Skip to comments.Mona McNee -- Why She Fights For Phonics
Posted on 04/28/2012 11:57:58 AM PDT by BruceDeitrickPrice
For more than 40 years, Mona McNee has been fighting the good fight on behalf of intelligent reading instruction. She is the author of "Step By Step" (a phonics program) and "The Great Reading Disaster" (with Alice Coleman, 2007, 335 pages), which chronicles the incompetence of the UK's Education Establishment.
I always think of Mona McNee as the Patron Saint of Reading.
Mona has recently prepared a booklet called "Why Billy can't read," which sums up her message in 30 pages. You can find a pdf of this booklet, and as well her free phonics program, on phonics4free.org (link below).
Mona is a hard campaigner. The kind of person who has gone to endless meetings, sent lots of letters, and tried to call up the Minister of Education to tell him what he should be doing if he had any sense. Here are a few characteristic quotes from her new booklet:
"In 1931 the Hadow Report said that 'The curriculum is to be thought of in terms of activity and experience rather than of knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored.'... This simply cancels out the whole purpose of education! Utterly mad, but official wisdom, never challenged and still around."
"All I want is an end to this terrible scourge of needless failure in reading. It has been and is a major factor in the collapse of our culture and high government spending....This is the worst scandal ever, 1000 times worse than the News of the World hacking, and it still goes on, still protected by the establishment."
"Is this confusion at the top based on honest ignorance or (worse) is it deliberate? Government will not even discuss it with me, and the meddling goes on and on."
"Keeping these strategies is part of the idea that because 'all children are different,' they can expect to be taught different ways, and this is not so. There is one alphabet, and one way to teach all children, of any age, adults and dyslexics."
"Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath: 'First do no harm.' Untold, uncountable harm has been done to millions for life by many thousands of hard-working, well-meaning teachers under the thumb of the establishment."
"In 40 years I have found a total absence of genuine professional curiosity, at all levels."
"The lost potential for half a century is a tragedy beyond our grasp.... Today teachers still get the blame, and the guilty teacher-trainers are never challenged. It has crippled millions and still there is nowhere to turn."
ARTICLE CONCLUDES BELOW
I believe that for people in the USA, observing the UK situation can be instructive. It's a smaller country with a more centralized government authority. Sadly, we may become more like the UK, because Common Core Curriculum will permit greater federal control.
First, this background: All the bad ideas found here during the last 75 years also appeared in the UK but in more virulent doses. Labour (i.e., Socialist) Governments did brazenly what American schemers had to do on the sly. But why, in the first place, did the UK embrace such an array of bogus theories?
Here's my take on the years after the Russian Revolution. The USSR wanted to destroy the USA most of all, but England was second on the hit list. It was closer and easier to sabotage. Simply fill the government with Fabian Socialists and "useful idiots" ready to advance their careers at the expense of kids and country. There is no satisfying explanation for idiotic reading policy unless you factor in that the people at the top wanted to sabotage the country. Education statistics tell us that Whole Word never worked. Everybody at the top had to know this.
As the great Samuel Blumenfeld noted in a recent article about the US experience: "We have known for quite some time that there is a socialist political agenda behind the movement to do away with systematic phonics and replace it with Whole Language and other similar sight-reading programs."
The thing that has saved American public schools from the worst ravages of our own far-left Education Establishment is our history of local control. As noted, I'm afraid that Common Core Curriculum will move our schools closer to the UK situation. In practice, what this means is that one bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. can persuade an obscure committee that Plan X should be adopted. Suddenly this clunker appears in every local school, for years and years, and you can't do anything about it. An incurable disease. (Reform Math, introduced around 1980, is still with us, a perennial example of incurable disease.)
What we saw in the recent Race to the Top campaign is the Obama administration using taxpayer money to bribe taxpayers, pretending all the while it was a friendly takeover. Not so, I predict. Hostile is as hostile does.
The astonishing thing about this story, in my part of Virginia, is how many newspapers, leading citizens, foundations, and retired military officers were willing to jump on the bandwagon. All of them should have enough sense to recognize a Ponzi scheme when they see one.
At this time, Americans can still communicate with their school officials in their city or state capitol. If you want to see what the future might look like, consider the world described in Mona McNee's booklet. The real power is further away and less accessible. Aloof politicians maneuver and dissemble. The basic gimmick is to continually diminish content, make tests easier, inflate grades, and proudly announce: look, achievement is rising!!! Of course, it's not. Achievement is less each year.
Meanwhile, your job is to stay home, watch TV, and don't get in the way. Experts are at work destroying another generation of readers.
Phonics4free.org is a site created by Alan O. for Mona McNee. You can find a pdf (and other formats) of the new booklet Why Billy cant read. (Site also includes Monas entire phonics program.)
