When a Main Can’t Read WACO You could tell by the slump of the shoulders that he was one of them. He jostled into the literacy center and heaped himself into a wooden chair. “I’ve been lookin’ for the place where they teach you readin’ and writin’.” He had found it. We usually know why they come before they come, but sometimes we are surprised. One day a well-dressed, middle-aged wife of a prosperous cotton farmer in Central Texas strode in with quite some confidence. She was illiterate, too. Scarlet fever took her out of school when she was in the second grade. When she went back a year later “all the other kids” made fun of her because she was much bigger than they. That was enough. She left school. She told her mother: “I don’t ever want to go back there again,” and she didn’t. A literacy teacher writes us : “To this date we have nine people learning to read. Six of them are in one class and they are tneeting at the Mexican Mission in Moody. The other three are being taught at their homes. We expect to have several others when we get in all of the slips which we sent out through the school. We know of three young men who need the service and we hope to reach them be f ore long.” WHO ARE these people, the nameless ones who remain outcastes in a world of print ? They come from most strata of our society. The majority never had the opportunity to learn. Some left school early; others didn’t see “no use in schoolin’.” Sometimes people say that the illiterates don’t want to learn. We know different. It’s like the brush salesman who is trained to believe that every housewife really wants to buy his brushes. He assumes she does, and usually she does buy. We assume and we know that every adult really wants to learn. But layers of frustration, defeat, and fear are piled thick, and it takes time and persuasion to wear them off. A teenager came to the center. He wanted to leave his garbage job and become an engineer. Is it possible? He couldn’t read Reading Level Two stage literature for new literates, but he kept coming and adding figures and subtracting inferiority. And he may make it. This is the reason why the literacy ens, . assistant president of Abilene Christian College, whether it is not, in fact, the purpose of the program to try to affect what is taught in the schools, he replied, “Well, perhaps so.” No honest reporter could study the situation and arrive at any other conclusion. Some of the bankrollers of the project may think of the goal as “Americanism” ; undoubtedly many of the public school people involved are taken in by this name. But in fact, the principles espoused by T.B.E.U. as they keep turning up in the “Americanism” projects they finance in the public schools are shaped to oppose such social legislation as urban renewal, social security, farm supports, and the income tax. No public school should lend itself to such a private political and commercial purpose no matter what its financial supporters name it. .Through Baylor University, Texas Educational Assn. of Fort Worth has financed the publication of a text-like book for the elementary grades, Your Government and You book is now becushioning of acceptable rewrites of the American tradition, teaches that all good citizens own property and foreigners don’t believe in God. Your Governemnt and You book is now being foisted off on the public schools. With money these people are trying teachers who receive the special Baylor Certificate for Reading Assistants are pleased. They are qualified to teach some of the 800,000 adult functional illiterates in Texas. They find out that the illiterates want to learn and do learn to read. Why couldn’t every patriotic Texan consider it his duty to help someone to learn to read? When we consider that only ten other states have higher percentages of illiteracy than Texas, should not Texas blood boil? “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the illiterates.” The illiterates aren’t stupid or ignorant. Sometimes they’re pin-point sharp and clear. The only difference is that we can read the Texas Obthey can’t. I think that every Texas newspaper and magazine ought to send a’ representative to the Texas Literacy Council and form a Publishers’ Literacy Council. People could learn to read so that they could read their publications. IN THE LONG RUN the Texas Literacy Council \(composed of local literacy councils throughout of the council within the framework of the appropriate state government agency so that literacy education may, as a matter of course, take its place as a Texas birthright. Until that time, however, the Texas Literacy Council, like other pioneer movements, will tread softly and firmly and privately toward the goal of the eradication of illiteracy from Texas. Is the goal impossible? Hardly. If a force of 10,000 volunteer literacy teachers would mobilize under the Texas Literacy Council and “each one About the Author AUSTIN This week’s guest columnist is Dr. Richard Cortright, who is the director of the Baylor Literary Center and the key man in the present development of a program to end illiteracy in the state. Cortright has brought into being, under Baylor’s auspices, literacy councils in many Texas cities ; he has also brought together leading Texans in the first of a series of annual conferences on the subject. to bend the public schools of Texas to the right, away from the Democrats, away even from modern Republicansaway, in other words, from the American heritage as most Americans see ittoward the mixture of anarchism and the corporate state which would result from their doctrine that the government has no responsibility except the police power \(to wit: “Government not a ProI DO NOT BELIEVE they will succeed. I believe in the public schools, in the teachers of the public schools, in the strength of the American heritageindividualism, democracy, the free marketplace of all ideas. Next issue you will read of the persistence of individualism in the classrooms which are the objectives of this Fort Worth-Dallas campaign. But I do not have a steady confidence in the ability of school people to recognize a sinister influence when they see one, and if the rightists of T.B.E.U. and T.E.A. of Fort Worth are succeeding even a littleand they areit is too much. The public schools, considering all the voices from the community, must make all of their own decisions, free of the suggestion of payments or advantages from any private group, and whatever we can do to keep them freer to live by this, the public school idea, we must