A fresh voice for better schools

Hurrah for John Silber.

Kids, all our kids, soon will be reading those wonderful books of Dr. Seuss, “The Cat In the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” They may even understand them.

While unveiling some of his sweeping and revolutionary plans for education in the state, Silber said its time for all schools to return to teaching reading by phonetics. And to do it within the next two years.

Gone will be the unsuccessful whole-language method that was in vogue for far too long. Good riddance.

“Reading is the key to everything,” Silber says. He’s right. Reading can be fun, too.

During a speech in Quincy last month, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough said illiteracy was at a higher level in the United States today than it was in the days of John Adams. Silber will go a long way to correct that in Massachusetts.

Not only that. Silber says he will largely do away with bilingual education, which has been a giant quagmire trapping minorities, especially poor minorities, in a lower-class life for the rest of their lives.

The Boston University president wants an immersion program where children who don’t speak English will be taught it from day one, forcing them to pick up the language quickly. Of course this will be fought by many of those in education–those guardians of bilingual education. Why? It creates jobs for them.

Immigrants have been coming to the United States for hundreds of years. Most couldn’t speak English. They learned. Quickly. They thrived and flourished. And the United States was the better for it.

If we continue bilingual education, “we will lose the linguistic unity that pulled our country together,” Silber said. The Boston University president who has become Governor Weld’s education czar also fears that language divisions within the United States could create problems similar to Canada’s or Yugoslavia’s.

Give youngsters who don’t speak English a one-year jump start with bilingual education, but get them speaking and reading English quickly.

Hurrah for Silber.

Not only that. Silber recommends setting up “reform schools” for unruly students who distract or prevent teachers from teaching and students from learning.

“We cannot expect our teachers to be policemen or to be combat infantrymen. If a child is coming to school armed, is coming to school prepared to strike a teacher or to assault another student, that child has to be removed even if you can do nothing for him,” Silber said.

If they don’t want to learn and behave, get rid of them. Simple. Set up reform schools. Maybe, just maybe, that will straighten them out. The governor has resisted this idea. He should change his mind.

Hurrah John Silber!

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