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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Time to Get Angry about Reading



One third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
Forty two percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

Jenkins group


Is education killing the future of those it is designed to inspire? Are we lighting the love for learning or dousing the flames of potential greatness?

Reading


 When will we wake up?

Reading nourishes my life, soul, and essence. When I have a problem, I find a book. I have an affection for my Kindle. I collect books signed by authors. Books improve my life in very real ways from helping me lose weight, to be a better parent, to being a better wife and teacher. 


 Brian Tracy says:

"Earl Nightingale said many years ago that one hour per day of study in your chosen field was all it takes. One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do."


In the five years since I read that, I've worked to hit that mark - tucking in a quick book or blog during halftime of the basketball game or while under the hair dryer at the beauty shop. Reading is life, success, and love. Judge for yourself if it has helped me contribute to the field of educational technology and teaching.

Death by Numbers
We are just playing death by numbers here. As long as kids are bubbling in the right answers, we think we've taught them something? What if we had a society where everyone read an hour a day? What would that look like? 

If you want to see educators get all snooty, send them to a conference and make them experience death by PowerPoint. I've seen over half a room at ISTE clear out when a speaker droned on. We weren't learning and we (some quite rudely) left.

We vote with our feet. 

Students vote with their lives. 


Our students experience death by numbers. It is a common malady in most schools today. Tests are important but most of us agree that it has gone too far.


Fear Will Only Get Us So Far

Fear often incites us to improve but it is not a long term response. Yes we should be afraid of a future led by people who only have their own minds to pull from. A society that doesn't study history repeats history. Let's learn from past mistakes.


Time to Get Angry
Anger, I think is a better response. 

Like the moment I stood on that street corner my first day at Georgia Tech and the pimply, greasy haired sophomore looked down his bespeckled nose at me and said:

"Humph. You're just a little girl from a small town. You'll never make it here at Georgia Tech. You've never had an AP class and you can't make it here. You're just here to get your M-R-S degree anyway.

I think that by the end of this quarter you'll be standing on this same street corner crying with your bags packed waiting for Momma to come pick you up. You just can't cut it here in the big leagues and you're just small town girl."
I was ANGRY.


I used that as ANGER and at the end of that semester I had a 4.0 in my mailbox. At the end of my time at Georgia Tech I was first in my class. Anger (and a drive to do my best) sustained me. As I sat in the library at 2 am I pictured his face and used it to make me study another 2 hours that I needed. Whatever it took there was nothing that was going to stand in my way.

"I may not be smarter, but I can work harder." became my motto. It still is.


That is what we need now in education: ANGER.

Not irate yelling sessions at school board meetings. Anger at ourselves. Parents who complain their kids aren't reading should know that kids read if their parents read. 

Point one finger at someone else and you have four pointing back at yourself.


No, I'm talking anger at ourselves for not doing better. Anger at a system that is producing people who hate learning. Anger that we are not brave enough to tackle and do what needs to be done. The kind of anger that causes ACTION.

If we know it is wrong DO SOMETHING
Sylvia Martinez recently wrote about the AP tests that are PROVEN to be biased (against women) and that just putting a gender box at the beginning of a test biased the results as we all seek to conform to stereotypes. 

Sylvia tweeted this quote to me as we talked on Twitter:



The decision to do nothing is a decision to do something. 


No Anger, Know Shame then Know Anger
If our fear won't move us forward, maybe our anger will. Because if we don't get angry, eventually we will be motivated by our shame. And in the end, that shame might just make us angry enough to do something.

Change is hard but change is needed here and everywhere.

  • Isn't it time to get angry that almost a third  NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK -- IN THEIR LIFE?
  • Isn't it time to get angry that  almost HALF of COLLEGE graduates NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK -- IN THEIR LIFE!

Oh, you say, they are reading blogs, books aren't important. 

I don't care who you are, but books represent some of the highest forms of scholarly work we have and they have value in our society along with the blogs and tweets that carry us forward. They are part of being a lifelong learner. It might not be on paper but it is a book.


I'm asking you to get angry. Reading is important to every discipline, every content area. It is part of what makes us civilized.

What can you do? What can I do? I know at our school, the Kindle kids corner project has invited a love for reading. (We'll be bringing other schools in soon.)

Let's work on this problem together.
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