The Phyllis Schlafly Report

Vol. 29, No. 3 * Box 618, Alton, Illinois 62002 * October 1995

Are All Our Children "At Risk"?

A state task force proclaimed this month that "there is a crisis in California that demands our immediate attention." No, it's not an earthquake or a hurricane or a fire. The crisis is that California's experiment in "progressive" teaching methods, which started in 1987 using the Whole Language philosophy, is a "failure." A state task force has just called on California schools to resume teaching phonics, spelling and other basic reading skills.

The task force was appointed last spring by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin in response to California's bottom-of-the-barrel performance on the 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress. California even came in behind Louisiana, and our nation's largest state said it couldn't abide that indignity!

This new report completely vindicates parents and other critics who have charged that the schools have failed in their primary mission, i.e., teaching children to read. The Whole Language method is known to parents as the word-guessing method because it teaches children to guess at the words by looking at the pictures, rather than reading by sounding out the letters and syllables.

The California task force said that children need to be systematically taught phonics, letter patterns and other decoding skills that enable them to recognize words virtually automatically. For some years, the education establishment has been ridiculing the idea that skills need to be taught explicitly, directly and systematically, and such teaching was largely eliminated when California adopted its 1987 "framework" for reading and language arts.

Former Superintendent Bill Honig, who oversaw the writing of the 1987 policies, published a book this past summer that amounts to a confession that he was misguided. He admitted that the teaching methods adopted in 1987 are the reason why 30 to 40 percent of pupils in poverty areas never learned how to read, and that even higher percentages of students are not able to read what they are expected to read in the upper grades.

Honig wrote that the only disability of most students who are labeled "learning-disabled" is that the schools didn't teach them how to read. How would you like to have had your child labeled "learning disabled," suffered from the belief that he was mentally defective, watched him be frustrated and embarrassed by failure in front of his classmates, and then find out later that the real problem was that the school failed to teach your child how to read?

For so many years, public schools have been adamant (even belligerent) in their refusal to teach children to read by systematic, intensive phonics. Whole Language (which is part and parcel of Outcome-Based Education) is the dominant philosophy (it's nearly a theology) in public schools today.

The Whole Language method teaches children:

  1. to guess what the story is about by looking at the pictures on the page and thinking about them;
  2. to predict what will happen next by looking at the pictures;
  3. to skip over words they don't know.

Whole Language gives children books with lots of pictures and tells them to "look for clues" (or "cues") to figure out what the pictures are "thinking or saying," and to use what they already know about the subject to predict what the story might be about.

This is a cheat on pupils, parents, and taxpayers. Guessing, predicting, and skipping over words are not reading. With these mischievous instructions, children will never be able to read books unless there are pictures on every page. Young people will never be able to read the Phyllis Schlafly Report because it has no pictures! Our constitutional republic based on self-government cannot survive such massive illiteracy!

The California task force report urges a complete kindergarten-to-university overhaul of teaching methods, textbooks and teacher training to ensure that all children are reading independently no later than the end of the third grade! That means that, even if the task force's recommendations are adopted, even if the education establishment abandons its resistance to phonics, even if the schools throw out their Whole Language readers and adopt new readers (which would take a minimum of three years), the best the school system is hoping for is that schoolchildren will be reading independently by the end of the third grade!

It does not take three years to teach a child to read! Most children can be taught to read in less than six months if they are taught by intensive, systematic phonics. If your first grader is not sounding out the words and doing a pretty good job of reading independently by Christmastime of the first grade, your child is at risk of never achieving his God-given potential, and you and your child are being cheated by the school.

The best and easiest solution is for all parents to teach their own children to read using my First Reader System. Children who are fortunate enough to be taught to read by First Reader will be able to get a good education despite the dumbing down process in the schools.

So, what are the schools doing if they are not teaching children how to read?

Schools Are Trying to Be a Nanny

Maybe the reason public schools are turning out so many students who can't read or write is that the operative ideology is that schools are not for education any more, but for government welfare, government medicine, and job placement. The goal today is not to turn out educated citizens but welfare recipients, medical and psychiatric patients, and workers for the global economy.