do. R.D. teach one” illiterate in 1959, then there would be only 790,000 more to teach in 1960. And so forth. And it’s possible, too, because a volunteer literacy teacher can learn to teach in minutes, not hours in a literacy workshop. It’s a matter of Texas seeing the vision of becoming the first 100 percent literate American state. Nobody else has done it yet. Texas can when Texans see what it means for a man to write his family, figure his budget, read his Bible, know the world through his newspaper and magazines, look at the 20th century and all history through the books of the ages and sign his name. THE FIRST STEP is to form or join a local literacy council and learn to teach an illiterate, or help in one of the many other services of a literacy council. The next step is to WASHINGTON There was a time when the old-line Democratic Party bosses used to take the attitude that they would let the party’s liberals speak their piece because it would do no harm and might do a lot of good around election time When the victory was won the old hacks would immediately resume their role as spoilsmen and say, in effect, “Liberal, go home ; you are really a socialist-in-disguise. We don’t need you any more, you’re just in -the way.” Childs On Johnson Marquis Childs, the author and Washington columnist, has shrewdly assessed the Johnson candidacy. In a dispatch from the Capitol, Childs wrote: 4It is not only oil and gas and the Southern approach to civil rights that cast a doubtful light on Johnson as a presidential candidate in the North. As majority leader he seemed determined to out-economize the Eisenhower economizers. He followed this course despite his own “state of the union” speech at the beginning of the session in which he promised to challenge the administration on a whole range of issues covering national security and the growth of the country. But the challenge was not forthcoming. When it came to labor legislation virtually the whole Texas delegation in the House voted against the moderate bill sponsored in the Senate by Senator John F. Kennedy. They helped to supply the margin for. the so-called tough Landrum-Grif fin bill which is anathema to organized labor. IT IS the “me, too” nature of the leadership of Johnson and Speaker Sam Rayburn, chief sparks for the Johnson-for-President boom, that causes the greatest unhappiness in Democratic ranks. Opposition has been expressed openly by some critics, such as Senator William Proxmire. But beneath the surface is a deeper discontent reflected in increasing pessimism over Democratic chances next year. The growing belief is that the Democrats, having failed to draw a line between the two parties on major issues, will have a tough time electing any candidate they choose. Trumpeting “peace and prosperity” as they did in 1952 and ’56, the Republicans will win the presidency although they will fail to carry Congress. This pessimism is especially black at the thought that the GOP nominee may be Governor Nelson Rockefeller. If this reporter has heard one prominent Democrat he has heard 50 say that against Rockefeller the party wouldn’t have a chance. follow through and be sure he or she learns. It’s becoming friends, and it’s fun. One observer has written : “The world we serve is characterized by a remarkable advance in literacy and learning … It is very likely that when future historians write the achievements of our century, long after the beneficent uses of atomic energy have become commonplace as the incandescent light, they will speak chiefly about this as the century of literacy and learning rather than the century of atomic power and nuclear fission. For there is still more power in the written word than there is in all the explosions at Eniwetok or Christmas Island.” We in Texas should look forward to the time when every adult can participate in the life of the world through the printed page. RICHARD CORTRIGIIT Some of this attitude is understandable. I would not for a moment deny that there is a good deal of intolerance among people who use “liberal rhetoric” nor that there are “liberals” who love humanity in general, but -hate people in particular. Yet as I read and re-read former President Truman’s remarks before the Democratic Advisory Council meeting in New York, I feel that what he is reflecting is the politics of a e “l m se. achine man” more than anything The liberals are handy to have around when the Old Guard needs someone to “tell the voters” what the “difference” is between the Republican and Democratic parties. They are useful for explaining “issues” in the realm of foreign policy, or high -interest rates, or interpreting the significance of Nehru’s moves against Red China. But they are a damned nuisance when they begin talking about the “munitions lobby” and waste in the Pentagon. They are pests when they insist on cutting military expenditures abroad and investing foreign aid funds in useful projects. They are absolutely . intolerable when they say that Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn run Congress like a private club for oil, bank. and munitions’ lobbists.. They are subversive if they think revenues from offshore oil should go to build public schools. Mr. Truman spoke in New York after attending a cocktail party given by Carmine DeSapio, the Tammany boss and national committeeman. wasn’t there so I don’t know what Carmine told HST, but I have known DeSapio for many years and watched him make his way through New York’s politics. He has always been a smooth talker, but he has never been a “liberal” on any major issue that I can remember. Now DeSapio is learning in N’Iv York that those liberals who lent their names and respectability to the party for so longEleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Lehman and Thomas Finletterare insisting the policies they believe in and stand for should he taken seriously. Truman takes the attitude that it is splitting the party for the liberals to insist on reforming the machine as 1960 approaches. but i f the johnsons Nvant the national party to win in 1960 they’ll have to come to terms with the party’s liberal wing. I f they prefer “split government” with the Republicans in the White House and nominal “Democrats” in control of Congress, then the course they are followingvirtually guarantees Richard M. Nixon as the next President. RoBERT G. SPIVACK THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 5 December 18, 1959 The Public School Idea Liberals and Bosses
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