The three Rs

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This article is about the abbreviation for reading, writing and arithmetic. For other uses, see Three Rs.

The three Rs (as in the letter R)[1] refers to the foundations of a basic skills-oriented education program in schools: reading, writing and arithmetic. It appeared in print as a space-filler in "The Lady's Magazine" for 1818, although it is widely quoted as arising from a phrase coined in a toast given by Sir William Curtis, Member of Parliament, in about 1825.[2] Since its original creation, many others have used the term to describe other trifecta.

Origin and meaning[edit]

The phrase "the Three Rs" may perhaps have originated in a previous speech made by Sir William Curtis in 1795.[citation needed]

An extended version of the three Rs is referred to by some in modern times as the "functional skills of literacy, numeracy and ICT" to be found in the modern English education system.[3]

There is an earlier reference to "reading, writing, and arithmetic" in St Augustine of Hippo's Confessions, AD 401, Book I - Translated by Edward Bouverie Pusey: "For those first lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek."

Etymology[edit]

The phrase 'the three Rs' is used because each word in the phrase has a strong R phoneme (sound) at the beginning. The term is ironic, since someone with rudimentary language education would know that two of the original words do not actually begin with the letter R. The third R was more probably Reckoning, not as is more usually stated 'Rithmetic. Reckoning was a Victorian term for mental arithmetic and had been in use as such since the 14th century.[4] The educationalist Louis P. Bénézet preferred "to read", "to reason", "to recite", adding, "by reciting I did not mean giving back, verbatim, the words of the teacher or of the textbook. I meant speaking the English language."[5]

The Three Rs in the United States[edit]

During the 17th century, the curriculum in the common (elementary) schools of the New England colonies was summed up as the "four Rs" - Reading, 'Riting, "Rithmetic", and Religion.[6]

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson, has identified the new 3 Rs from Robert Carkhuff's 3 Rs as Relating, Representing and Reasoning.[7] Carkhuff was a self-published consultant paid $1 million to provide materials to help design Washington's controversial standards based education reform program. Bergeson has pledged that that all would receive world class standards diplomas, yet one half of all students and three-quarters of minority students are on track to have their diplomas revoked in 2008

because they do not pass the new 3 Rs standard set by the WASL standards based assessment. While over half of US students will be required to pass similar High school graduation examinations, because of objections from parents and education experts, no more states have adopted such requirements and some have dropped them in 2006. Advocates of the traditional education question how students who struggle with basic skills can be expected to be more successful at higher developmental higher order thinking levels. States like California abandoned similar standards in the late 1990s in favor of returning to basic skills.

Other uses[edit]

More recent meanings of "the Three Rs" are:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Obsolete Skill Set: The 3 Rs — Literacy and Letteracy in the Media Ages
  2. ^ The Mirror of Literature Amusement and Instruction, Volume 5 by John Timbs, J. Limbird, 1825
  3. ^ Functional Skills
  4. ^ http://mw2.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reckoning
  5. ^ L. P. Benezet, "The Teaching of Arithmetic I, II, III: The Story of an Experiment," Journal of the National Education Association, Volume 24(8): 241-244 (November 1935)
  6. ^ Slosson, Edwin Emory. The American Spirit in Education: A Chronicle of Great Teachers, Volume 33. Googe Books (Yale University Press). Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Sound Off