Focus Point - The Education FightCommentary by Pete du Pont
May 02, 2001
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett recently weighed in on the subject of literacy - or rather, the lack of it.
Forty years ago a study showed the established method of teaching kids how to read - phonics - gave beginning readers what they needed to break the code of language while fads like the whole language didn't.
But we've ignored the warning, and watched literacy levels plummet. Forty years after the study, 37 percent of fourth graders can't read on a basic level, and only eight percent can read at an advanced level.
Meanwhile many school districts still teach whole language and shun phonics. This is the educational equivalent of ignoring a proven vaccine while administering a failed treatment, despite the falling bodies.
President Bush's proposals for accountability are good, but as Bennett points out, initiatives on the federal level can't succeed without local districts introducing similar efforts. As he says, the action's local, and the fight has to be local too.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, why the fight's going to be a tough one.