I also got tasked with being the "Reading" teacher. Now when I was a kid, by the 7th grade, most of us knew how to read, so I took that as an indication that my students would also know how to read. Yeah, I was wrong. I was thought that everyone valued an education...eventually. Yeah, I was wrong. Less than 60 years ago, we read pretty much as part of our daily lives. Until T.V. came into our world and started sucking our will to learn straight out of us. As kids we used to read from books! Not iPods, Kindles, or computer screens. And kids read things like Shakespeare, Keates, and Shelley; not Patterson, Rowling, and Meyers.
Today, I spend more time "dumbing down" my lessons than I do actually teaching. Remember learning to diagram sentences in order to learn about subordinate clauses, noun - verb agreement and dangling modifiers? Ah, we don't teach that any more. "It's too difficult" for students today to "grasp" that concept. Did IQ's drop suddenly since the 1980's? I have students who are reading "Curious George" because they can't comprehend a sentence structure that includes a noun, verb, adverb, and an adjunctive. They are still amazed when I tell them "She swam" is a complete sentence! I don't think any one of them today would be able to survive the educational process that was in place 100 years ago. Come to think of it, neither would I since I couldn't speak Latin if my life depended on it.
Education used to be HARD. If you were privileged enough to get any education, let alone a "good" one. Most people who were able to go, went to a one room school. Where all grades were taught simultaneously and no one gave a rat's ass if you were a kinetic, auditory, or whatever learner. You got what you gave and you earned your grade. Today, I have to give "participation" grades in order to even out GPA's and I am not allowed to "give" below a 50% on anything! This includes assignments where a student does NOTHING!! I have to give this "grade" when a student doesn't even TURN IN THE WORK!! Tell me, what I am "teaching" my students by rewarding them with a grade for nothing! WOW! If I had known I could get half my paycheck for doing half or none of the work, I would have been surfing the net on company time years ago. Yeah, that's a real life lesson. And it still doesn't teach them to read.
The students tell me they don't need to read because they can watch everything on the TV or listen to books on audio! I am beginning to think that one day job applications will be completely verbal. No writing, just answering into a little microphone your response to things like name, age, education level... Who needs a high school diploma or a college degree?
Sixty years ago not everyone went to college or finished school, but just knowing how to read, cypher and do math were impressive things. If you were blessed with the means, your education was more robust and harder. Seriously, anyone out there (other than MJenks) know how to read Latin? Speak two or more nonnative languages fluently? Know how to fence and ballroom dance? Can you run a household with a staff similar to that of a small business while maintaining proper decorum and finding a suitable mate before you become a spinster at the rip-old age of 20? How about knowing the simple basics of being a gentleman or lady? Don't even think this stuff is taught these days. I went to cotillion classes when I was in 8th grade. My students have never even heard the word cotillion. Please and thank you won't come out of their mouths without a crowbar and a jack hammer.
No Child Left Behind has not left our children behind, it has lowered the bar to the point that a slug could pass over it and be considered a rocket scientist. I hope one day we will remember that not everyone gets to be a rocket scientist and start making education worth earning. Not just a baby sitting location for children ages 5-17. Society can't handle a 30% drop out rate. The jobs just aren't there anymore and the military isn't a holding ground for them. I am off to figure out how to inspire a new generation to read and write, so that one day their generation will be able to take care of themselves.