The public schools' new mission is to serve as a government nanny, i.e., to be a provider of round-the-clock, round-the-year, cradle-to-grave social welfare services of all kinds, including treatment and counseling for infant care, drug abuse, domestic violence, sex practices, medical care, and job placement.

Americans did not vote for this radical change in mission. We didn't even get the chance to debate it. The schools just did it without consulting parents or taxpayers. Even if your children are in private schools or being homeschooled, you need to care about this change -- first because 89 percent of schoolchildren are in public schools and they will be the majority of the voters and public officials in the America your children live in, and secondly because you are paying for the public schools anyway, to the tune of $400 billion a year.

The key element of this new public school ideology is the conversion of public schools into "one-stop" community/health/training/employment centers.

The "community" segment means that schools are now a community center for everyone, not just school-age children. The "health" segment means installing school-based health clinics for full-service medical care plus contraceptive distribution. The "training" segment means that children are to be trained to meet certain "performance standards" or "outcomes" in preparation for predetermined jobs. The "employment" segment means that the authorities will designate what will qualify you to be hired, i.e., a "certificate of mastery" rather than a diploma.

This ambitious vision for the public schools was laid out in an 18-page letter written by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, to Hillary Clinton on November 11, 1992, just after the Presidential election. The letter was the result of a meeting in David Rockefeller's office, at which those present, Tucker said, were "literally radiating happiness" at Clinton's victory and making plans for what "you [Hillary] and Bill should do now about education, training and labor market policy."

In this letter, Tucker laid out the group's master plan to "remold" the public schools into a "national human resources development system," which would be "guided by clear standards that define the stages of the system for the people who progress through it, and regulated on the basis of outcomes that providers produce for their clients." Tucker's vision is aggressively ambitious. His letter calls for "a seamless web" that "literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone -- young and old, poor and rich, worker and full-time student."

Tucker's "seamless web" features a national employment service in which "all available front-line jobs, whether public or private, must be listed in it by law." Then, "a system of labor market boards is established at the local, state and federal levels to coordinate the systems for job training, postsecondary professional and technical education, adult basic education, job matching and counseling."

Tucker's "seamless web" means that the government will be in the drivers' seat at every stage of the "human resources development system." The "labor market boards" will decide what jobs may be allowed, the schools will "train" students (the human resources) for jobs selected by the "labor market boards," and the "new general education standard" (i.e., a state-certified "certificate of mastery" rather than a diploma) will be a "prerequisite for enrollment in all professional and technical degree programs," as well as for all hiring. Tucker's letter lays out how, under his system, schools will be required to provide information "to government agencies in a uniform format."

Much of Marc Tucker's ambitious plan is already in place. Last year, Clinton signed the Goals 2000 Act, which requires schools to adopt "standards," and the School-to-Work Act, which lays the groundwork for using high schools to train students for occupations selected by the local labor market boards.

The CAREERS bill now pending in Congress expands on School-to-Work and perfectly tracks the Tucker letter. The text of the CAREERS bill states that the Governor of each state (if he wants the funds) shall "designate" the establishment of a "workforce development board" in each local area. In the House debate on CAREERS on September 19, Education Opportunities Committee Chairman William Goodling (R-PA) stated that the bill requires that "training be tied to occupations in demand in the local community."

In the House debate on September 19, Goodling boasted that the White House is pleased with this legislation. He admitted that the CAREERS bill has been in preparation "for 2 years," which places the date at long before Republicans became a majority.

The bottom line is Government Economic Planning, a system that is an abysmal failure worldwide. This would give the Federal Government the power to decide what jobs are "needed," what jobs young people may be trained for, what performance and "outcome" standards may be enforced on schoolchildren, and what certificate qualifies them to be hired. The government would be able to track each individual's performance and behavior in school and through the workforce on a national com-puter data base. This would give the government the power over every individual's ability to earn a living, and it would signal the end of freedom in America.

