No. 507



Several weeks ago a reader in Illinois sent me a used copy of a book
titled, ³None Dare Call It Education² by John A. Stormer. This book contains
page after page of documented accounts of how education ³reforms² are
undermining academics and traditional values. Reading this book has been a
real eye-opener for me and I thought so highly of it I ordered 50 copies to
share with some of my most influential friends.
If you are a regular reader of this column, you know education is
something close to my heart. This is true for two very basic reasons. First,
because our nation¹s public schools are charged with educating our children,
our nation¹s most precious resource. When it¹s all said and done, between 80
and 85 percent of our children attend public schools. Second, because we
invest billions of dollars of tax money each year in this most important
endeavor. Because of my innate desire to always get the most value for the
money I spend, I feel like we as parents, grandparents and taxpayers deserve
the best educated children in the world.
We deserve the best, but are we getting it? Not according to the 2003
Final Worldwide Education Standings, which is the most recent statistics I
have. I might add, the educational standings of worldwide countries,
including the United States, was compiled by the Campaign for America¹s
Children, a non-profit organization that includes such members as William
Bennett, Robert Straus, Jack Kemp, Henry Kissinger, Andrew Young, John
McCain, Martin Luther King III, Dr. Dorothy Height and Lynn Forester. The
United States finished a dismal 18th of the 21 industrialized countries
named in the survey, which included studies in reading, math and science.
There is good reason for this and what John Stormer¹s book does for
open-minded readers is to help us confirm or reconfirm these facts for
ourselves. As I said earlier, it was certainly an eye opener for me.
Here is just one example in this book that will give you some insights
into what I have been saying. The teaching of basic spelling has undergone a
quiet revolution in the United States within the past 15 years. Drills are
out. Learning to spell by reading is in. Teachers have become increasingly
reluctant to ³stifle² the efforts of young writers by correcting their
spelling or marking errors as wrong. This is because a fad has been sweeping
the country called ³Inventive Spelling.²
In a story headed ³Bad Spelling Now Viewed As Inventive,² The San
Francisco Chronicle reported the following: After hearing the story ³Jack
and the Beanstalk,² 6-year-old Pablo wrote a story of his own and read it to
his summer school teacher in a halting voice. ³If I would have magic beans,
I would save the beans. And when I save the beans, then I will give them
away. The end.² Teacher Michele Chabra smiled at her student¹s brief
recital. Then she looked at what he had written. ³If I wd mg ics I wd save
the bses and one I sav the bes then I wi g thmn way the end.² The newspaper
article then explained as follows.
Known as ³inventive spelling,² such creativity is permitted, even
encouraged, in many American classrooms. Although Pablo has completed first
grade, like thousands of elementary school children he has never studied
vocabulary lists, never used a spelling workbook and never spent a morning
at the blackboard writing corrected sentences. Now I¹m not picking on
California, because there are many school districts around the nation in
other states using the same teaching methods, but here is a letter to
parents from one school district that the state legislature has on file.
³Dear parents: Once we start doing more creative writing on our own, we
will be using Œinvented spelling.¹ Invented spelling is when the child
sounds out the word and writes it as it sounds. This is an important part of
fostering a positive attitude for writing in your child. Please do not
correct their spelling when they write at home. Correcting all of their
spelling mistakes at this point will only discourage them and keep them from
writing their true thoughts.² Believe me, I am not making this up and I
certainly would never belittle the thousands of fine teachers across our
nation, but that¹s what¹s going on in some school classrooms and some
districts across our nation.
When you magnify this problem millions and millions of times, is it any
wonder that our nation has fallen so far behind in reading, math and
science, which are the building blocks for a truly successful career and
life. As I have said many times, one of my greatest joys was working with
educators in my home state. Most are doing a great job, but here is a
question we should all ponder: ³Does my school teach inventive spelling?²
(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You
may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)