Letters to the Editor

‘Johnny still can’t read?’ Here’s why | Letters

Shortly after the Russians launched “Sputnik” in October of 1957, and thereby delivered a hard blow to America’s hugely inflated image of its global superiority in all things, we were treated to a loud series of lamentations over the state of our system of education.

We were supposed to work ourselves into a huge emotional lather over the fact that “Johnny Can’t Read”.

Solemn vows were taken to repair what was wrong with our schools. Money gushed from the faucets of Washington D.C. in a desperate quest to close the great gap in learning that was supposed to exist between America and its threatening adversary in Moscow.

Fifty-seven years later, and despite trillions of dollars in state and federal expenditure on our institutions of education, we’re informed that our high school students are most definitely not where they should be in the core subjects of reading, math and science. The picture is an overwhelmingly discouraging one.

Even as more and more cash gets thrown into the teaching and learning apparatus of this county, the actual results continue to be far less than they should be. “Johnny,” it seems, “still can’t read”.

Our movers and shakers simply do not want to admit that this country is indeed a fundamentally anti-intellectual place. A variety of European observers of the early United States strongly suspected that this was so.

It is very difficult to escape the conclusion that the fundamental problem gnawing at the vital organs of American pedagogy is simply the fact that most ordinary citizens don’t care.

A long national habit of turning a blind eye to inferior scholastic performance is too deeply ingrained in our psychology to change.

This is extremely unfortunate. Societies that value learning will someday “clean our clock”.

Frank Goheen, Camas, Wash.

— Editor’s note: The Journal rarely publishes letters generated from outside the islands unless they pertain to local issues or events. The letter above strikes us as  an exception, as it offers some decent food for thought, particularly with graduation season just around the corner.


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