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Category Archives: Reading

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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A literacy-based Racist Conservative Religious/Political Agenda

My parents were both high school dropouts, but I grew up seeing them read books almost every day and that was probably the most important reason I did not grow up illiterate or functionally illiterate.

Millions of children in America are not that fortunate and never see his or her parents read anything. This image of the most important role model in a child’s life ends up being the foundation that leads to illiteracy.

On February 14, 2013, Valentine’s Day, President Obama said, “Let’s make it a national priority to give every child access to a high-quality early education.”

This message was also included in his second State of the Union address.

But conservatives have made it clear that they are against public supported, high-quality early education. Instead, conservatives want to give taxpayer money to private or church-based preschools and leave it up to parents to decide to send his or her children. Source: Mike the Mad Biologist

Mike the Mad Biologist quoted the Heritage Foundation, a far-right conservative think tank that is also part of the Koch Foundation Associate Program. To learn more about the political/religious agenda of the billionaire Koch brothers, click Discovering the four Koch brothers.

Then President Obama also said, “Fewer than 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.”

Because of those facts, the United States must take it one step further and make it mandatory for children that are not learning literacy skills at home before age four to start a high-quality early education literacy program in the public schools.

To do that, all children must be tested starting at age three and six months by having them read out loud to a properly credentialed educator-teacher to demonstrate that the child is learning to read simple, basic one-syllable words in simple sentence in addition to demonstrating understanding. Then every twelve months before starting kindergarten, those children must be tested again to see that he or she is improving. It would be easy. Every public school in America would receive the mandate and funding to support this simple test.

Children that fail the test would be enrolled in the type of program President Obama is talking about.

Obama said that these young children must be in a safe learning environment with high quality teachers that are held accountable.  Private and religious schools are not held as accountable the same as the public schools. Private and religious schools have no oversight—no one watching what is going on in that classroom.

In addition, if illiterate parents wanted to make sure his or her children grew up literate and a lover of reading, there are already many nonprofit organizations offering free programs to combat illiteracy. For example: Reach Out And Read; Literacy for Incarcerated Teens (LIT); First Book; Reading Tree; United Through Reading; Literacy Inc.; Building with Books; Books for the Barrios; Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and in the United States, community, public libraries offer free literacy programs (source: Public library efforts to promote literacy).

There are an estimated 121,169 libraries of all kinds in the United States today.

These facts say if we leave it up to most illiterate parents of illiterate children to enroll those children in a voluntary literacy program before age four, it will not happen—not in the United States.

In Finland, the parents do this at home.  In Finland, most parents start teaching their own children how to read by age three. That does not happen to millions of young children in the United States.

The reason I think the conservative religious/political agenda regarding a high-quality early (public) education program in America is racist is because of the following numbers.

In 2003, about seven percent of white adults were reading below basic (this means they were functionally illiterate or illiterate), compared to 24% of Blacks, 44% of Hispanics, and 14% of Asian/Pacific Islanders.  Source: National Center for Education Statistics

If we are going to break the cycle of the high ratio of race-based illiteracy in America, we must make it mandatory for children that are not learning literacy skills at home to be in a supervised public education, literacy programs before age four so the public in the United States knows that every child is safe from a possibly biased, conservative political and/or religious agenda.

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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.

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

 

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Focusing too much on the gods of football, baseball and basketball

I agree with a post I read at the quiet voice that there is too much of an emphasis in America’s public schools on sports and not enough focus on academics. But is that the fault of the public schools or the fault of the parents and the English speaking culture?

There is a vast difference between the US public education system and other countries such as Finland, China and Singapore. Because of those differences, to be fair, we cannot compare the results of US students with those countries unless we separate the genetically modified chaff from the organic grain and also compare apples to apples.

As a public high school teacher in California for thirty years (1975 – 2005), I taught four periods of English and one period of journalism for several years in addition to being the advisor of the student run high-school newspaper. One year, my journalism students were invited to write a series of pieces for a European magazine called “Easy Speakeasy“, headquartered in France.  “Easy Speakeasy” expressed interested in the sports programs in US schools because we were told that these programs did not exist in France and other European countries. Sports in Europe were mostly outside of the public schools sort of like Pop Warner Football in the US.