When you combine this labor-force system with the failure to teach children to read, and the dumbing down process called Outcome-Based Education, our children will get a Third World education to accustom them to Third World wages. The "powers that be" want public school graduates to be content to compete with workers in foreign countries who work for 1/40th of American wages. That's what they mean when they say Americans must "compete in the global economy" and become "citizens of the world."

Schools Push Socialized Medicine

The purpose of the "health" portion of the schools' new mission is to train the younger generation to expect the government to provide all health care. In other words, the purpose is to sell government medicine, a.k.a. socialized medicine.

This plan was all spelled out in the Clinton Health Care bill which, fortunately, did not pass last year. There were so many things wrong with the Clinton Health Care bill that its connection with the schools didn't receive much publicity, but the connection was clear in the text. The Clinton Health Care bill devoted 40 pages to "Comprehensive School Health Education; School-Related Health Services," and would have provided $400 million a year for school-based clinics (popularly known as Condom Clinics).

The Clinton bill provided that this money could be spent for "planning for the provision of school health services; recruitment, compensation, and training of health and administrative staff," for "operating school health service sites," and for "health and social services, counseling services, and necessary referrals." Individual grants could be up to $500,000 each (which is a lot of money for one school).

To get the money to operate a clinic, the school was to set up a "local community partnership" that included a "community based organization that has a history of providing services to at-risk youth." This language was obviously designed to allow Planned Parenthood to operate the school condom clinics.

When the text of the Clinton bill was released in November 1993, social service providers all over the country began celebrating in anticipation of the windfall of money they expected to come their way. Debra Hauser, director of the school health care division of the Center for Population Options, boasted to a CPO conference in Pittsburgh, "The numbers [of school-based clinics] are just going to fly." Claire D. Brindis, a Clinton Administration adviser on adolescent health, said something much more ominous. She boasted, "Beyond the financial commitment is a policy change. There is a partnership emerging between the Education Department and H.H.S."

The Clinton Health Care bill didn't pass, but the partnership between schools and the Department of Health and Human Services is proceeding with the enormous amounts of money easily available from H.H.S. Many people are upset about the condom distribution, but it is just as important to recognize that school-based clinics are a plan to sell socialized medicine through the schools. And it is proceeding right under our noses.

Labeling Children "At Risk"

The key to catching most or all schoolchildren in the social-service web, whether their families request or want such services or not, is the categorization of children as "at risk," a magic phrase used to authorize the state to do whatever it wants with children. The more children who are designated as "at risk," the more personnel and funds the public school system demands.

When a survey was taken this year in Utah, the school districts officially reported that 47 percent of the school- age population is "at-risk." Before you start feeling sorry for the nearly one-half of Utah children who are designated as "at risk," consider some of the factors that produced this incredible percentage: "Lack of or limited parental involvement with children and schools, Lack of or limited parental support of schools, Death in the family, Lack of or limited parenting skills, Generational low expectations, Grandparents raising grandchildren, Home-Schools, Parent(s) work out of town, Student sent to live with relatives, Discrepancy in readiness at preschool/kindergarten entry, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Lack of goals or unrealistic goals, Gender disorders, Working students."

The incredible figure of 47 percent, and the wide-ranging and subjective factors that produced it, make it clear that "at risk" is just a device to bring most if not all children into the social services web, to hire more social welfare personnel, and to demand more tax dollars.

The official definition of "at risk" published in the Master Plan for Services for Students At Risk from Prevention Through Remediation (USDE, August 19, 1988) reads: "A student at risk is any student who, because of his/her individual needs, requires some kind of uniquely designed intervention in order to achieve literacy, graduate, and be prepared for transition from school to post-school options. Without appropriate intervention, a student is at increased risk for failing to achieve commensurate with his/her ability, for truancy, and for dropping out. Without appropriate intervention, such a student may not be able to participate meaningfully in society as a competent, productive, caring, and responsible citizen."

