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Protect Your Children from Common-Core Teaching March 2, 2016

Report: Requiring kindergartners to read -- as Common Core does -- may harm some.

The Common Core State Standards call for kindergartners to learn how to read, but a new report by early childhood experts says that forcing some kids to read before they are ready could be harmful.
Two organizations that advocate for early childhood education -- Defending the Early Years and Alliance for Childhood -- issued the report titled "Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose."  It says there is no evidence to support a widespread belief in the United States that children must read in prekindergarten or kindergarten to become strong readers and achieve academic success.

The researchers found that:
* Many children are not developmentally ready to read in kindergarten, yet the Common Core State Standards require them to do just that. This is leading to inappropriate classroom practices.
* No research documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten.
* Research shows greater gains from play-based programs than from preschools and kindergartens with a more academic focus.
* Children learn through playful, hands-on experiences with materials, the natural world, and engaging, caring adults.
* Active, play-based experiences in language-rich environments help children develop their ideas about symbols, oral language and the printed word -- all vital components of reading.
* We are setting unrealistic reading goals and frequently using inappropriate methods to accomplish them.
* In play-based kindergartens and preschools, teachers intentionally design language and literacy experiences which help prepare children to become fluent readers.
* The adoption of the Common Core State Standards falsely implies that having children achieve these standards will overcome the impact of poverty on development and learning, and will create equal educational opportunity for all children.

The report says that kindergarten has since the 1980s become increasingly academic -- with big pushes from President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind and President Obama's Race to the Top -- and that today many children are being asked to do things they are not ready to do.

Read the full story at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/13/report-requiring-kindergartners-to-read-as-common-core-does-may-harm-some/

Now for the interesting part. I've been teaching speed reading skills since 1975. And in my classes I found some adults with above-average reading skills who showed great improvement in my classes, and I found other adults with below-average reading skills who showed lesser improvement in my classes. So back in the late 80's I set out to figure why. Studying some 1000 of my students, I looked at race, age, professions, education, socio-economic environment and nothing came close to shedding light on the subject. Then I asked them how old they were when they first started learning how to read. The results were amazing. The two bell-curves were almost identical. Amongst the below-average adult readers, the bell-curve peaked at age 5. Amongst the above-average readers, the bell-curve peaked at age 7.

Further investigation started to explain this. Amongst the below-average readers, they recalled bad experiences. Being asked to read out aloud, losing their place in the text and being ridiculed and teased by the other students. Not enjoying the reading process and lack of self-confidence. Poor understanding of the material. Lack of appreciation of the subject material. This tended to discourage reading and the skill failed to develop, resulting in later-life boredom, tiredness and distractions while reading.

Physiologically the younger kids were not ready to start the complicated process of moving the eyes along the line and across and down the page and converting the visual stimuli of words into mental images, concepts and ideas. Quite simply, the word "milk" means nothing if you have not tasted it, spilled it, played with it. Similarly, the word "dog" is pretty meaningless until you have romped with a pooch, had your face licked and a thrown ball fetched. 

I figured that children need to spend time in the laboratory of life - experiencing life through play, touch, feel, smell, taste, sound - experiencing reality in a word-rich environment before being faced with abstract words that mean little or nothing until paired with remembered experiences.

With my own children, I endeavored to replace reading learning with word-rich play-time learning for as long as possible. At age 7, when my son started the process of reading, he set the pace. Trying to play computer games, he needed solutions but could not read the instruction book. So he had to get his older sister to read for him and to give him the information he wanted. Then frustrated by her unavailability, but still determined to play the computer games, he endeavored to read for himself. He set the pace. And every piece of information he read, he converted to a remembered experience, an application, a need. The abstract of text was being converted to real life experience.

I suggest that the concept of reading is misunderstood. Comprehension does not take place in the text, but rather in the brain. Words have no meaning. Words are just stimuli to trigger a response in the brain ... if the brain has been programmed to respond to that stimulus. Learning vocabulary is more than simply learning the meaning of words -- we need to actually smell, touch, taste and experience the physical, visual or emotional actuality of what the word represents. 

In Search of "Disruptive Thinkers" March 9, 2016

The US Marine Corps is asking an unlikely source for help. Commandant General Robert Neller has put out the call for "disruptive thinkers" Marines who live outside the box, who love to challenge the status quo, and who are often viewed as trouble makers.

Neller wants nothing short of a cultural revolution -- a new era in which Marines are encouraged to come up with solutions, and leaders serve as advocates to accelerate those ideas to decision makers.

Here's the link if you missed the article -- http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2016/03/04/commandant-looks-disruptive-thinkers-fix-corps-problems/81279544/

Pretty strong stuff this. And perhaps something that's needed across the entire societal spectrum, from Government, to corporations and right down to our education system. There's been far too much of "we do it this way because we've always done it this way." At least the Corps is admitting it has "groupthink" problems.  What about our educational system? And equally dysfunctional, our immigration system? Continuing to do things "because we've always done it that way."

But there's the rub. Where does disruptive heckling, complaining and whining stop, and disruptive thinking start? We've all seen those ignorant dumbasses that want to change the status quo to suit their own ignorant, uninformed, minimalistic points of view. These people serve little purpose other than being irritants and time-wasters.

And how do we encourage disruptive thinkers to speak up, without fear of punishment? Read the "monkey-report" at  http://www.psychcongress.com/blogs/leslie-durr-phd-rn-pmhcns-bc/resistance-change-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-irrational-beliefs

The disruptive thinker's first task is to attain a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the current status quo. A full mastery of the facts. And only then, to bring the full weight of his knowledge, wisdom and experience to bear in a critical analysis of the status quo in search of a solution or a range of possible solutions.

Knowledge is the key that separates the "disruptive thinker" from the disruptive. Mark Zuckerberg observed that Google's strong academic culture empowered it to find elegant solutions to complex problems. Tony Zinni said that while knowledge does not always solve problems, it expands the number of possible solutions to unique problems. Let's face it, an informed, considered opinion is pretty hard to ignore.

The biggest obstacle is to overcome our Henry Ford production line approach to knowledge. To get beyond compartmentalized knowledge - your job is to pack widgets in the box -- you don't need to know why, or where they came from, or where they're going, or what they're used for -- just pack them in the box.  And to do this, we need to read. Loads of it. And not just about my own turf, but yours and everyone else in the street, the neighborhood and even the city, state and country. And even that is not enough I received a letter from a Marine Corps Captain, writing from Afghanistan, a student of history, considering the wisdom of the USA attempting to do in Afghanistan what no other nation in history has managed to do, yet using essentially the same groupthink as previous invaders and occupiers. Unrealistic?  Then ask yourself why we still teach our children to read the same way we were taught to read, which is the same way our parents and grand-parents were taught to read? An approach to reading no more advanced than the ox-wagon is to transport.

As critical as knowledge for the disruptive thinker, is timing. Questioning an invasion strategy in the heat of battle is clearly unwise. However, planning an invasion strategy without the input of experienced, battle-hardened and knowledgeable grunts is equally unwise.

True leadership comes from accepting that we don't have all the answers. Being big enough to listen to those with different, even opposing, ideas. Being wise enough to realize that within our work-force we have an enormous well of untapped talent and knowledge. We just need to ask and then listen.