Thursday, November 03, 2005
'No Child Left Behind' and other learning priorities

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

There has been much emphasis on school testing in every state over the last few years. Much of that emphasis is related to the Federal No Child Left behind legislation. Children receive testing in reading, writing and math. All of this is important so the emphasis is not a surprise. However, in the rush to make sure that every student is prepared to take a test in reading, writing and math there are some other areas of education that are sometimes forgotten. The three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic - have been around for a long time. There are even some very old songs about them. "School Days, School Days, dear old golden rule days, reading and writing and arithmetic√Č" is a good example. If you think about a typical day in our adult life, little of it is spent in reading. We may read the newspaper. We may read a magazine. We may read a book. However, we do not usually spend more than one to two hours in this activity. Less time is spent writing. We may write an occasional letter. We may write frequent e-mails. Those are usually short. Grammar is not much of concern. We may write down things like recipes. We may write shopping lists. However, relatively little of our day is spent writing. We spend even less time doing math. Even when we do math, we use a calculator. We carry calculators. We have calculators on our cell phones. We may have a PDA with a calculator in it. However, we usually spend minutes day doing math. What we do spend most of our day doing is speaking and listening. We communicate in person. We communicate by phone. We communicate by voice mail. We listen to the television to get our news. We listen to others.

We take speaking for granted. We think that it is not something to learn in school. That is not true. We need to learn speech even more than we do reading, writing and math. The estimate is that 85 percent of our day is spent speaking and listening. It makes you wonder if 85 percent of the school day should be spent teaching that. One of the forgotten areas in all of this is public speaking. Many people are scared to death to get in front of an audience and give a speech. Fortunately, that is a rare occurrence. However, you might wonder how do we prepare for this. You might wonder when this is formally taught in school. Just like everything else related to learning, the two most important individuals in any child's education are the parent and the student. The school runs third to these two. For that reason, parents have an obligation to make sure that their children learn what is needed to communicate in today's world. Parents will not have a test in school to see how successful their children are. They must find that out for themselves. This is a very difficult task. A related learning requirement is that of exercise. Physical education is not a daily subject in school anymore. It is a daily requirement of a healthy lifestyle. It probably should take as much time in an adult's day as reading. It probably should take more time than writing and math. Parents need to teach their children the proper type of exercise. They need to teach their children the proper amount of exercise. That will not happen just by enrolling children in sports activities. Parents need to take an active role to make that happen. There are many opportunities for parents to enhance their children's learning. They need to support the school in terms of the important subjects of reading, writing and math. However, they also need to support their children in terms of language and physical education. These are two very important roles.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.