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Teaching Oregon Students to Read and to Work

By Dr. Noah Robinson

Oregon public school quality comes in last or almost last in the nation depending on what metric you use. That’s pretty bad. The nationwide average is extremely poor.

After my mother died when I was 10, our family developed a self-teaching methodology that worked extremely well. All six of us (I have five brothers and sisters) earned doctoral level degrees in science, engineering, or medicine. We have also worked with thousands of other homeschool families.

We find that if children are taught to read at a young age, provided with good discipline and given access to quality educational materials, they can far exceed the performance of public-school children.

My father, state Sen. Art Robinson, has often pointed out that learning to read is not an education. It is the first step you must take so that you can get an education.

All attempts to correct the continuous downslide in public school educational quality have failed. The schools appear unfixable. The Democrat politicians continue to convene study groups, spend money on new programs and do everything except correct the problem. They shovel money to their friends in the unions, who in turn support their campaigns and tell them how to vote.

The cost to teach a 30-person classroom is approaching $500,000 per year. Do you think more money will really help?

This is insanity. Educating children is actually very easy.

Teaching reading by phonics has a track record of success that goes back more than 100 years. We do not need new reading methods. We just need to do what works.

The bills my father introduced for the current legislative session are simple improvements. We know they will be blocked by the unions, but we plan to reintroduce them next year and hope to get them through.

The first bill, SB 1534, would allow any school to hire a teacher to teach reading regardless of whether they have any license or credential from the state. The principal could then hire homeschool mothers and other competent individuals to teach children to read with phonics.

Teaching children to read with phonics is ideally a one-on-one activity. It takes half an hour to an hour a day for six months or so. After that, children can read on their own and advance rapidly. A child who reads well can obtain a good education even in a bad public-school setting.

The second bill, SB 1535, would allow the schools to have the students do school maintenance, groundskeeping and even school repairs. This would save large amounts of tax money and teach the students to work. The amount of work needed would be small for each child, but enough to give them experience and a sense of pride in keeping their school in good order.

Children should start doing meaningful work as early as possible. Child labor laws have become an impediment to children, rather than a help. While nobody should be in favor of putting children in sweat shops, it is not helpful to raise a child to the age of 18 and then try to teach him to work.

Should SB 1534 and SB 1535 pass, they would likely be picked up by some smaller school districts first. If successful, their use could spread around the state.

The only way to fix the schools is too return them to local control so that the communities are responsible for educating their children.

SB 1534 and SB 1535 are simple steps in that direction that should be so obviously helpful we ought to be able to pass them soon. They could have a huge impact improving children’s lives. Our children cannot wait. They need help now.

Dr. Noah Robinson is vice president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. He and his family have 25 years of experience in homeschool education. He is a Republican candidate for Senate District 2. He is running to replace his father, Sen. Art Robinson, who was blocked from the ballot by the Democrats.