Make your home a stimulating place - R.H. Joseph

Regular readers know me to be a humble man. Nevertheless, self-effacing though I may be, I'd like to take this historically significant moment, when Georgia once again ranks below even Mississippi and Alabama on the SAT scores, to speak directly to those who tell me I use too many big words.

Maybe, just maybe, there's a connection between your insistence upon simplistic prose and the answer to why our school children are underachievers.

You can demand the world conform to those intellectual standards (if you can call them that) you've established for yourselves and your children (chips off the old block, to be sure), but it ain't gonna happen.

Think of me as representative of the real world. (Yikes!) I don't care if you look up unfamiliar words. Nor do I care if you pass this predisposition to ignorance on to your kids.

Despite what you may think, they're not important just because they are your kids. In a competitive market place, a marketplace that measures intelligence by, among other things, vocabulary, your children, a reflection of your attitude toward learning, have found a permanent place at the bottom of the barrel.

But fear not, I'm here for you; I've got your back (as the saying goes).

As far as I can tell, following Georgia's dismal (and repetitive) showing on the SAT results, everyone in a position of authority made two things clear: (1) The results weren't their fault, and (2) They're going to try real hard this year and everything is going to change by next year.

First of all, if you buy this malarkey your vocabulary isn't your only problem. (If I were you I'd insist your kids read my column every week and look up every unfamiliar word. In so doing, not only would they begin to excel in life, they would also have a much better chance of growing up to be just like me – a goal near and dear to every parent's heart, no doubt.)

While your various political leaders and school administrators are figuring out a plan so magical it can undo the ingrained culture of ignorance that has debilitated the Bible Belt for generations, I would offer an additional suggestion: Make sure anyone who says the cure for our children's deplorable SAT scores is dedicated SAT prep classes is reassigned to a counter job at a fast food restaurant.

They may not know it but I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: It's not about the numbers; it's about learning to learn and then learning. It's about role models – parents and teachers, for example – showing kids that looking up unfamiliar words is the right thing to do. There's also a subliminal lesson about the personal growth and intellectual reward that results from making an effort.

The same approach applies to ideas. Of course closed minds don't do well in a world of evolving knowledge and conceptual complexity. Don't provide answers for your kids, discuss issues from a variety of perspectives; encourage thinking.

Rote learning is a misnomer. (If you don't know what "misnomer" means, look it up.) A mindset dedicated to learning is the opposite of one trained to memorize and repeat allegedly irrefutable assertions.

Attend to how intellectual intransigence impacts our school systems. They are forced to walk on eggshells lest conclusions of modern science conflict with faith-based lessons that have barely changed in 2,000 years. Of course our children are on the bottom!

We remember Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein because they changed the world. More to the point, this is why Galileo, Einstein, and Darwin were (and, in the case of Darwin continues to be) a threat to those whom history inevitably regards irrelevant. Sadly, such irrelevance is the foregone consequence awaiting graduates of the worst school system in these united states.

The goal of our politicians and teachers should be to offer no prep classes whatsoever. Rather, regular classes should provide both an environment conducive to learning and academically relevant knowledge so students might succeed on the SATs by virtue of what they have actually assimilated.

Throwing spitballs in first grade doesn't really go on your permanent record and artificially inflated SAT scores do not really prepare you to be competitive in institutions of higher learning or in the market place. Why don't your politicians and teachers acknowledge this?

Buy your kid a dictionary and read my columns and reviews together, making sure you look up every single word you don't recognize. You can thank me later.

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.