Raising Literacy Part 1:
Integrity In Education
by Bill Lauritzen
I lost my intellectual innocence
in the first grade.
We had three reading groups in my school in a small, midwestern
town: the sparrows, the robins, and the
bluejays. I was in the robins, and was
struggling to read. What were all these mysterious sign and symbols
surrounding me everywhere? I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted
to understand it.
One day the teacher came to our group and one girl, Sara, read
a list of words from a chart. I dont remember the words,
but they were simple words like: red, cat, bed, top, etc. She
read them all off without hesitation.
The teacher asked her to go to another part of the room. Next,
my friend began rattling them off, red, cat,
bed, top, .... The teacher sent him also to another part
of the room. He gave me a smug look as he walked away.
Huh? What was going on here? The teacher asked if I wanted to
read the words. I said, Sure. I didnt really
know what all the words meant, but I sort of held my breath and
reeled them off, red, cat, bed, top ... , acting
like I knew what I was saying. The teacher bought it. She sent
me to join the others in the new group, which were the bluebirds.
Upon arriving at the bluebirds I quickly found out
that we were the highest group. I had been sitting complacently
with just an average group. To tell the truth I had
been quite content to be in the robins. But now that
I was in the bluebirds, I didnt know how to go back. I
didnt know how to tell the teacher that I wanted a retest,
in which I could pause, and fumble, and squint, as I reached
for the meaning of each word along with the sound.
That was the beginning of a career in education in which I was
constantly afraid of being found out. I had to watch carefully
what the other students were doing, and do as they did. I was
a fake, a parrot. I memorized words without really understanding
Teachers gave me As and Bs on my report card
and I actually convinced myself I was smart. I got by as long
as no one asked me to apply what I was studying. One girl in
high school use to tease me, You can get straight As, but
cant tie your shoes.
Later, when I had difficulties on the job, I blamed everyone
and everything but myself. Eventually, I was smart enough to
go back through my entire education, working backwards, looking
up in the dictionary every important word in every subject I
had studied, and linking them to the dynamic, real world. I wore
out a couple of dictionaries this way. I learned to this partly
from the work of L. Ron Hubbard, who in addition to some of his
bizarre teachings, had some good ones.
Then I began to study education. As a result of my experience,
I can usually see right away when someone is a fake student.
Or a fake teacher. Or a fake president.
Quite frankly, our schools, our universities, our businesses,
our government has many fakes. This is because our educational
system often cranks out high school graduates that cant
read, college graduates that cant apply, and teachers that
cant educate. Like me, they were passed along to the higher
grade, year after year, even though they didnt understand.
Now they somehow get by on sports, good looks, the money of their
parents, job-hopping, intimidation, imitation, or outright fraud.
On the job, the real work gets done by those few who had the
integrity to struggle through it the hard way.
So dont be a fake. Reach for meaning. Do it the hard way,
the honest way.
Part 1 of a series on raising
literacy by William Lauritzen. He holds a masters degree in
Industrial Psychology/Ergonomics and has studied education for
over 15 years.