Most Americans assume that we've always had public schools, that they came with the Constitution and are an indispensable part of our democratic system. But nothing could be farther from the truth, as I discovered when I wrote my book, Is Public Education Necessary?, published in 1981.

Many say that objection to homosexual group GOProud’s participation in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention is much ado about nothing.  And while these critics aren’t necessarily proud of GOProud, they often say that the conservative ranks shouldn’t be creating unnecessary division.  I would agree — but necessary division is a different matter.

Chip WoodWe’ve spent a lot of time recently bashing “the worst President who ever lived.” (That’s the description of the current occupant of the White House by many of my readers.) Instead, this week let’s do something different. Let’s turn our attention to the President whose birthday is February 12 — the Great Emancipator, who is generally acclaimed as the greatest American President of them all. But was he, really?

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.