Pop Warner was founded in 1929, continues to grow and serves as the only youth football, cheerleading & dance organization that requires its participants to maintain academic standards in order to participate. Pop Warner’s commitment to academics is what separates the program from other youth sports around the world. In fact, studies show that kids involved in sports that require them to maintain their academic grades above a 2.0 GPA graduate in higher numbers than students that do not participate in sports.  Europe has programs similar to Pop Warner and I understand this is the only place students in Europe may participate in organized sports because these programs do not exist in European schools. In Europe and most countries, the focus in the public schools is academic and vocational—no sports, drama or music programs as in the US.

I can only guess that “Easy Speakeasy’s” editors invited my journalism students to write for their European publication because the high-school newspaper I was adviser for had won international recognition several years in a row from Quill and Scroll out of the University of Iowa.

In the English classes I taught there was a lot of chaff and only a little grain but in that journalism class, I taught the organic cream of our high school—students willing to be at school as early as six in the morning and stay as late as eleven at night to produce the high school newspaper—while many of my English students did not bring textbooks to class, do class work or even consider doing homework. Instead, there were students in my English classes that waged an endless war against academics disrupting the educational environment as often as possible.

Who do we blame for this educational environment in the United States?

Quill and Scroll offers academic scholarships. There is another organization called JEA (the Journalism Education Association) that also awards academic scholarships related to writing/academics. I know this because one of my journalism students earned a JEA scholarship. I required my journalism students to compete at the regional, state and national level in JEA academic writing competitions.

In addition, in most of the world there are two tracks in high school:  academic and vocational and students in those countries may graduate from high school either with a degree earned in the academic or vocational. For that reason, comparing graduation rates in the US with other countries does not count because in the US we only graduate through academic programs but still graduate a higher ratio of students through the academic track than any other country on earth.

Then there are children in the United States that cannot read and are functionally illiterate. When we compare the US to all other English speaking countries, the rate of functionally illiterate children is about the same telling us that this is more a product of a culture that does not value learning and reading as much as countries such as Finland where the majority of parents start teaching his or her children how to read at home by age three so those children can already read when they start school at age seven.

But in the US, many parents leave it up to the schools to start teaching children to read at age five or six and only those children that were taught by his or her parents start out on track and move ahead.

Then there is the fact that the US may be the only country on the planet that mandates children stay in school, no matter what, until age sixteen to eighteen.  In China, for example, there are about 150 million children in the grade schools but only about 10 million that remain in high school at age 15.

When the International PISA test is given in countries around the world, that test is given to a random sample of fifteen year old students. That means in the US, because almost every fifteen-year old is still in school, America’s students are being compared to the very best in countries such as China where students that are not the best academically have left the system by the time the PISA people show up.

However, when we filter out the chaff and leave only our most proficient students—for example: the journalism students that I taught—and compare them to the most proficient students of other countries, this being apples to apples, the US students beat every country in the world in every academic area tested. You will never hear these facts from the critics of public education in the US.

Discover The Legacy of the British Empire on Literacy

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

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

 

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James Patterson’s advice for parents

My wife and I walked to town today and saw the new Alex Cross movie with Tyler Perry. We enjoyed it and recommend it but consider reading the novels first.

James Patterson is the author of the Alex Cross series and I have read several. The novels featuring his character Alex Cross, a forensic psychologist who works as a private psychologist and government consultant, are his most popular and the top-selling U.S. detective series in the past ten years. Patterson has written 71 novels in 33 years. He has had 19 consecutive #1 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds The New York Times record for most bestselling hardcover fiction titles by a single author, a total of 63. James Patterson’s books have sold an estimated 260 million copies worldwide; in recent years his novels have sold more copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined.

Patterson says, “It’s our responsibility as parents to get our kids to read. This one is big. Huge! We can’t wait for teachers or librarians or their peers to do it. It’s our job to get our kids to read—not the teacher. We need to show them that it is fun and that it is cool. And give them books that will excite them.”

Patterson’s advice works. It wasn’t a teacher that motivated me to enjoy reading. It was my mother. After I fell in love with reading, there was no turning back.

When Patterson’s son was age eight, he and his wife told their child he had to read. His son didn’t like reading at first. By the end of that summer, he had read about seven books and loved most of them.

Watch the embedded video. Listen to what Patterson has to say. If you expect teachers to do the parent’s job when it comes to reading, then the child may be a loser for the rest of his or her life.

We already ask America’s public school teachers to do much more than just teach and demanding that they also do a parent’s job is ridiculous.

Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead.com is a site designed to turn kids all across the nation into passionate, literate, and inspired readers and he has ten tips to get kids reading.

Discover that Educating Chidren is a Partnership

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

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

 

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A Teachable Moment with “Gifted Hands”

If you are a teacher or a serious parent more concerned about his or her child’s future as a working adult than a child having fun and/or being entertained all of the time, then this may be a teachable moment.

But first, 43% of adults at the lowest level of literacy lived below the poverty line, as opposed to 4% of those with the highest levels of literacy.

In addition, in 2010, the unemployment rate for adults that did not have a high school diploma was almost 16%. However, for adults with a Bachelors degree or higher (that means a college education), that unemployed rate was 5%.

In addition, since 1992, the unemployment rate for workers with a BA or better averaged 3.31%, but for high school dropouts the average was 8.84%. The lowest unemployment rate for college graduates was in 2001 at 1.5%, but it was 6% for high school dropouts the same year.

After I bought a copy of “Gifted Hands” at Costco recently, we watched the Ben Carson story. It was a film based on the life of a real person and the mother that made a difference in his life. Not once in the film was it suggested that it was the responsibility of any of Carson’s teachers to turn off the TV in Carson’s home and for his mother to tell him he had to visit the library and read books instead of watching TV.

In fact, the teachable moment may be to watch the film “Gifted Hands” (the entire film is embedded—second video—in this post and it has Spanish subtitles), then discuss who and what made the difference in Ben Carson’s life. Then have the child write a one page essay about what he or she learned about the importance of reading instead of watching TV.

Ben Carson’s mother had a third grade education and she got married at age 14 to later discover that her husband was a bigamist. For me, the teachable moment was when Carson’s mother turned off the TV and told her two sons that they were going to check books out of the library, read them, and then write a report of each book to be read out loud to the mother. She could not read but she could listen.

 
Ben Carson: An extraordinary Life – Conversations from Penn State

In the previous embedded video, at 6:32 minutes, Carson says once he started doing a lot of reading, he stopped hating poverty and realized that he didn’t have to stay in that lifestyle.  He could change his life to anything he wanted it to be by working for it.

Note: I love using the word WORK to describe what we do as adults to earn money legally.

In one scene, Carson is being given an award for being the top student in his mostly white school and a teacher embarrasses him when she tells all of the white students in the room that they allowed themselves to be beaten by a fatherless black student living in poverty.

What that teacher did was uncalled for—it was cruel and racist. However, she told the white students they were lazy and could have easily beaten Carson for the academic honor he earned. She should have criticized the parents of those white students for letting their children watch too much TV.

The message I learned from this film pointed out exactly how to encourage students to learn to read and work hard in school to earn an education—not more laws that hold only public school teachers responsible for the education of a child.

Studies show that the average American child talks to his or her parents less than five minutes a day and spends more than 10 hours a day outside of school watching too much TV (on average three hours a day outside of school) in addition to playing video games, listening to music, social networking on the Internet, hanging out with friends, sending text messages, etc.

 
You may be able to watch the movie here. I found this link on You Tube, and it has Spanish subtitles.

There was another scene in the movie with a science teacher.  When Carson was the only student in the class to answer a question, the teacher kept Carson after school, because when most teachers see an opportunity to help a motivated student, he or she does help.  Teachers can only help students that help themselves and it is up to the parents to do the rest.

Carson’s mother had a third grade education but her son’s went to college. Today Benjamin S. Carson is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Children’s Center. His brother is an engineer. Through reading and an education, this family left poverty and the high risk of unemployment behind.

Answer this question: If Carson’s mother had left that TV on, do you honestly believe he would be where he is today?

Discover What is the Matter with Parents these Days

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

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

 

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A film with a clear political agenda against teacher unions

We went to see ‘Won’t Back Down’ with Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis, a film that ignores many facts of a complicated issue that causes students to turn out illiterate and schools to be considered failures.

Soon after the movie started, I complained. “If her (Jamie played by Ms. Gyllenhall) daughter has trouble reading, why doesn’t she turn off the TV and teach her at home as my mother did?”

My wife had to shut me up before someone complained to the management and had me tossed out of the theater. Censured and mute, I still wanted to rant and rave, and I did let loose after we left the theater.

You see, when I was seven (in the early 1950s), my mother was told I was retarded and would never learn to read or write.  Back then, educators did not know about dyslexia. According to those experts, I was doomed to be illiterate for life.

However, I was not destined to turn out the same as my older brother. He died a broken and illiterate man at age 64 in December 1999. By the time I was seven and my brother twenty-one, my mother had learned her lesson because she watched and agonized over my brother’s decline. At age twenty-one, Richard had already spent time in prison. When he died, fifteen of his sixty-four years was spent locked up behind bars after spending too much time drinking in bars.

How did my working mom make a difference in my life?  Answer: at home with primer books a caring teacher had recommended and eventually a coat hanger.  The coat hanger appeared after I refused to cooperate. After all, it was hard work, it was boring, and I hated every moment of it, but my mother would not take NO for an answer. She had already lost one son to the dead-end life of illiteracy and was determined not to lose me to the same fate.

With my mother armed with that coat hanger, I learned to read. Today, my mother probably would have been charged with child abuse, and I would have been sent to a foster home and turned out illiterate. I do not resent my mother. I thank her for making an effort most parents today do not make.

To make a long story short, I learned to love reading books. By the time I graduated from high school, I was reading at college level above most of my classmates. Over the years, I earned an AS degree, BA, MFA and a life teaching credential.

‘Won’t Back Down’ is an anti-teacher union film pretending to care about the education of disadvantaged children.


Richard Roeper’s Reviews agrees with A. O Scott of the New York Times

When my wife and I returned home from the theater, I wanted to see what the New York Times had to say about the film and was not disappointed to see that A. O. Scott had revealed the movie’s biased propaganda.

Scott said “that (the films) pious expression of concern for the children are usually evidence of a political agenda in overdrive … and this one is not shy about showing its ideological hand.”

Scott says, the film “makes the vague claim to have been ‘inspired by true events,’ pits a plucky, passionate band of parents and educators against a venal and intransigent cabal of labor bosses and their greedy, complacent rank-and-file minions.”

The promise the film makes, says Scott is that “Once teachers give up job security and guaranteed benefits, learning disabilities will be cured, pencils will stop breaking and the gray skies of Pittsburgh will glow with sunshine. Who could be against that?”

Scott ends with, “however you take its politics, the film upholds a dreary tradition of simplifying and sentimentalizing matters of serious social concern, and dummying down issues that call for clarity and creative thinking. Our children deserve better.”

I want add to Scott’s last sentence. “Our teachers deserve better too.”

I know what it is like to be dyslexic. I’ve lived with it all my life. I also know what teachers go through, because I taught for thirty years (1975 – 2005) in California’s public schools. My average work week ran 60 to 100 hours. I often arrived at school as early as 6:00 in the morning when the gates were unlocked and sometimes worked as late as 11:00 at night when the alarms were turned on and the gates locked.

In the film, it seems the so-called evil teachers’ union limits the amount of time a teacher may stay after school to help students or meet with parents. The teachers’ union I belonged to never did anything like that. There are more than 14,000 school districts in the US and most have a contract with a teacher union so I cannot say that it isn’t that way in Philadelphia’s schools. It’s just that in my experience, I never heard of it.

In addition, at one point in my teaching career, I was in danger of being fired due to a censorship issue when I was the journalism advisor for the high school newspaper. Without the union, I’m convinced that I would have been fired for defending what my students wrote and published in one issue of the school paper.

Near the end of the film, Jamie, who works two jobs (one in a car dealership and the other as a bartender) to make ends meet, reveals that she is dyslexic and didn’t want her third-grade daughter, who is also dyslexic, to be left behind too.

There is a big difference between actresses playing the roles of a dyslexic mother and daughter and someone that is really dyslexic.  For me, my mother made the difference. The schools did not teach me to read at a time when there were no unions in the California public schools that I attended.

In the film, why didn’t the character Ms. Gyllenhall plays help her daughter improve her reading skills at home? In fact, why are so many parents in America avoiding this responsibility? In Finland, a country with one of the most successful public school districts in the world with a very strong teachers’ union, parents start teaching their children to read at about age 3 at home, four years before starting school at age 7. The teachers in Finland have also been given a lot of responsibility regarding how those schools operate and they do it with parent support.

Instead, when we are in Jamie’s apartment in Pittsburgh, the TV is on and no books are in the child’s hands. When I was a child, my parents always had books around and read every night and that, along with my mother and that stinging coat hanger, made all the difference.

The truth is that NO teacher could have used that coat hanger on me as motivation to learn to read—then or now. In addition, my mother only had one child to teach at home while my teachers had classrooms full of children to teach. When I was still teaching, I often had 175 – 200 students in five, one-hour classes.

As A. O Scott wrote for the New York Times, it is a ‘complicated issue’.

However, I spend a lot of time attempting to explain those issues on this Blog. It’s too bad that studies and surveys reveal the painful truth that 80% of Americans after leaving or graduating from high school never read a book again—even to and/or with their children.

Those same parents will probably never read a Blog post this long, and I am sure of this—they will be very quick to blame teachers for children that grow up with no love of reading.

Discover It’s the Parents, Stupid

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

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Are we a Nation Eating and Drinking its Way to Idiocy – Part 1/2

Did you know that eating white bread is similar to drinking a soda, or eating a sugar rich candy bar or consuming a piece of pie or cake? White bread, along with potatoes, corn, carrots, white flour, cane sugar, and white rice, is a STARCH, which effectively converts into (more) sugar upon digestion.

And too much sugar damages the brain while not enough sleep slows brain development. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Sleep is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. Skipping sleep can be harmful — even deadly … Not getting enough sleep limits your ability to learn, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework …” (There’s more.  I suggest you click on the link to find out.)

It isn’t as if I did not know all this. Like Sherlock Holmes, I deduced what was causing “accelerated cognitive decline” in my students long before The New Junk Food Danger—Dementia? was published September 13, 2012.

In fact, long ago, I was convinced that “Americans are literally eating a ‘diabetes diet’ that’s very toxic to the brain and other vital organs,” says Dr. Joel Zonszein, medical director of the diabetes clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “And the one of the most terrible complications—brain damage—is occurring in younger and younger patients.”

I left the classroom as a teacher in August 2005 (after thirty years in education).  For about 20 of those years, I asked my students what they ate and learned that most kids do not eat breakfast and often drank a Coke or Pepsi before reaching class in addition to a bag of greasy French fries or a slice of cheese pizza before eating anything healthy if they ate anything healthy at all.

In a class with thirty-four students (on average), maybe two or three ate breakfast, but they were not eating a healthy breakfast.  The cereal was usually coated in sugar and drenched in milk and milk that is not organic is high in the wrong kind of fats that studies show turn the brain rancid (literally rots the brain).

The high school where I taught installed soda machines a few years before I left. One early morning I ran into the soda distributor and asked him how many cases he delivered to the school each week.  His answer was two-thousand cases—enough so each student could drink three a day, and the campus snack bar sold 64 ounce servings of Coke for about one dollar. After lunch, too many students walked in my classroom with glassy eyes and dull looks.

Feeding children and teens processed sugar is child abuse and should be a crime.

Continued on September 15, 2012 in A Nation Eating and Drinking its Way to Idiocy – Part 2

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

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