In this issue of Forum—an occasional publication of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW)—twelve prominent authors reflect on a recent study by the Council on Foreign Relations entitled “U.S. Education Reform and National Security.” The CFR study claims that “America’s educational failures pose five distinct threats to national security: threats to economic growth and competitiveness, U.S. physical safety, intellectual property, U.S. global awareness, and U.S. unity and cohesion.” As a consequence, it proposes: 1) severe changes to the curriculum to emphasize “subjects vital to protecting national security;” 2) expanded support for alternative schools, whether charters or through voucher programs; and 3) a “‘national security audit’ to hold schools and policymakers accountable for results.” The CFR study may be downloaded here.
The ALSCW’s newly released study strongly suggests that two factors- a fragmented English curriculum and a neglect of close reading- may explain why the reading skills of American high school students have shown little or no improvement in several decades despite substantial increases in funds for elementary and secondary education by federal and state governments.
The report, entitled Literary Study in Grades 9, 10, And 11: A National Survey analyzes the responses of more than four hundred representative public school teachers who were asked what works of literature they assign in standard and honors courses, and what approaches they use for teaching students how to understand imaginative literature and literary non-fiction.
Reading levels are on the rise according to a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts. Here is a brief excerpt from the Preface by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia:
Reading on the Rise, the National Endowment for the Arts’ new report, documents a significant turning point in recent American cultural history. For the first time in over a quarter-century, our survey shows that literary reading has risen among adult Americans. After decades of declining trends, there has been a decisive and unambiguous increase among virtually every group measured in this comprehensive national survey.