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Monday, February 4, 2002

L.A. Daily News

CSUN’s remediation program points to failures of public schools

CALIFORNIA State University, Northridge, has no reason to be embarrassed by
the disclosure that 60 percent of its freshmen class need remediation in
English and/or math.
The shame here belongs to the state’s public-education system.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
"The shame here belongs to the state's public-education system." It
is exactly this that is not said often enough. No one within public
education or the educational profession accepts responsibility. Their
reaction is to invoke "learning disabilities," and psychiatric
"disorders"/"diseases"/"chemical imbalances", blaming the victim's brain
for the failure, when no such thing can be proved. ADHD, "dyslexia," and
all "learning disabilities," invented by psychiatry, neurology and
pediatrics, are, first and foremost, excuses for the brazen,
refusing-to-be-accountable, educational establishment and is the stuff
of the incredible growth industry that is "special education" that dumbs
down and medicalizes the lives of normal children and assures, according
to the false prognoses that go with the false diagnoses that none will
be educated.]

It’s safe to assume that high-school graduates headed for CSUN, or for that
matter, any college or university, are a well-motivated group. They may not
rank at the very top of their class, but they certainly aren’t just
squeaking by, either.

If 60 percent of the state’s CSUN-bound students can’t read or write at a
college level, what does that say about the majority of the state’s
high-school graduates who don’t go to college at all? What chance do they
have to learn the skills necessary to prosper in the modern economy?

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Only 32% of the nation's fourth-graders read at grade level , i.e.,
68% are less than proficient . And, researchers warn, the consequence of
reading failure in a technology-dependent world is a host of social and
economic ills (see Lawmakers move to improve literacy by Tamara Henry USA TODAY 6 11 01) . Thirty-three years of
study by the NIH found that of the 10% to 15% of children who will
eventually drop out of school, more than 75% will report reading
difficulties. Only 2% of students getting special education for reading
problems will complete a four-year college program. Further research
shows that half (50%) of the adolescents and young adults with criminal
records have difficulty reading. In some states, the size of prisons a
decade in the future is predicted by fourth-grade reading failure rates.
And, our failing educational "profession" is to blame. Experts say about
5% of the nation's children learn to read and write with ease. Almost
intuitively, they develop an understanding that letters can be sounded
out to make words. The beginning reader must learn the connections
between the 42 sounds of spoken English -- called phonemes -- and the 26
letters of the alphabet. An additional 20% to 30% learn to read
relatively easily once they enter school and begin formal instruction.
But the bulk of the students, about 60%, have difficulty. About 20% to
30% of these mainly low-income and minority children struggle with
reading throughout high school. This is a
failing-school-system-friendly, self-serving, statement. If intensive,
systematic phonics were to be the prevailing method, nation-wide,
applied to the normal, incoming students, expectantly, the rates of
illiteracy, now so incredibly high, would plummet dramatically, just as
is the case in the too-few, private and parochial academies serving
deprived, inner city kids, where literacy rates approximate 100%]

At least the students headed for CSUN are getting brought up to standard in
their first year. By raising expectations, CSUN has made real progress in
bringing its students up to speed. Of the 3,865 needing remediation in
English and/or math in 2001, only 87 were expelled for failing to catch up.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
proving they were capable of literacy all along, not
"brain-damaged" not learning disabled, but, failed by their public
school teachers]

Those who don’t go on to CSUN or a comparable school aren’t so lucky.

It shouldn’t be up to colleges and universities to teach their freshmen
basic English and math. If students need a crash course, it should be
available to them in high school.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
There is no evidence that "dyslexia" is a diagnosable disease
conferring an inherent inability to learn to read. This being the case,
it must be expected, as in home-schooling, private and parochial schools
across the country, that the children can learn to read and then, their
teachers must be responsible, grade-by-grade for having them reading at
age- and grade-appropriate levels. The "special education"/"learning
disability" industry, however, waits in the wings, eager to make fodder
of all not given this fundamental survival skill. And let there be no
mistake, within this twisted combine, there is more of a bounty for
creating a "dyslexic" than a reader.]

This should be one of the key functions of standardized testing, beyond
simply evaluating teachers and schools. Testing should be used to determine
which students require help, then the help should be provided.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Teachers intent on rendering their elementary students literate,
routinely have one and all read aloud and can and should know far better
than any standardized test, how well each reads. When I went to PS 20 in
Flushing, LI, NY in the 40s' this is how it was done and all of us, from
all parts of town and even the wrong side of the tracks read eagerly and
well and their were no "learning disabilities" and there was no "special
education" there was only education." Our favorite activity, from which
no one shied was the spelling bee. Teachers today are fad-bound, calling
it "state of the art" while at the same time they take not an iota of
responsibility for seeing that each individual pupil can read. This
being the case, let their be no doubt that they are to blame for every
failed life resulting from the illiteracy that they have allowed. ]

California’s botched high-school exit exam, for all its shortcomings, could
be the perfect vehicle for making sure that no one graduates without a basic
comprehension of the curriculum. Students would take the test every year
until they pass it. If they failed, they would be enrolled in an extra,
remedial class.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Once again, every teacher should know the reading level of every
student and should know that every child is capable of literacy and
that it is their responsibility to see that each one attains age- and
grade-appropriate literacy. ]

That way, students would get the education they need as early as possible,
instead of in college, or not at all.

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