Last night, using a screening code from my sister, I watched a documentary entitled "The Right to Read." It describes how many school districts in the United States teach reading wrong, and consequently a lot of students don't learn it, and of course these students are disproportionately not white. The wrong method teaches students to guess words based on the accompanying pictures instead of learning how each letter and each word is pronounced. It kind of blew my mind. Educators and curriculum manufacturers presumably learned to read when they were children, so it kind of blows my mind that they don't know how children learn to read. Teaching is kind of a fustercluck altogether. When I trained as a graduate instructor, I constantly had to read things that were like, "This is how teaching has been done forever, but it's wrong and stupid and needs to change." That was rather intimidating for someone brand new to the profession. In fairness, just thinking about teaching a kid to read English the correct way gives me a headache. After every rule, I'd have to add, "But don't get too attached to it, because half the words you see won't follow it." So I get why adults would want to skip that and hope the kids figure it out on their own.
Because of the disproportionate racial impact, the NAACP is leading the charge for childhood literacy. The documentary emphasizes over and over that we live in the information age and that if you can't read, you have little access to that information, and you're powerless. I would argue that the very next priority needs to be critical thinking, because millions of people do have access to all the information and are still utter morons. But literacy is a necessary first step. I was reminded of something I've contemplated a lot lately - that most of my opportunities and potential in life have little to do with my personal merits or choices, and a lot to do with where I was born, when I was born, and how much money my parents had. I'm sure many, many people as smart as Einstein have lived insignificant and forgotten lives because nobody gave them what they needed to thrive. Granted, I'm sure the same thing has happened to many people as evil as Hitler, so it's not all bad news.
The racial disparities also reminded me of my least favorite middle school to teach at. It was incredibly not-white by Utah standards. I've been in classes where more than half the kids were Latino. I wonder where all their parents are, because the overwhelming majority of adults that I see in adult spaces were and still are white. Anyway, a disproportionate percentage of the kids who wouldn't stay in their seats, wouldn't be quiet, and wouldn't do their work were Latino. I'm sure this was because of their socioeconomic status, and I'm sure the school didn't address the root issues by sending them to the refocus room or suspending them. Of course I, a lowly substitute teacher with no rights, was in no position to address the root issues either. There were a few that I expect to be in jail within five years. And that will pretty much ruin their lives and perpetuate the cycle. That could have been me; I could have been born into their circumstances. I really can't take much credit for my accomplishments. I could give God the credit, but I'm not comfortable with him playing favorites. I just tend to think that society is a dumpster fire that only works exactly the way it was intended to when it's screwing certain groups of people over.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.