Bills are flooding into state legislatures across the country which have the purpose or effect of turning public schools into social service centers. The education bureaucrats and the teachers' unions are constantly seeking federal and state legislation to give themselves authority to classify children as "at risk" at any time. The plan is to bring health and medical services, and all kinds of psychological counseling and treatment, into the schools. These bills are starting to refer to public schools as "Community Centers" or "Family Resource Centers."

These new-style public schools are planning to provide "early intervention services from prenatal care through 5 years of age," infant daycare, parenting education, health care services for children including immunizations, and "any other services." These bills would authorize school districts to establish programs for health care and other social services for pupils, family members of pupils, and residents of the district.

Here is a brief collection of the sort of language used in state legislation, which is easy to recognize is designed to give open-ended power to the schools to designate more and more children as "at risk" and then catch them in the web of social services: "collaborative service delivery system," "coordinated services for children at risk," "integrated service delivery initiatives," "on site, coordinated early intervention and case management services to children at risk," "services delivered by local teams comprised of representatives from public health, mental health, public assistance, child abuse services and school personnel," "early intervention and integrated service delivery with the pre-school population," "prenatal to grade 12 coordinated service delivery" "comprehensive, team driven, community based service delivery."

Government Plans for Preschoolers

Remember that the Number One education goal, proclaimed by both George Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as in federal legislation, is, "Every child should start school ready to learn." This goal puts the government directly in the business of raising preschool children.

It is clear that the plan is, so far as is possible, to apply the designation of "at risk" long before the child starts to school. The rapidly spreading Parents As Teachers program brings infants and preschool children under government control by sending government agents into private homes to tell parents how to raise their children. The Marc Tucker letter includes this further explanation of his "cradle to grave" system: "Early childhood education should be combined with quality day care to provide wrap-around programs that enable working parents to drop off their children at the beginning of the work day and pick them up at the end."

The mantra for coopting infants and preschool children into the social service web is, "It takes a whole village to raise a child," a phrase identified as an African proverb. Contrariwise, raising a child takes a mother and a father, and most parents don't want the whole village butting into the raising of their children. If you let the village usurp your parental authority, you can be sure that the village will teach your children behaviors you don't want them to learn.

It is clear that the facilities for "at risk" children are designed to be located in the public schools, although that is usually stated obliquely by giving the authority to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Such bills usually have no provision for requiring parental consent -- for medical care, distribution of contraceptives, or psychological or psychiatric testing or treatment. When "partnerships" with community organizations are authorized and funded, the language is usually written so that only liberal organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, will be eligible. There usually is no provision for decision-making or review by any elective body, such as legislatures or school boards.

It is only a matter of time before legislation will attempt to bring private schools and homeschools into their web, since the bills usually use such language as "all children deserve to be cared for," or "all children will be healthy and contributing members of society," or "a child has the right to receive these services from the proper authorities," or "families will receive the support they need to raise healthy children," or "health and wellness are responsibilities shared among individuals, families, communities, local governments and the state."

Unless the American people rise up and say no, the public schools will soon be converted into one-stop centers that provide government welfare services beginning at birth, government medical care, and labor-force planning with job placement.

We must repeal and/or defund all federal laws that have anything to do with curriculum, standards, provision of social services in the schools, workforce development, school-based health clinics, or one-stop centers of any kind in schools.

We must repeal and/or defund all the state legislation that has anything to do with changing schools into social welfare agencies, medical centers, community service organizations, or labor placement centers.

No issue in America today is more important than the education issue. This is a call for all Americans to join us in our effort to save the 89 percent of children who attend public schools from the evil plans of those who are using our tax dollars to teach all children from the cradle that parents are irrelevant and their savior is the government -- that the government will be their baby-sitter, their nanny, their doctor, their nurse, their psychiatrist, and their employment agency. Our goal must be to teach all children to read, to know about our great American heritage, and to be educated to fulfill their individual God-given potential.

This article republished by permission of Eagle Forum

Send comments to: