The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Let’s Think About Saving Our Children instead of the Gun Manufacturers

I  was not interested yesterday or today in writing about education.  All I’ve wanted for the past 48 hours is for Americans to get smart and save this country from the millions of guns that threaten our children and adults..  Although I am not accomplished enough to make the case for changing the Second Amendment I found an article by someone who is.  So I will repost an essay by Jeffrey Sachs, “Overcoming Delusions About the Second Amendment ” which originally appeared in  the Huffington Post.

The 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller shows definitively that the Second Amendment is about an archaic issue relevant to 1790, not to 2012. The Second Amendment reads as follows:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The purpose of the Second Amendment was to prevent the new Federal Government established in 1789 from disarming the state militias and replacing them with a Federal standing army. It was a concern that was relevant perhaps for a few years around the birth of the country. It is irrelevant today. Americans do not rely on state militias in 2012 for our freedom from the federal government.

Though Justice Antonin Scalia tried in the majority opinion to use the Second Amendment to defend gun rights, the many sources that he cited are clear that the purpose of the amendment was to protect state militias. One source, for example, declares, that the purpose of the Second Amendment is “to secure a well-armed militia… .” Another source Scalia cited indicates that the amendment covers only arms that “have some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”

Therefore, Scalia acknowledges that the Second Amendment — even in his pro-gun interpretation — only protects arms that would be used in a militia, not the weapons of a formal army. He makes clear that “M-16 rifles and the like” have no Second Amendment protection and may be banned.

There is thus no constitutional protection whatsoever for the semiautomatic rifle that killed the kids in Newtown. Even Scalia is explicit on that point.

The Second Amendment is a relic of the founding era more than two centuries ago. Its purpose is long past. As Justice John Paul Stevens argues persuasively, the amendment should not block the ability of society to keep itself safe through gun control legislation. That was never its intent. This amendment was about militias in the 1790s, and the fear of the anti-federalists of a federal army. Since that issue is long moot, we need not be governed in our national life by doctrines on now-extinct militias from the 18th century.

More basically, the idea that unregulated private gun ownership and trade protects us against tyranny, or that gun controls would threaten tyranny to us all, is baseless. Democracies around the world regulate guns, preserve their freedoms, and achieve firearm murder rates that are a tiny fraction of the rates suffered in the United States. Other countries, like Australia, have made themselves much safer from gun massacres. Only the U.S. has a political class, on the take from gun manufacturers owned by Wall Street, that stands by while the nation’s children are slaughtered. Yet perhaps the stench is getting even too great for some on Wall Street.

In the name of humanity let’s free our country from the trap of history and the greed of gun-manufacturers.

Leave a comment »

My Experiences in Teaching Reading and Being a Member of the National Reading Panel

After posting a video I loved  about how children learn to read  I decided to be completely open with readers and describe my experiences with teaching reading and being a member of The Nation Reading Panel.

I began my career by teaching first grade in an elementary school near my home in New Jersey. My only training was a summer–long course in the basics of education that I took just after graduating from college where I had majored in “The arts”. Although I was far from knowing what and how to teach anything but drama, I had strong opinions about what should be happening in a primary grade classroom,

The text book I used for my beginning readers was “Fun with Dick and Jane”, a very popular choice in 1952. It told a simple story about the activities of a boy, his younger sister, their parents and their dog. Each page had a large picture of one or more of the characters in action. The written story below was just two or three sentences that described what was pictured above.

Although “Fun with Dick and Jane” was widely criticized by many experts, and finally abandoned by schools, it seemed to work for my students. I kept our reading lessons short and tried to make them enjoyable. I also read aloud other books from our school library and had the children learn to recite poems and sing songs that I knew. As I remember things, in my first year of teaching my students presented three plays in the school auditorium. The first one was a song. accompanied by movement: “Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go”; the second a dramatization of “The Little Red Hen” and the third was a student produced version of “Hansel and Gretel”.  I will never forget the girl who played Gretel having trouble pushing the witch into the paper furnace and shouting, “Get in there you Battard”!

Above all, my students saw most of the pieces I read to them as gifts they could sing, recite, turn into a puppet show or read again on their own. Although I still did formal teaching of reading throughout the year, and my students still filled out the usual workbook pages, I saw their learning as the result of their pleasure in literature. At the end of the year I felt confident about promoting all of them to second grade. All of them could read!

Much later– almost fifty years later–as the superintendent and principal of a small rural school district, I was invited to be a member of the “National Reading Panel”, a group of 15 people who had been selected to judge the best pratices in the teaching of reading in order to set standards for good teaching throughout our country. Some members of the Panel were reading researchers, others were university professors in a variety of fields, and two were parents of children with reading difficulties. However, I was the only member of the Panel who had experience teaching reading to young children. The panel’s job was to examine reputable studies on reading and produce a report that would identify the most effective teaching practices. The only assistance we received were lists of the most popular studies, drawn from more than the 100,000 studies published between 1966 and 1998.

Less than a year from when we began our investigation, Congress requested that we submit our report. Explaining our difficulties we begged for more time, and one more year was granted. Still, it was clear to us that we would have to cut our consideration of many studies. What the majority of the panel voted to do was to examine only the studies selected previously by “The National Research Panel” and published in their book,  “Preventing Reading difficulties in Young Children”. Although their selections were relevant to our task, they certainly did not cover the entire field of teaching reading. I and some other members objected to that limited review, but the majority disagreed.

I emphasize this decision because the work of the NRC clearly limited and re-directed our original intention to examine the entire research field which included types of studies beyond what the NRC had used. Although that fact was significant, it was not mentioned in our final report, giving the impression that we had examined a much broader field of research than we did.

It was this decision to narrow our field of study that moved me to write a minority report and request that it be included in the the final report of the National Reading Panel.  Most of the members of the panel were not pleased with my decision, but they consented.

Although the National Reading Panel’s report was released by the federal government in 2000, and its recommendations have influenced teaching practices in countless schools since then, it has not managed to raise the level of reading competence for ordinary students or helped teachers to improve the reading skills of those students who are struggling. I still believe that our recommendations were too narrow.


How Children Learn to Read

Rather than produce something on my own today I am offering you a powerful and well done video created by Debbie Stone Bruell and sent to me by Steve Krashen.  I send it on to my audience because we all need to know the truth about how young children learn to read. On Sunday (or Monday) I will write about my own experience in learning to read and watching my own children learn.

Here is the link:


How Children Learn to Read

Instead of writing something of my own today I am offering a great video about how children learn to read that was created by Debbie Stone Bruell and sent to me by Stephen Krashen. 

I am very sorry that the video failed.  I will try to fix the problem

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: