PRESIDENT OBAMA, SPEAK UP DUDE!
Here, at the Brainsarefun National Labs we're making every effort to get our politicians to actually say something intelligent about education. It's fine to speak about "giving our kids a chance…" But, "How baby, how?" Specifically, what do you want to do? I, of course, believe the answers rather simplistic, "Flood them with reading and math success right from Day One."
IT'S ABOUT TIME OUR POLITICIANS AND EDUCATORS DROVE A STAKE IN THE GROUND
How should a real education policy sound to the naked ear? How about something like, "We're going to race to the top in science and technology by first taking care of the basics. We're going to teach all kids to read and succeed with math. These are the kids who will be able to continue their educations in science and technology and hold jobs with a future."
Wow! That makes sense. You mean you're going to teach our kids to read?
Wow! I want us to stop talking about vague concepts of "education" and instead talk about concrete strategies that build on academic success. When employers are asked about the skills they're looking for here's what they say, "Technical skills we can teach. But we can't find enough employees who can read and write." Many of the largest companies in America have thousands of job openings, but not enough educated people to fill them.
O.K., so we're going to teach the fundamental academic skills and behaviors employers say they want, "Reading, writing, listening, speaking, information organization, critical thinking, study skills and math." We're also going to teach kids about three behaviors that make life easier for everyone, "How to start on time, stay on task and complete assignments." And yes, using these skills we're also going to teach about the 104 categories of human experience, like art and sports and dance and music and geography…
WHEN IT COMES TO EDUCATION, HERE'S WHAT I WANT TO HEAR
- QUESTION: Where do most of us agree? What are some of the points we can tackle together?
- ANSWER: Reading. I want all our kids to be taught how to read. This is how you provide all kids with massive academic success. Lack of massive academic success plagues far to many young people. I want to start here and then on to success with math.
- QUESTION: What else must kids learn in school?
- ANSWER: How to read, write, listen, speak, organize information, think critically, study and how to succeed with math. This is how you flood all kids with massive academic success.
- QUESTION: Is that it?
- ANSWER: No, kids also need to be taught the three behaviors associated with all success: how to start on time, stay on task, complete assignments.
- HERE'S THE GOAL OF ALL THIS TEACHING: Kids who continue their educations and hold jobs with a future.
MORE ABOUT POLICY
When searching for an education policy here's what I want to hear:
How are we going to teach all kids to read? We're going to use a real theory of instruction. We're going to recognize that a good teacher is one whose students increase their ability to read, write, listen, speak, organize information, think critically, study and succeed with math — no matter what subject is being taught.
This should be the primary job of the Department of Education: to publicize what it takes to be a master parent and teacher. I'd like to see this as the declared end of President Obama's Race to the Top — which, to date, is filled mostly with platitudes and cliches about "getting the biggest bang for our buck." The biggest bang for our buck is teaching kids to read and succeed with math.
Why are we 46th in the world as measured by standardized reading tests? I'm afraid it's because most teachers were not taught how to teach.
TEACHING KIDS TO READ IS NOT THAT HARD
I can imagine a question and answer period between President Obama, parents, politicians, administrators, teachers, students, going something like this.
- QUESTION: Mr./Ms. Politician, What are the most important issues facing Americans today?
- ANSWER: It is always the same: preparing our kids to live better lives.
- QUESTION: Tell us your education policy.
- ANSWER: My policy is simple, I am committed to teaching all children to read. All students can learn how to read, write, listen, speak, organize information, think critically, study and succeed with math. In addition, teachers, administrators, students must learn how to start on time, stay on task, complete assignments. These are the skills and behaviors associated with success in any venture, and can be mastered at all levels, kindergarten through post-graduate university and the board room.
- QUESTION: You haven't mentioned class size, teacher salaries, computers, more schools, better benefits?
- ANSWER: These are all important issues, but they must not be allowed to take the focus off of experiencing academic success in the classroom. Our children must be taught to read successfully. This is the cornerstone of my education policy, from which all else follows. Academic success is self-affirming and leads to more success. Success leads to continuing educations and holding jobs with a future.
- QUESTION: What about foreign languages, sports, sciences, history, art, music… all the other subjects?
- ANSWER: Let's begin by making a clear distinction between academic skills and subjects. I am putting the focus on fundamental academic skills like reading, writing, listening, speaking, information organization, critical thinking, study skills and success with math. I want kids to experience all that music and art and science have to offer, but let's make sure they experience success with reading.
I'm all for history, sports, and all the other subjects you mentioned. But something has gone wrong. Too many of our kids believe education isn't really for them, their teachers and parents fail to teach them to read, they fail, they drop out. There is no skill that provides so many, with so much. Kids must get the chance to experience real, solid academic success. This starts with being taught how to read by master reading teachers and parents who know how to teach phonics.
I want to make heroes out of those schools, superintendents and teachers who learn how to teach reading.
I am going to make sure that parents know the skills their children must learn – no matter if they attend a private school, a public school, a magnet school, a parochial school, a charter school, an alternative school, a special-education school, a free-school, a school with vouchers, an inner-city school, a country-day school, an Accelerated School, Outward Bound… whatever. All of our children must learn the fundamental academic skills and behaviors. This is the key to their future and our nation's future. I am going to take the emphasis off homework and put it back on the classroom and back on parents. Parents READ ALOUD TO YOUR KIDS. Teachers and parents, flood your kids with success.
Our children simply can't be allowed to graduate from elementary school, middle school, high school, college, graduate school, without mastering the three fundamental behaviors associated with success; HOW TO START ON TIME, STAY ON TASK, COMPLETE ASSIGNMENTS. We can no longer afford to graduate students who are virtually illiterate when it comes to reading and writing and solving mathematical equations. The place to begin is for parents and teachers to read aloud to their children tonight.
What's my policy, I believe we owe it to our kids to teach them all to read!
Yep. That's right. "Teach our kids to read and succeed with math."