Archive for the ‘literacy’ Category

Assessing American High School Students: Not a Pretty Picture

April 2, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

In the average American big city among 17 assessed, only about 34% of the high school students graduate. About 60% of those same young people have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).What does this say about America’s future? And why aren’t we hearing solutions to these glaring social ills from our candidates for President of the United States?

“The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837.

Wouldn’t he be proud of today’s teenagers, their parents and teachers?

In the most recent study of high school graduation trends, seventeen of the nation’s 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, with the lowest graduation rates reported in Detroit, Indianapolis and Cleveland, according to a report released April 1, 2008.

The study was conducted by America’s Promise Alliance, an organization founded by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell. His wife Alma chaired the assessment group.Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.jpg
Colin Powell while serving as Secretary of State.  We at Peace
and Freedom
have the utmost respect for Colin and Alma Powell for their work.

“When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it’s more than a problem, it’s a catastrophe,” said Powell. “This has to stop. We, as a nation, must correct this problem.”

“We must invest in the whole child, and that means finding solutions that involve the family, the school and the community,” said Alma Powell.

While more than one million boys and girls drop out of high school, more than 3 million girls nationwide have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

“This is pretty shocking,” said Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital in New York.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sponsored the STD study.

“Those numbers are certainly alarming,” said sex education expert Nora Gelperin, who works with a teen-written Web site called sexetc.org. She said they reflect “the sad state of sex education in our country.”

“Sexuality is still a very taboo subject in our society,” she said. “Teens tell us that they can’t make decisions in the dark and that adults aren’t properly preparing them to make responsible decisions.”

The Associated Press reported that the teens were tested for four infections: human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18 percent of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4 percent; trichomoniasis, 2.5 percent; and genital herpes, 2 percent.

Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC’s division of STD prevention, said the results are the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls.

He said the data, now a few years old, likely reflect current prevalence rates.

Disease rates were significantly higher among black girls — nearly half had at least one STD, versus 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-Americans.

Besides high school graduation rates and rates of sexually transmitted diseases, how else might we seek information on American teenagers?

One area already assessed is the rate that our nation reads and “self-educates.”

We’ve written about and commented about reading trends several times in multiple publications.

But a Washington Times editorial published November 21, 2007 said it best: when it comes to reading many Americans have decidd not to.

Bombarded with media, computers and video games, their reading habits are declining measurably. Nor is it simply the young.

In an unprecedented research synthesis released this week, the National Endowment for the Arts shows how reading habits have declined in recent years with a grim picture of what could only be called the nation’s nonreading public.

Here are some of the troubling highlights of “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence.”

From 1982 to 2002, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who read literature dropped from 60 percent to 43 percent. Fifty-two percent of the same age demographic said they read a book voluntarily in 2002, which is down from 59 percent a decade earlier.

The percentage of 17-year-olds who read for pleasure almost every day dropped from 31 percent to 22 percent over the period 1984-2004. It also seems that a college education is ever less a guarantee of good reading skills. The sole bright spot occurs among 9-year-olds, whose reading comprehension has improved over the last decade.

Barring this exception, the results are remarkably and troublingly consistent in study after study. Money spent on books in the United States dropped 14 percent during the period 1985-2005 when accounting for inflation. Seventy-two percent of employers report finding high-school graduates “deficient” in reading comprehension.

And the number of adults with bachelor’s degrees who score “proficient in reading prose” fell from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.

With the rise of the Internet and online news consumption, some might argue that queries about “reading” fail to capture the entire picture if they do not account for online activities. But all modes of reading are not equal.

We might take this argument more seriously when teenagers are found reading Shakespeare or Herman Melville online. Far likelier they are surfing MySpace or Facebook.

Our increasing failure to read constitutes a kind of creeping national illiteracy which should concern everyone, not simply librarians and booksellers.

Literacy is an integral aspect of civil society. Substance, culture and literature should not be the ironic casualties of the “Information Age.”

All we’ve discussed here still leaves out the disabling impact of drugs, alcohol and teen pregnancy on our younger generation.

The only conclusion one can possibly draw from reading the reports on high school graduation rates, sexually transmitted disease rates and reading trends among American youth is this: unless action is taken we are a nation with a future at risk.

There are about 300 million Americans just now. There are about 1.3 billion Chinese.

And China has a world recognized machine for turning out the educated young people it needs.

One has to draw his or her own conclusions.
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Compiled from the official reports cited in the text, AFP, AP, UPI, Fox News, ABC News The Washington Times and CNN.

Related:

U.S. High Schools Graduate “About Half” in Cities

Study finds 1 in 4 US teens has a STD

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse: Alarming Facts

Harry Potter: More Worthless Pop Culture

Kids reading fewer books despite Harry Potter hoopla

The End of Literacy? Don’t Stop Reading.

The Dumbing Of America; Nation of Dunces?

Government study: Americans reading less

High Prescription Drug Use and Abuse in Colleges

American High Schools: Abysmally Few Graduates

The End of Literacy? Don’t Stop Reading.

February 17, 2008

By Howard Gardner
The Washington Post
Sunday, February 17, 2008; Page B01.
.
What will happen to reading and writing in our time?
.
Could the doomsayers be right? Computers, they maintain, are destroying literacy. The signs — students’ declining reading scores, the drop in leisure reading to just minutes a week, the fact that half the adult population reads no books in a year — are all pointing to the day when a literate American culture becomes a distant memory. By contract, optimists foresee the Internet ushering in a new, vibrant participatory culture of words. Will they carry the day?
.
Maybe neither. Let me suggest a third possibility: Literacy — or an ensemble of literacies — will continue to thrive, but in forms and formats we can’t yet envision.

Read the rest:
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/15/AR2008021502898.html

Pakistan: Eye Witness Account from Muhammad, December 26, 2007

December 26, 2007

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir,

Hoping you and your team will be alright. Today I have read a report carried by various newspapers in Pakistan. The US aid plan for Pakistan’s tribal areas is in jeopardy as there are concerns about the lack of an adequate system to keep track of the money, according to The New York Times.

The plan calls for $750 million to be used in the areas over a five-year period, but some say it’s unrealistic to think that the money could be targeted properly in a lawless region where the government has little, if any, influence and there is no US troop presence, the report published on Tuesday added.The civilian aid programme would provide jobs and schooling, build 600 miles of roads and improve literacy in an area where almost no women can read.

Some US lawmakers are concerned that a rush to spend could lead to some of the same problems that were experienced in Iraq, particularly since the plan for Pakistan would also heavily rely on private contractors that can “eat up as much as half the budget.”

As of now, the programme is scheduled to start slowly and will eschew mention of its American origins since there is so much anti-US sentiment in the region.

“My sense is they are ready to start, but who is going to be responsible for management?”  Congressman John F. Tierney asked.

Mr Tierney, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is one of several members of Congress who have begun pushing the State Department for details of how the civilian aid will be monitored.

They said they had not received satisfactory answers.

The importance of the issue, they said, was underlined by the scores of investigations into corruption connected with huge amounts of money and equipment for reconstruction and strengthening Iraq’s army and police forces that cannot be accounted for. “We’re not quite certain about it,” Mr Tierney said. “I have concerns that it not be a repeat of situations in Iraq.”

The new programme is meant to start slowly, with about $350 million to be made available for bidding initially. Among the handful of companies invited to bid are DynCorp International and Creative Associates International Inc, both of which won substantial contracts in Iraq. How effective they will be in the tribal areas is equally uncertain.The Pakistani authorities have ruled out using foreign non-profit groups, known as NGOs, shorthand for nongovernmental organizations. But neither do they approve the American choice of private contractors. They would like the money to go through them.

“We are living in times when NGOs are considered to be all out to convert tribesmen,” Javed Iqbal, until recently the additional chief secretary of Fata told the Times.

“To deal with the tribesmen, you have to understand the tribes,” Mr Iqbal said.  “You cannot ask a woman how frequently she takes contraception, which was one of the questions on an NGO questionnaire. The first reaction is going to box you in the face, and then tell you to get lost”

But Mr Iqbal said he was convinced that the for-profit companies would take a disproportionate amount of the programme money. “Forty-eight per cent of the programme money goes to consultants,” he said.

Dear Sir, I want to bring in your kind notice that Peace and Freedom can deliver positive result in the tribal areas if the task was given to it. It has been enjoying the support of people of tribal areas. The corrupt Pakistani officials should be ignored in this plan.

According to report from other parts of tribal areas, Violence spread to more areas in the Kurram Agency on Tuesday amid reports of infiltration of militants from nearby areas, sources said.

Four people were killed and 10 others were injured in clashes during the day, raising the death toll to 12 in three days. Doctors said that 32 injured people had been admitted to the agency headquarters hospital in Parachinar. However, the exact casualty figures could not be ascertained.Political Agent Zaheerul Islam confirmed only seven casualties in three days of clashes.

A senior official told Dawn in Peshawar that the Civil Secretariat, Fata, had sought more army troops to cope with the situation. “The authorities have formally requested the 11 Corps Headquarters to send more troops to the agency to control the situation,” the official said.

The ISPR’s Director-General, Maj-Gen Waheed Arshad, however, said that an adequate number of troops had already been deployed in the region. If local authorities needed reinforcements, the army would take their demand into consideration, said Maj-Gen Arshad.

A security official, Shakil Qadir, confirmed that skirmishes continued in different parts of the agency and there was a likelihood of reconvening the peace jirga to broker a ceasefire.A 15-member jirga from Hangu had left the area after it failed to broker a truce. It was constituted by the NWFP governor.

Heavy clashes were reported from Sadda, Balishkhel, Alizai, Tangai, Anzeri and Shashu. Security was tightened in Parachinar city and authorities did not relax curfew restrictions on Tuesday.

In the Balishkhel area, rival groups set houses on fire, displacing a large number of people.

Dear Sir, thank you very much again!

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas Pakistan