Commentary by Thomas Newkirk, professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and director of the New Hampshire Literacy Institutes. These pieces originally appeared in Education Week.
Years ago, my family enjoyed playing a “Sesame Street” record in which a king was so grateful when the fire department put out a royal fire that he declared everyone in his kingdom would be a fireman. Of course, problems arose: There was no one to cook his meals because everyone was a fireman. The moral, I suppose, was that we need different professions, something the king eventually realized. But I loved the magical bravado of the king’s just declaring everyone a fireman—and it happened. Read Full Story
Until fairly recently, psychologists accepted the commonsense view that job stress was directly related to the significance of the decisions being made. The top executive jobs, by this logic, were the most stressful because so much was riding on decisions. And the lower-level positions—the clerks, custodial workers, and receptionists—were less stressful because decisions had less impact. There was less to worry about. All this made a kind of sense.
But it was exactly wrong. Read Full Story
There's an old Roman insult that goes like this: "He can't read or swim." The presumption is that just about anyone who applied himself (or herself) could learn these skills. Indeed, many countries with high literacy rates, such as Japan, are successful in teaching children to read without all the angst and sense of crisis so common in the United States. Read Full Story