Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 11th, 2011

Background Knowledge for any Reading Comprehension?

Irene Sege published on September 27, 2011 under “Background Knowledge and Reading Comprehension” (with slight editing and abridging)

“The recent performance on the third grade reading MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) dipped in 2011.  This disappointing result underscores the need to focus on this critical educational benchmark. Almost two-fifths (39%) of the Bay State’s third graders scored below proficient in 2011, compared with 37% in 2011. Equally disturbing is the fact that performance has remained stagnant since 2001. (See sources in note)

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

In stressing the importance of reading comprehension, Nonie Lesaux, commissioner of Strategies for Children, emphasizes the need to enhance children’s background knowledge across content areas.

In his op-ed, Hirsch notes the decline in SAT verbal scores and calls for “content-rich” learning in early education settings and kindergarten. Hirsch writes: “Those who are language-poor in early childhood get relatively poorer, and fall further behind, while the verbally rich get richer. The origin of this cruel truth lies in the nature of word learning. The more words you already know, the faster you acquire new words. This sounds like an invitation to vocabulary study for tots, but that’s been tried and it’s not effective. Most of the word meanings we know are acquired indirectly, by intuitively guessing new meanings as we understand the overall gist of what we are hearing or reading…. If preschoolers and kindergartener are offered substantial and coherent lessons concerning the human and natural worlds, then the results show up five years or so later in significantly improved verbal scores.”

In the City Journal article, Sol Stern, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, touts Hirsch’s work.  Stern writes: “Among Hirsch’s insights is that disadvantaged kids quickly fall behind in reading because of inadequate background knowledge….Fourth-grade reading scores around the country improved somewhat over the past decade, thanks to greater emphasis on phonics and word decoding in the early grades—a development for which the 2002 No Child Left Behind law was partly responsible. But Hirsch could see that the effect wore off by the eighth grade, as children had to show greater comprehension of more difficult texts. What was missing, he believed, was greater attention in the early grades to building students’ background knowledge. So Hirsch and his foundation created a reading program for the early grades that contained the necessary phonics drills as well as the background knowledge that students need to improve their reading comprehension.”

Former New York Schools Chancellor Joel Klein instituted a reading program based on Hirsch’s work in 10 elementary schools. Initial results seem promising. Stern resumed: “On a battery of reading tests, the kindergartener in the Core Knowledge program had achieved gains five times greater than those of students in the control group. The second-year study showed that the Core Knowledge kids, now in first grade, made reading gains twice as great as those of students in the control group.” Third year results are due this fall.

Lesaux writes: “Reading words is necessary but not sufficient to support text comprehension…. The reader draws on her background knowledge, constantly applying what she already knows about the reading process and the text’s topic while making her way through the word-covered pages. Ultimately, she is advancing her knowledge. But if the words and/or topic are completely unfamiliar or just too difficult to grasp independently, then sounding out the words may look like ‘reading,’ but it is simply an exercise, not supportive of learning.” (End of quote)

Question:  Could you ever learn a skill without practicing, consistently?  Could you gather enough background knowledge without reading? Consistently?  If you don’t like hard cover books, how about surfing the social platforms?  You want to learn reading?  Start reading, consistently.

Do you suffer physical handicaps that obstruct reading? Fix that handicap and get on the business of reading.  Do you have other more important things to do after school than reading?  Ask your teacher to allocate half the class session time to reading, one-quarter of the time for reflection on the text, and the last quarter for correcting erroneous comprehension and knowledge.

There are not enough time allocated to finish the course material? How can it help if the student cannot read and comprehend?  Teach reading first, encourage the students to invest effort on improving their reading skills and comprehension.

Then, students can finish where you left off in course material. You want to learn reading? Read. Read. Acquire background knowledge.

Reality of the world and life is how you perceive and comprehend the reality of the world and life. Reality is yours.  Realities of the others will remain “virtual” realities, no matter how you convince yourself to the contrary. The more you read and invest effort, energy, and time on your comprehension, the more alive and flexible are your perceptions and visions.

We write based on accumulated background knowledge.  If every article is to explain the necessary required background knowledge, it will lose its power of disseminating ideas and positions.

And for whom do we have to expound on side topics? For those who refuse to read in the first place? Should the social platforms displace the role of schooling and forget its objective of disseminating world problems, looking at problems in various perspectives, understanding the many alternatives, and how to overcome difficulties?

Note:  You may read recent op-ed in the New York Times “How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores” by author and critic E.D. Hirsch Jr.

and “A Solution for Gotham’s Reading Woes” in City Journal about a promising New York City pilot program based on Hirsch’s work.

The recommendations in the 2010 report “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” commissioned by Strategies for Children from Nonie Lesaux, a nationally recognized expert in literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

How to gain a friend? What Charlie Chaplin said?

Charlie Chaplin once wrote:

“I have forgiven unpardonable errors. I tried to replace capable people and forget unforgettable people. I acted on impulse. I was deceived by people whom I knew were not capable, but I also deceived people.

I held someone in my arms to protect him. I laughed when I shouldn’t have. I gathered around me eternal friends. I loved and was reciprocated. I was loved, but failed to love in return. I lived of love and made eternal promises, but I broke my heart so many times. I cried listening to music and looking at photos. I could call just to listen to a voice. I fell in love by a simple smile. I was scared of losing unique persons…

I did survive. I am alive and kicking. I can’t get enough of life. You too should cling to life. What is really good is to fight, struggling with persuasion, embracing life, and living with passion. You have got to learn to be a classy loser and vanquish by daring. This world belongs to the daring. Life is too much to resume living insignificantly…” End of quote.

I have read many of these saying, somewhere, by someone, and figured out many by my own experience.

