Losing Our Language: How Multiculturalism Undermines Our Children's Ability to Read, Write and Reason

Losing Our Language: How Multiculturalism Undermines Our Children's Ability to Read, Write and Reason

by Sandra Stotsky
     
 

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Why do American students' reading and writing test scores continue to decline? Why does the achievement gap continue to grow between minority and other students? Poor teacher training, large class size, small budgets and other such answers have been proposed for these vexing questions. But Sandra Stotsky argues that it is the incorporation of a multicultural… See more details below

Overview


Why do American students' reading and writing test scores continue to decline? Why does the achievement gap continue to grow between minority and other students? Poor teacher training, large class size, small budgets and other such answers have been proposed for these vexing questions. But Sandra Stotsky argues that it is the incorporation of a multicultural agenda into basal readers, the primary tool for teaching reading in elementary schools, that has stunted our children's ability to read. In "Losing Our Language," Stotsky shows how basal readers have been systematically "dumbed down" in an effort to raise minority students' "self esteem." While elementary readers of the past featured excerpts from classic stories such as "Arabian Nights" and "Robinson Crusoe," with a complex vocabulary and sentence structure able to challenge the imagination and build reading skills, today's basal readers present students with politically and ethnically correct stories whose language is virtually foreign and unable to engage students. Drawing words from Swahili, Spanglish and other trendy dialects to teach students with a shrinking English vocabularly is a symptom of this intellectual and cultural disorder. Sandra Stotsky reminds us that how successfully we teach reading is no mere academic matter. Literacy--cultural and verbal--gives all students, but particularly those from poor or minority backgrounds, personal independence and achievement and the ability to participate fully in our civic life.

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Editorial Reviews

Andrew Hazlett
Reading Losing Our Language should send parents rushing to their school board with pointed questions. -- Wall Street Journal
Sol Stern
...[S]hows just how deeply [the] multiculturalist creed has penetrated into the American educational system....The path to reform, Stotsky rightly believes, leads back to the past....Before long, it might even become possible to replicate the inspiring example of Zora Neale Hurston, retrieving Milton once again from the rubbish pile. —Commentary
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If Johnny can't read, blame the books. According to Stotsky, a research associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, increasingly dumbed-down elementary school textbooks have been lowering the standards of literacy in the name of multiculturalism. Culling excerpts from the nation's bestselling fourth- and sixth-grade basal readers, she argues that students in the 1990s are being fed a diet of simplistic texts studded with nonstandard dialects selected not for their intellectual rigor or their ability to "delight the imagination" but for their appeal to children's putative "feelings" about being "victimized" by white Western males. As a result, she claims, students, especially minorities, are not being prepared for the analytic thinking required in secondary school. Perhaps worse, Stotsky argues, they are being inculcated with potentially dangerous cultural misinformation. The excerpts Stotsky quotes are indeed "preachy, boring" texts with a "relative paucity of literate words." Her criticism of how the accompanying teacher guides pander to students' self-esteem by soliciting uninformed feelings about social issues is bold and persuasive as well. But while her arguments about pedagogy are convincing, her indictment of the current practice of "using literature for nonliterary purposes" is muddied by her own repeated call for textbooks that "encourage positive civic sensibilities"; this argument opens a can of worms about what exactly "positive civic sensibilities" are. (Feb.)
Sol Stern
...[S]hows just how deeply [the] multiculturalist creed has penetrated into the American educational system....The path to reform, Stotsky rightly believes, leads back to the past....Before long, it might even become possible to replicate the inspiring example of Zora Neale Hurston, retrieving Milton once again from the rubbish pile.
Commentary
Kirkus Reviews
Stotsky, a Harvard Graduate School of Education research associate, shares familiar worries about the alleged sins of the multiculturalists' "illiberal" and anti-intellectual practices-their "watering down" of the curriculum and "dumbing down" of pedagogy. Multiculturalists, as the author observes, claim to introduce non-Western, ethnic, and gender-sensitive literature in order to promote "authentic" experience. Originally, this was intended to correct longstanding sociopolitical exclusions (and academic deficiencies) and to motivate minority children. As a result, the "whole-language" movement (a context- and culture-based reading program) became multiculturalisms' most prized theory. Phonics-based reading (instruction based on recognizing sound-letter relationships) was pushed aside, and "advanced" vocabularies were replaced with dialects (Black English, Spanglish). Much (to some, excessive) emphasis was given to the literature of minority groups, with relatively scant attention paid to the majority European ethnic tradition. Stotsky complains that traditional basal readers have lost their literary standards and no longer reflect the rigor of textbooks containing the "best literature" available. The outcome, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has been a steady downward trend in the basic skills, knowledge, and analytical powers of students and a widening gap between white and minority children. Some of the author's views contrast starkly with those of researchers who maintain that linguistically and culturally enriched backgrounds are effective in enhancing academic and social skills. The new crop of realistic multiculturalists, such as Jabari Mahiri (authorof the recent Shooting for Excellence: African American and Youth Culture in New Century Schools), maintain that to filter cultural and linguistic backgrounds out of the curriculum would be tantamount to denying children's identity and reality. Anti-multiculturalists like E.D. Hirsch and the late Allan Bloom created a debate that has lasted since 1987. Stotsky will perhaps ride its wave-and produce a splash of her own. .

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781893554481
Publisher:
Encounter Books
Publication date:
05/01/2002
Pages:
302
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.99(h) x 0.96(d)

What People are saying about this

Linda Chavez
Sandra Stotsky exposes, in detail, the trend over the past thirty years to dumb down reading materials for children under the guise of multiculturalism.... This book should serve as a clarion call to educate reformers.

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