In the nineteenth century, Horace Mann began "the reading wars" when he raged against instruction in phonics, calling the letters of the alphabet "bloodless, ghostly apparitions." In the 1930s, the publisher Scott Foresman introduced its "Dick and Jane" readers, which taught children to read by memorizing the look of words rather than the sound of letters. In 1955, Rudolf Flesch's Why Johnny Can't Read attacked Scott Foresman's "look-say" approach. In 1995, California passed its "ABC" laws requiring instruction in phonics and spelling skills. Californians acted after their state, which had been using a "whole language" approach since 1987, received the lowest fourth-grade reading scores in America. In 1997, the U.S. Congress made its presence felt. Concerned about the growing split between parents and educators, Congress set up the National Reading Panel. Its charge was to determine, from existing research, the most effective approaches for teaching children how to read, in the hopes that the panel's findings might influence the teaching of the children in schools and the home. The National Reading Panel delivered its final report on April 13, 2000. Navigator has asked James J. Campbell, a New York pediatrician with a deep concern for childhood education, to give us his assessment of the panel's findings, but first to relate some of the personal experiences that have provoked his concern—and his anger. The number of children referred from the...
At TOC's [now known as The Atlas Society] 1999 fall conference, "What Shall We Worship?," both David Kelley and Robert Bidinotto remarked on the need to create, justify, and dramatize an ideal that will counter the pastoral ideal that is shared equally by our classical heritage and Judaeo-Christian tradition. "We must develop," Kelley said, "images, stories, and symbols that proclaim and celebrate the human creative power and the value of civilization." In that connection, he noted, the Christian's Year 2000 can also be viewed as the 250th anniversary of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the historical event that finally proved the practical power of reason. During the current year, therefore, Navigator is running a series of "Achievers" columns that focus on people who made a special mark during or near the year 1750, the midpoint of the Age of Enlightenment and the start of the Industrial Revolution. The February issue looked at Benjamin Franklin and his investigation of electricity. In April, Patricia Speer explained how the comte de Buffon invented the field of natural history. Here, Navigator recounts the life of one of the great inventor-industrialists of 1750, Benjamin Huntsman. Among the metaphorical meanings that "steel" has acquired over the centuries—hardness, trustworthiness, weaponry—one of the most apt is: "a power of endurance or sustained effort." The Oxford English Dictionary offers us this charming if...
John Stossel is a powerful voice for freedom, an articulate and visible defender of liberty and reason in modern America. He is definitely one of the good guys. As a nationally recognized journalist with ABC, he enjoys a powerful platform to challenge collectivist assumptions and policies. Each year, Stossel produces four hour-long, prime-time specials on topics of his choice. His first special, Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?, dealt with the downside of federal regulations and argued cogently for reducing them. His special Greed dealt with the value of productive work and the benefits of wealth—particularly the importance of self-interested action—and it featured an interview with David Kelley. Other specials have included Is America Number One?, an evaluation of the importance of freedom and the consequence of government interference in the marketplace, and Freeloaders, which examined the value of productive work in contrast to living on the charity of others. Stossel is also candid about his ideological perspective: He freely admits to having a perspective and is unafraid to champion that perspective on prime-time television. But his candor has come at a price. His unabashed commitment to the principles of liberty have opened him up to a barrage of criticism. What the Critics Say The charge is that Stossel's journalism suffers from his ideology. Recently, a number of major articles have appeared in such national forums as Brill's...
John Bechtel gave his first public talks for the Jehovah's Witnesses at the age of five. By age nine, he was addressing audiences numbering up to 3,000. At 27, Bechtel reached a crisis of faith and resigned from the Jehovah's Witnesses. Now a passionate advocate of "life, rationality, and your own happiness," Bechtel has a unique insider's view on the seductions of cults. Navigator: What do Jehovah's Witnesses believe? Bechtel: Let's start with what would probably be the most important issues. Jehovah's Witnesses believe in original sin, the fall from grace. They believe that since Adam's and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden everyone has been born in sin, and therefore they die, because the wages of sin are death. They believe that the only possibility for eternal life in any form in any place is through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is, parenthetically, the only thing they celebrate; they don't celebrate birthdays or any other holidays whatsoever. Their communion, which they call the Memorial Service, is the largest attendance they draw in the entire year. They place a great emphasis on how many attendees there are at that ceremony because that gives them an idea how many new recruits they can anticipate in the following year. They believe that only 144,000 will be taken to a life in heaven. They will form a ruling class and rule with Jesus Christ for a thousand years. But, they will remain in heaven after that period of time and those individuals are...
The eighteenth century was one of those all-too-rare stretches of history when the cultural climate encouraged intellectual progress, man's ability to reason, and political freedom. During this era, many philosophers and scientists labored to replace religion with reason; the grip of God's followers loosened; a burgeoning movement of discovery and invention commenced. And, as a character in Henry Purcell's The Fairy Queen sings, "Thus the gloomy world at first began to shine." It was a desire to discover nature's secrets, and to classify those discoveries, that thrust the French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon (1707–1788), into prominence at the midpoint of the Enlightenment. For the sixty years of his adult life, Buffon exemplified his age—as an individualist, entrepreneur, scientist, and philosopher. The Early Years Born the son of a magistrate in the small town of Montbard, Burgundy, Buffon followed his father's wishes and attended law school in Dijon, from 1723 to 1726. But the law did not suit Buffon, whose interest lay in mathematics and science. So, when he left law school in 1726, Buffon determined to dedicate his life to these twin passions. It was a decision that brought him familial hostility, for to become a mathematician and scientist fell beneath his station in society. Despite this, Buffon took up the task of establishing himself in scientific circles. In 1728, he went to Angers, where he studied mathematics, botany, and medicine, and...