a 4.65 GPA. She will earn her bachelor’s degree from Stanford June 14, 2014.

When she needed help, public school teachers were always available and she often took advantage of that help.

Mr. Duncan and President Obama are you wolves pretending to be sheep—are you closet neoconservatives with a goal to destroy public education in the United States? If the answer is yes, then teaching you the facts in this post will be a waste of time because you already have your agenda.

_______________________

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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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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