You gain a friend when this “friend” is convinced that you are listening seriously to his opinions, his stories of shortcomings…regardless if you are the emotional type or unable to physically extend gesture of compassion and understanding…Genuine laughs, genuine smiles, genuine tears…People are very intelligent in perception: Never underestimate people’s power of good perception…

The best achievement in life is acquiring sustainable friends; a few friends who recognize your limitations and are always genuinely glad when they perceive that you have been overcoming your shortcomings, that you are not the guy to give up, that you are a survival guy, and who are ever ready to extend a helping hand when they see a good try at improving your situation…

Your sustained friends have great respect for your companionship, your strait-forward opinions, and give your friendship priority in time of temporary and normal depressed cycles…

Not a good idea dying simultaneously with Steve Jobs: Who is Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth?

An Elder Statesman for Civil Rights, dies at 89 on (October 6, 2011).  Was Rev. Fred L. Shuttleswort marching in King’s Shadow?

I was on and read: “It is a shame that Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth death is going unnoticed after Steve Jobs departure”. I asked: “Who is Fred L. Shuttlesworth?”.  I received this link:

DIANE McWHORTER wrote (with slight editing, my style):

“IF you recognized the name of only one of the two greats who succumbed to cancer on Wednesday, that’s perhaps because the work of the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who died at 89 in a hospital in Birmingham, Ala., was about as low-tech as it gets.

Using an operating system of unadorned bodily witness, backed by a headlong courage that often tested the grace of his God, Shuttlesworth was the key architect of the civil rights revolution’s turning-point victory in Birmingham, the mass marches of 1963. The internationally infamous climax, the showdown between the movement’s child demonstrators and the city of Birmingham’s fire hoses and police dogs, gave President John F. Kennedy the moral authority he needed to introduce legislation to abolish legal segregation, passed after his death as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (during President Johnson).

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the reluctant leader whom Shuttlesworth virtually goaded into joining him in Birmingham, got the credit — along with the Nobel Peace Prize — for their accomplishment. But that’s partly because Shuttlesworth was the un-King, the product not of polished Atlanta, but of rough, heavy-industrial Birmingham.

As the public face of the movement, King was its ambassador to the white world, while Mr. Shuttlesworth was the man in the trenches.

Without Shuttlesworth’s strategic acumen and troops, justice would have been dramatically delayed.  Shuttlesworth’s failure to get his due may be yet another example of the country’s reluctance to face up to the “class warfare”, which not only animates the current Occupy Wall Street demonstrations (yet another variation on the Birmingham template), but has long roiled the black community as well.

Among his movement colleagues, Shuttlesworth was known as the Wild Man from Birmingham. He had been a lonely pioneer of nonviolent direct action in the 1950s, dispatching his followers to illegal seats in the front of Birmingham’s buses, the day after the Ku Klux Klan bombed his bed out from under him on Christmas night in 1956.  Later, Shuttlesworth would say: “And this is where I was blown into history”)

He became increasingly frustrated trying to prod King, with whom he and two other black ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, to fulfill their organization’s pledge to “redeem the soul of America.”

If King was Hamlet, not quite able to make up his mind and break away from the ceremonial demands of his role, Shuttlesworth sometimes resembled the Road Runner. Shuttlesworth said: “I literally tried to get myself killed”: He was involved in more bodily attacks, arrests, jail sentences and Supreme Court test cases than any other member of the S.C.L.C.

Shuttlesworth, born to young, unmarried parents and raised in hardship, had a long history of challenging not just white privilege, but the prejudices of what he called the “tea sippers” of his own race, who had shunned his largely working-class movement, until its success appeared inevitable, thanks to his efforts.

It was that experience that drove his often-tense relationship with King during the Birmingham protests. At one point, the S.C.L.C.’s “Atlanta crowd” had tried to call off the demonstrations, while Shuttlesworth was in the hospital recovering from injuries inflicted by one of the fire hoses of his equally determined nemesis, the arch-segregationist police commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor.

Shuttlesworth, who readily acknowledged being a “cussing preacher,” used some hurtful profanity in letting King know what he thought of this capitulation — and overruled him, declaring the demonstrations back on.

When King traveled to Oslo the next year to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, won mainly because of the success in Birmingham, Shuttlesworth was not included in the sizable entourage that accompanied King. There is a sense that he was paying the price for being the first S.C.L.C. leader to buck King’s authority — with the added insult of being right.

Not surprisingly, the man forever being eased out of the limelight, had his own passing superseded within hours by the head-of-state mourning that greeted the death of Steven P. Jobs. Steve Jobs is being remembered as the “the man who invented our world,” in the words of one headline, celebrated for creating objects to which their owners relate as though they were human.

Shuttlesworth’s legacy reminds us of the not-so-distant era when the task of our heroes was to persuade society to regard as human a class of people who had long been treated as things.

A few years ago, after Mr. Shuttlesworth had survived a house fire, I teased him about his continuing record of close calls, saying that, even though the segregationists hadn’t done him in, somebody was going to get him one way or the other.  He replied: “Yeah, and when they do, God’s going to say, ‘They got a man.’ ” End of article.

Once, an officer approached  Shuttlesworth saying: “Reverend, I’ll tell you what I would do. I’d get outta town as quick as I could.”

Shuttlesworth responded: “Officer, you are not me. Tell your clan, if God saved me through all this, I am here for the duration. And the war is just beginning.”

I wonder: “Why President Obama cheated out his constituency from their rights?  Is proving to the White Elite Class that, by not diverging from their policies, he is giving the impression that high ranked Black leaders are for continuity, regardless of ignominy and indignity in the current political morass?

Note: Diane McWhorter is the author of “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.”




October 2011

Blog Stats

  • 1,522,172 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 770 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: