California, my state, ranks 41st in the country when it comes to the well-being of children, a ranking that appears to show how prepared kids are for life, I suppose.
The study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation takes into account a lot of factors, when it tries to figure out how kids are doing, such as their parent’s education, housing situations and educational opportunities.
It is in this last area that I found the most depressing news. I always knew that education funding and education in general has taken a lot of hits in recent years. But these kinds of horrible progress reports can’t just be chalked up to a recent bad economy. Something far worse seems to be in play, and it’s up to us to change it.
In California, three quarters of fourth graders aren’t reading proficiently. Three quarters, 75 percent. Holy jesus. How did that happen? Turns out California is one of the worst in the nation, but the nation as a whole ain’t doing too hot itself. About 68 percent of nationwide fourth graders are not proficient in reading.
We need to get a handle on this.
And what a great time to do it.
We’re in the midst of the crazy carnival ride known as the presidential election cycle, when pretty much all the leaders at least pretend to care about stuff like this. But really, has it mattered? You don’t suddenly slip to well more than half of our kids not being able to read at grade level overnight. This has been a long time coming, as new programs and new cuts and new … I don’t know, stupidity? has brought us to this level.
Reading news like this and then browsing pretty much any teenager’s Twitter account makes me nervous for the future of our country. I’m not some crazy crackpot conspiracy theorist, thinking that new alien overlords will come control us, but I do wonder how long we can remain a civilized nation if 75 percent of our future can’t read. But that’s just now. What happens in 20, 30, 50 years?
If there are a handful of things I’d like to see serious plans for this year, it is reversing this course and getting more money in our classrooms and more help for our kids. But it’s going to be tough. It’s an easy thing to say. But we’re a country that expects greatness but also expects not to pay for it. Something has to change. I’d like to see this presidential cycle start with problems like this.
What’s on your radar for this presidential cycle?
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!
Photo: SF Chronicle