UAPB HOSTS LITERACY CONFERENCE
By Ezra Mann/OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
Friday, March 14, 2008 11:17 PM CDT
There is a moral obligation to stamp out illiteracy because it is an issue involving every community, Kenneth G. Harris, former chairman and professor of curriculum and instruction at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, told those who attended the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s first literacy conference Friday at the Convention Center.
Harris, guest speaker for the luncheon, said the education system which has been charged to teach children to read has failed by overregulating the learning process. He said there is no need for another research study to show that the underprivileged and poor suffer the most when it comes to illiteracy and many teachers are not teaching beyond a minimal reading level.
“This notion of everyone having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness becomes a mute issue if you are functionally illiterate,” Harris said.
The conference, which is a part of UAPB’s Literacy Institute in the School of Education, was held at the Convention Center from 7:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m. Friday. This year’s theme was “Literacy Today, Tomorrow and Forever: Creating Awareness of the Effects of Illiteracy in Arkansas.” The conference featured three workshops and a panel which addressed topics that describe existing and new strategies to help eradicate illiteracy.
Harris, who attended UAPB when it was Arkansas AM&N College, said people have a choice on curriculum standards and to correct problems, existing programs that work must continue to be supported and children must be taught more than just basic skills. He added that to succeed, everyone must be able to demonstrate a mastery of skills through observable methods.
“I maintain that all teachers should be trained how to teach reading and actually teach it all the way through education,” Harris said.
Omar T. Atiq, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, was honored as the conference’s Delta Literacy Classic Champion. He said literacy is “about empowerment” and the weakness associated with illiteracy “defines us.” He noted if people only strengthen themselves, then the problem with illiteracy will only grow.
“This greatest nation on Earth would not be great,” Atiq said, “if the weakest among us is not as good as the best.”