Friday, April 25, 2008


A Nation at Risk-Does anyone in National Leadership Really Care? Does the American Public care? Why isn't the Media Raising Questions about Education during this Presidential Election?

During the Reagan administration, Education Secretary T. H. Bell put together a National Commission on Excellence in Education to address “the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system.”

The result of the commission's investigation, A Nation at Risk, reported that--

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

And what has been done to stop that erosion? A nation's true priorities can be easily assessed by determining where it's people and government spend money; by the attention, time, and creative problem solving a people and its leadership give to an issue. By any assessment, our young people and their education is a low priority on our national agenda.

Two recent op/ed pieces comment on the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk. The NCBLA does not necessarily agree with either of the essays, but we do encourage you to read and think about them; to email them to your friends, colleagues, and family; to use them as a catalyst for a broader discussion about our young people's, and our nation's future. Have we become so much of a "niche" society that we have forgotten that children, like adults, are integrated, not compartmentalized, beings? Have business interests had too strong a determining hand in shaping American education or not enough? How can we educate parents so that they understand their responsibilities in preparing their children for school, in providing a home atmosphere that values education and is conducive to learning? How can we help parents to help their kids? And in an age when every individual will not only have multiple jobs, but perhaps multiple careers, are we severely limiting our thinking and creatively problem solving because we confine "free" public education to servicing only the needs of citizens ages 5-18?

Edward B. Fiske writes this morning in The New York Times-

"....American education is in turmoil. Most troubling now are the numbers on educational attainment. One reason that the American economy was so dominant throughout the 20th century is that we provided more education to more citizens than other industrialized countries. 'A Nation at Risk' noted with pride that American schools 'now graduate 75 percent of our young people from high school.'

That figure has now dropped to less than 70 percent, and the United States, which used to lead the world in sending high school graduates on to higher education, has declined to fifth in the proportion of young adults who participate in higher education and is 16th out of 27 industrialized countries in the proportion who complete college, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education."

In this week's Washington Post, George Will writes--

"In 1964, SAT scores among college-bound students peaked. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) codified confidence in the correlation between financial inputs and cognitive outputs in education. But in 1966, the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.

Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced."

Again, the NCBLA encourages you to read each essay and form your own opinion, and most importantly, to ACT. Write a letter to the editor in response to these two essays. Write to your congressman or senator and share your opinion, your priorities. Post a comment on a blog. Contact your political party and your presidential candidate. Attend a school committee meeting. VOTE!

Read Mr. Fiske's essay at:

Read Mr. Wills essay at:


Newsweek Magazine must read "Nation at Risk" at:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Clueless in America"

" 'We have one of the highest dropout rates
in the industrialized world,'

said Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a discussion over lunch recently he described the situation as 'actually pretty scary, alarming.' ”

Bob Herbert's column ( in today's New York Times continues:
"Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900."

Not only are literacy statistics nationwide very little improved, if at all, but historical literacy statistics, too, are dismal. That is why the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance has created OUR WHITE HOUSE:LOOKING IN, LOOKING OUT, an incomparable collection of original poetry, nonfiction, essay, historical fiction, and art about American History using the White House as its unifying theme. Created for adults to share with the young people in their lives Our White House addresses both literacy and historical literacy, exciting young people ages 9-16 about our nation's rich heritage, inspiring them to read more. Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out, will be published September 9, 2008.

Mr. Herbert also writes:
" We don’t hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It’s much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball."

The NCBLA agrees and encourages you to write to your chosen presidential candidate to demand that issues related to education not only become part of the national election conversation, but that the candidates give voice to their ideas and solutions that address serious educational issues.

Contact your chosen candidates and your political party to insist that educational issues be taken as seriously as health and economic issues. Education is at the core of every problem we need to solve.

Contact Presidential candidates and national political parties:

Democratic Party website and contact info:

Republican Party website and contact info:

Presidential Candidates websites and contact information:

Hilary Clinton:

John McCain

Barack Obama

For more information go to the NCBLA activist pages at:

Monday, April 21, 2008

For Parents and Teachers

Why Don't Modern Poems Rhyme, Etc.Frequently asked questions about the business of verse.

One of the modern maxims of good writing is "Show Don't Tell." In a recent blog posting former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky does just that to explain modern poetry

Well worth reading, informative and enjoyable at:

Robert Pinsky's latest book of poems is Jersey Rain.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Esteemed Arbuthnot Lecture: Don't Miss It!

NCBLA Board Member David Macaulay to Give Arbuthnot Lecture!

If you can't get to the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 17 to hear David Macaulay give the 2008 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture-Don't worry!

You can watch it on a live video stream. Just go to-- There you will find all the information about the lecture and about the video stream hookup.

David Macaulay, renowned author and illustrator of books for young people and adults including Black and White, The Way Things Work, Castle, Cathedral, Mosque, Angelo, and Romantics, will give a lecture intriguingly entitled, "Thirteen Studios.

You can read more about the Arbuthnot Lecture on the American Library Association's website at:
This year's host is the South Central Library System in Madison, WI which helps libraries serve the public in Adams, Columbus, Dane, Green, Portage, Sauk and Wood counties.