Fifty-six years ago, in 1955 to be exact, the most significant book about American education was published and, with very good reason, caused quite a stir. It was written by Rudolf Flesch, who had come to America to escape the Nazis in Vienna, became highly fluent in English and got a Ph.D in English at Columbia University. The book was entitled Why Johnny Can’t Read. It became a best-seller and rankled the entire education establishment. In it Flesch explained why so many children in American schools were having such a difficult time learning to read. He wrote:
I recently had the pleasure of perusing a number of old magazines from the mid-nineteenth century to about 1918. They included such great monthly periodicals as Scribner’s, Harper’s, McClure’s, and others. All of them had well-written articles on a wide variety of subjects, reflecting the eclectic tastes of their readers. American readers wanted more than just entertainment. There was a voracious hunger for knowledge, and these magazines provided it, along with wonderful illustrations.
As we were reminded over the past weekend, there are already an impressive number of schools and government buildings, as well as streets, avenues, highways, parkways, turnpikes, and boulevards named after Ronald Reagan. They may be found in 11 states and in the District of Columbia, where Washington National Airport was renamed Reagan National Airport in 1998.
You might think a guy who’s sponged off us all his life, first for his education and then for every paycheck since, would keep his mouth shut lest we notice his bloodsucking — and that if he opened it at all, it would be for a succinct but heartfelt, “Thanks, chumps.”