Curtis Dahlgren
Why not "zero tolerance" for illiteracy? [a "best-of"]
By Curtis Dahlgren
September 21, 2013

"If I say, I will speak thus and such, behold, I should 'offend' the generation of thy children." – King David

so-called "political correctness" has been around for a long, long time. Those who WANT to be offended "will be offended"! Paradoxically, those who are the most ardent advocates of so-called "tolerance" actually have no toleration for the slightest "offense"! Those who can dish it out, just can't "take it." Redskins. Redskins. Redskins.

In his dissent on the decision concerning high school football game prayers, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said, "Even more disturbing than its holding is the tone of the court's opinion. It bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life" [i.e., it's hostility in the name of "tolerance"]! The majority's rationale was, in effect, "If we don't ban prayers, someone out there somewhere might be offended!" [the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution notwithstanding].

One of the dirty little secrets of American history is that our Founding Fathers didn't waste any time at all worrying whether their words would somehow "offend" an atheist. Thomas Jefferson said that there were a million believers for every non-believer, and besides, "it neither breaks my bones nor picks my pocket if a man says there is no god or 20 gods."

Lately, however, the sole-offended-victim/litigation complex has become a growth industry almost as powerful as the military-industrial complex. School textbooks have replaced "Founding Fathers" with "founders" (and only mentions them as scoundrels).

We are rapidly losing all sense of the distinction between real and imagined "offenses." A first grader is expelled for "touching a skirt," but no one is "offended" that neither he nor the girl knows how to READ! I for one am insulted by the claim that in today's society, learning to read is so "complex" and so "difficult."

DISCLAIMER: If the following paragraphs are misconstrued as "teacher bashing" – as my mother used to say – "Excuse me for living!" She once volunteered to read to kids in our local public school, though when I was a kid, no one ever "read to" us! WE read to the TEACHER. From the first day of kindergarten, we started learning the letters and reading them back to the teacher! Kindergarten in those days lasted six whole weeks, and by the end of it we were reading (English even, whether that was our parents' "first" language or not). The phrase "unable to read" hadn't been invented yet, and it never would have even occurred to us that someday kids would be given diplomas that they couldn't read!

However, the 12/28/03 Chicago Tribune page one headline reports, "State tosses 80,000 tests – Move inflates achievement scores at nearly 1,400 schools"! A small percentage of the "invalidations" were for legal technicalities, but the rest are "under investigation." Los Angeles and Houston, among other cities, have seen similar reports.

I wasn't born yesterday. It doesn't take a genius to smell a rat here. In order to try to keep "federal funds," one high school in Chicago had more than 92 per cent of its reading and math scores tossed out. And that's just based on the kids who stayed in school; I suspect that our "top people" in education are secretly glad that many drop out (as those kids would only drag the test score averages down even more).

To add insult to injury, the 01/04/04 Sunday Tribune page one headline says, "Critics: Tests dumb down math – Too much emphasis on basic skills, top educators say"! We used to hear the same argument about the basics in reading methods. Why? Evidently, in the attempt to devise mass-production, assembly-line techniques for teaching, the "basics" just require too much EFFORT.

This past week, I heard Dan Rather talk about the issue of tossed-out test scores, and incredibly, he tried to blame the President's Secretary of Education, and said he fears "the messenger" will be attacked. Ha! The only "grief" the media will get for reporting the story will come from the teachers' unions.

Teacher bashing? WHO is bashing WHOM? I think the inner-city children are the ones getting "bashed." I understand that many of our teachers aren't allowed to give a child a zero for not turning in a work assignment – 25 percent is the minimum score (just for keeping a seat warm).

A friend says my last column sounded "angry and harsh" ("DESSERTS Can Save Your Life"). I said that was mild compared to the NEXT one! I wonder if our elites who promote PC "tolerance" understand that that word means, literally, "bearing it" – as in "tolerating your brother-in-law"! For most of my life I've just been an observer, but when it comes to educational illiteracy, I just can't BEAR it anymore!

No one starts a weekly column at the age of 61 just for the fun of it, or just to complain for the sake of complaining. The time has come – if it's not already "past due" – to ask our highly-paid public school officials, board members, and teachers to stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars. How about a prairie fire? HOW ABOUT A ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY ON ILLITERACY? As one of our Founding "Fathers" put it, "If this be treason, may God make the most of it"! Patrick Henry.

Our "top educators" probably wouldn't know him from Eve and Adam, but please pass this column on to your friends. If they think it sounds "harsh," they can always sue me.

P.S. Like the weather, almost everyone talks about education, but no one seems to want to do a thing about it. And we could change education a LOT more than we can change the weather!

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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