Wednesday, November 27, 2002


We've been slapped awake recently by reports of ignorant, nearly-illiterate kids in our public schools:

-- The National Institute for Literacy estimates that 23 percent of Americans, almost 50 million people, are functionally illiterate despite attending school for years at increasing taxpayer expense.

-- The American Council of Life Insurance reports that three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies have to provide some level of remedial education for their workers.

-- District of Columbia schools have among the highest per-pupil costs in the country, yet 37 percent of the residents of D.C. read at or below the third-grade level, according to the D.C. State Education Agency as quoted by the Cato Institute.

-- National Geographic surveys of people ages 18 to 24 showed that three out of 10 could not find New Jersey or the Pacific Ocean on a map, and only one out of five could find Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan on a map.

-- More than 80 percent of 400 high school teachers surveyed would never assign a 5,000-word history research paper simply because students today are not capable of doing traditional research and can't organize and write such a paper. Why not? They can't read well enough to conduct the research and don't know how to write anything other than a knee-jerk reaction to a "prompt" or their own vague opinions and feelings. This is according to the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut, adding that colleges are being forced to teach freshmen the rudimentary skills of library use, too.

So . . .

Attention is turning more and more to how private schools and homeschools teach children. Those parents who feel they must continue to keep their children in public schools might think about starting to do some "afterschooling" -- do-it-yourself home education -- so that their kids can get at least some of what they're missing.

One good source of that is a free guide that will show high-school kids how to research, organize and write a good research paper. This comes from longtime Texas education advocate Donna Garner, an English teacher at a private Christian school in Temple, Texas, the Central Texas Christian School. She has posted on the internet two packets of information for English I and II, and English III and IV, that teachers and parents can download and use with kids.

The packets take students through the research and writing process explicitly and sequentially. Students are monitored every step of the way and there are methods worked in to ensure that the students are doing their own independent research and drawing quality conclusions.

Visit the school's website, http://www.ctcslions.com and find the "English research papers" listing in the red copy block at left.


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