One of the most laughable bumper stickers out there is the one that says “If you can read this, thank a teacher”. Are teachers really responsible for kids learning to read? If so then teachers are also responsible for kids not being able to read. Both my brother and I could read before we stepped inside a school. The same is true for my kids and my brother’s kids. However, even a teacher would be able to teach our children to read. I am reminded of my brother who was a math major at Purdue saying that he did so well because he could not understand a word spoken by any of his professors. Nevertheless, bad teachers don’t teach kids to read and the inability of teachers to teach is blamed on the kids. Consider that the head of the Chicago teachers union said that the increased accountability demanded by the city administration over the dismal performance of the school system was “unfair” because “poor kids can’t learn”! (http://eagnews.org/ctus-lewis-increased-accountability-unfair-because-poor-kids-cant-learn/). Of course this is nonsense. Consider that virtually all these students can recite every word to the most complicated rap after only three listenings. Indeed, if Lil Wayne rapped War and Peace, these kids would know Tolstoy in a week. If I were a parent in Chicago I would be on the warpath. The problem is that in the education system only the students do not have an advocate. Lack of achievement is always laid at the feet of the students when the real culprit is the method of instruction. The teachers are taught methods that have demonstrated failure. Sure there are high achievers but studies show that these students excel regardless of the method employed. The colleges of education have an invested interest in their traditional methods and will defend them to the detriment of the children taught. Yet nontraditional methods such as Direct Instruction have been shown to produce proficiency rates in at-risk students that are equal to and even higher than those for students in high income districts. Its high time that we quit excusing the teachers and blaming the kids. As I have said before, if we want kids to achieve then we should privatize the school system, collect the taxes and turn it over to the Catholics.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com