Monday, August 21, 2006

"Writing off Reading" ...

We'd be remiss not to mention this very significant, poignant piece in Sunday's Washington Post (yesterday) which talked about how this multi-media maddened society is driving our young minds farther away from reading. The art of conversation is, indeed, lost:

In our better private universities and flagship state schools today, it's hard to find a student who graduated from high school with much lower than a 3.5 GPA, and not uncommon to find students whose GPAs were 4.0 or higher. They somehow got these suspect grades without having read much. Or if they did read, they've given it up. And it shows -- in their writing and even in their conversation.

When students with A averages can't write simple English, it shouldn't be surprising that people ask what a high school diploma is really worth. In California this year, hundreds of high school students, many with good grades, faced the prospect of not graduating because they could not pass a state-mandated exit exam. Although a judge overturned the effort, legislators (not always so literate themselves) in other states have also called for exit exams. It's hardly unreasonable to ask that students demonstrate a minimum competency in basic subjects, especially English.

Now, beware: some might easily dismiss Elon University professor Michael Skube's argument as ensconced within a White middle-class bubble; but, we'd like to point out that that's the point -internally, the African American community must set its intellectual standards much higher. There is no reason why, for example, students from other countries speak, write and command better English than many African Americans of the same age.

If Skube is describing this problem as alarming amongst average, well-to-do, backpacking White kids who make it to college, just imagine the extent of this problem among our Black youth, particularly the overwhelming numbers of Black men who are not going to college. And while Juan Williams, Bill Cosby, etc. and various public intellectuals express displeasure at the pervasiveness of "bling" and "ghetto" culture, we don't see enough of us in the public policy & activism community expressing how absolutely critical it is for us to achieve that most basic function: reading.