July 14th, 2010

From Cam Mosher

A few years ago, an article appeared on the front page of our local newspaper in Salt Lake City.  It reported that 26% of the graduating high school class in the State of Utah that year could not pass the Utah Basic Skills Inventory Test, a pretty simple survey of basic reading, writing, and math.  I have recently accepted an adjunct teaching position at our local community college teaching Developmental Math, basically remedial arithmetic and junior high pre-algebra for adult students at the college, a collection of people that may in fact represent that 26%!  And I don’t think this appalling 26% statistic is limited to Utah!  I suspect it is fairly representative of the entire United States of America.

On the first day of class, I tell my class about the 26% article, and I get a lot of blank stares.  Many of these college students do not know the meaning of 26%!  They cannot relate it to “one out of four people!” Come on folks, think about that.  One out of four people among recent high school graduates can’t read, write, and do simple math at anywhere near an adult level!

The largest department at our college is Developmental Education.  It exists to provide remedial work for the young adult and older adult students who come to a community college to get educated.  An amazingly high percentage of these students can’t read, write, or handle numbers at a functional adult level.  What in the world are we going to do with them, as the older generations of us die off and the world of commerce, government, science, and education is left to them?

Our public schools are ripping off our future!  It is disgusting that we allow children to progress from grade to grade who cannot perform the basic skills of a literate society, and end up graduating them out the top, unable to handle a literate adulthood!  No wonder our government is struggling to solve problems.  The electorate isn’t literate enough to comprehend the issues and elect wise officials!

I have a curricular solution.  We need to identify the basic skills necessary to function in the United States today and build a basic nationwide curriculum to teach them from state to state. These should at least include:

  • The Basic Skills of Literacy: reading, self expression through writing and speaking, and basic arithmetic.
  • Add to that a basic ability to function in commerce, with budgeting, using money and financial instruments of transactions (e.g. debit and credit cards), financial planning, savings and investing, and some values to guide responsible living in this area of life.
  • Add to that a basic comprehension of how our system of government works, what elections are for and how campaigns are used to promote candidates and ideas, how to contact government officials and legislators, and the importance of being an informed and involved citizen.
  • Include what it means to be responsible for one’s self and family, how to provide for financial security as one moves through stages and circumstances of life, clear up to retirement.
  • And include education in basic health and hygiene.

This basic curriculum should begin in Kindergarten and continue clear through High School, with age appropriate materials.  Kindergartners can start the learning process with simple material in all these areas.  Students should not be moved forward until they can demonstrate basic competency at each grade level.  High School graduates should then be fully prepared to assume adult responsibilities as citizens and participants in society.

Parents must cease being enablers in this dumbing down of American society.  Instead of supporting their “little darlings” against those mean teachers, they must hold their children responsible for learning the basic curriculum and reinforce its importance.

I believe education is the single most important solution to solving the problems of the world, beginning right here in America!

Cam Mosher


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