The Idea of an Essay, Volume 4

192 The Idea of an Essay: Volume 4 The Three Faces of Literacy Matthew Beal “Occ..Oc-cu...Oc-cu-p...p…” “Occupation.” “Occupation.” That was the fourth time in three sentences he had needed someone to say a word for him. The objective: Read a paragraph from the handbook section we were studying that week. The process: A repetitious struggle in which the eyes, brain, and mouth engaged in discordant dissonance much to the displeasure of the ear. It wasn’t the first time that this problem had arisen in our weekly scout meeting, and he wasn’t the only afflicted person. It seemed that each time an individual strained at the syllables of our selected reading, the act would end in amiable but much needed assistance. The process became so tedious that people began to skip words they didn’t know to avoid bringing the group to another screeching halt. As I observed the frequent foul-ups over the months, I began to notice a trend in the process. Most of those committing the errors hailed from the public schools, and those who corrected them were home schooled. I don’t say this to vilify public schools but to say that I was genuinely confused by this discovery. Hailing from a private school, I had never observed such issues with pronunciation or reading. Yet here we were at the crossroads of education. Three forms of schooling had converged on page 250 of the Boy Scout Handbook, and the differences appeared to be striking. I would be remiss, however, to believe that the reading capacities of twelve to fifteen people meeting in the upper-back room of Parkview church in Findlay, Ohio was an accurate representation of three massive bodies of schooling by itself. Merely taking an isolated event and applying it as a universal truth would be foolhardy if not criminal. The schools of the world vary in a multiplicity of ways that affect students individually in all manner