Test scores can bring pain to schools. Are we becoming a nation of nonreaders?
|Will reading become irrelevant?
School annual yearly progress reports are out and the news is mixed. I think that only in America is so much time, effort and money put into evaluating and analyzing the abilities of so many students on so many levels. The goals for No Child Left Behind are high and each year the percentages required increase. The average person may not realize that a school may have made progress, but if they didn’t make enough progress as arbitrarily set by NCLB, then the school gets no credit for that standard. Students, teachers and schools need support from parents and the community.
I was thinking about these tests and became intrigued by a teaser on my internet news home page recently that asked if reading would matter in the future. Michael Rogers, a futurist in the sense of contemplating, predicting and writing about possible future scenarios, questioned the worth of words. A cartoon illustration showed a young man wearing a graduation cap and gown holding a copy of a Dick and Jane reader upside down. The column was preceded by a quote from the president of the American Library Association about the association’s survey of adult literacy in America. The survey had concluded that only 31% of college graduates could read a complex book and extrapolate from it. (I checked the definition of extrapolate in my college dictionary and found that I was right when I believed it to mean infer. Making an inference requires bringing personal prior knowledge to new text to understand its meaning.) Rogers predicted that the computer and the many technological devices that exist today would make actual reading unnecessary for the average person in the future.
I would like to see this American Library Association survey given to high school graduates of all ages. My prediction would be that a high percentage of older Americans who didn’t go to college would, nevertheless, be able to read a complex book and extrapolate from it, especially if a dictionary were available to use during that reading. That is because they read on a regular basis, have life experience and can think for themselves. They probably read with a dictionary nearby and consider it a valuable tool. They read newspapers, magazines, fiction and nonfiction books and information on the internet regularly. They use reading for information and entertainment. They have great respect and a healthy appetite for words.
Michael Rogers’ futurist column went on to provide a future prediction of an editorial for the year 2025 that stated only five percent of college graduates could read a complex book and extrapolate from it. I hope that many will join the ranks of avid readers of the future and will prove him wrong.