Step by Step program can be found on Mona McNees own site: http://www.catphonics.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/contents.htm
The Great Reading Disaster is available on Amazon. Heres a link to the five-star review by me: http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Reading-Disaster-Educational/product-reviews/1845400976/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
For my own short analysis of the reading wars, see 42: Reading Resources on Improve-Education.org.
The school system in which I teach uses a word memorization program. There is also very little grammar instruction. The results: Classrooms full of functioning illiterates. We will never deviate from the reading program because it is entirely scripted. The teacher does nothing except make photo copies. There is very little grading because the focus is on group dynamics and students helping each other (i.e. the smart kid does all the work).
Liberals oppose phonics because they work. Illiterate, ignorant people are much easier to control. For liberals, that is the ONLY thing that matters.
I learned in Montessori training that 80+% of English words can be sounded out through the use of phonics. What better reason to abandon phonics by the NEA establishment & derelict teacher training programs all hell-bent on ignoring its proven success. This is intentional destruction - get your kids out of public school and any govt. pre-K program.
Im dyslexic. The Whole Word scam would have doomed me to illiteracy. Damn those liberals who keep pushing it!
Forcing kids to see "whole words" rather than starting off with the individual letters can make them dyslexic. It's training the brain to work wrong end up, and when the kid later figures out he's been snookered, it's an uphill climb to unlearn the bad habits.
I disagree with nearly everything the good conservative freepers have posted in this thread. Whole word memorization is the best way to teach kids to read. They learn phonics on their own once they memorize enough words.
The problem with whole word memorization is that it needs to be initiated prior to the age of 3 (earlier the better). Whole word method probably sucks for school age kids. The fact is the method advocated by the NEA is the best except - they start it at an age when it may not be useful.
Don’t let the liberals see my post or they will use it as justification to put kids in public school at the age of 2.
I homeschooled my kids for some years and tutored or taught several handfuls of other kids. I did it purely by phonics. I read a book I found somehwere:
That looks like it. I couldn’t afford any of the manuals or classroom stuff so I made my own little lists and reading booklets for kids and they all learned how to read very easily.
Copying the first review:
I have joyous memories of learning to read from Lets Read when I was three, and my mother, who taught one of my brothers and me, still speaks of it fondly. So when I went on line, without much hope, to try to find a copy for my small niece, I was thrilled to see that it was still in print.
What a shock, however, to discover that it was written by the linguist Leonard Bloomfield! It appears that he devised the method and materials for his young son, who wanted to learn to read.
Looking at it now, as an adult (and, coincidentally, a one-time linguist), I find the book’s approach fascinating. It is based, seemingly, on a simple assumption: that if you give children carefully controlled examples that demonstrate specific rules of written English, they will extrapolate and internalize those rules on their own without too much conscious effort. Bloomfield went systematically through the English language, figured out the rules of representation of sound in our occasionally bizarre writing system, and grouped words together in ways that demonstrate the rules automatically to an absorbent young mind.
There is no commentary for the child, no lesson as such, merely words combined to make them easy to master as one acquires a broader and broader knowledge base. The heavy use of rhyme adds to the pleasure, for the child, and is part of the system at first. The text advances from two, three or four word sentences at the beginning (”Nan can fan Dan. Can Dan fan Nan?”) to a complex “big kid” story at the very end. It is a relaxed and enjoyable program and very accessible to a child who wants to learn to read but is still too young to go to school. It assumes an eager child and a mild schedule of perhaps 15 minutes per day for several months. A patient and willing teacher (I was extremely fortunate in mine) is also a necessary part of the deal.
Bloomfield’s introduction remarks: “Purely formal exercises that would be irksome to an adult are not irksome to a child, provided he sees himself gaining in power.” The phrase reflects precisely the sense of empowerment that I as student and my mother as teacher vividly remember coming with each successive chapter.
Of course, it is more than 50 years now since Bloomfield and his colleague Clarence Barnhart (who learned of the materials when he mentioned to Bloomfield that he was looking around for a text to teach his own child) first began to look for a publisher. The reading samples in the Let’s Read text, once you move beyond the “Dan Nan fan” stage, are unmistakably dated. It’s startling to remember that in 1949 textbook mothers ironed and cooked while fathers took trains to work. The Nans and Dans would probably divide up their activities differently now, but I did not see anything in a quick glance-through that made me terribly worried of fostering an anti-feminist brainwashing of the next generation. If one is bothered by the stereotypes in the old texts, however, one can easily take the words from each chapter - a useful index is included — and use them to write little stories of one’s own.
I am not a teacher and know nothing of the other systems of teaching reading, but I suspect that Bloomfield’s approach may be a good one. It may lead to practices of analyzing language that go beyond simply learning to read English text. At any event, it should certainly do the latter. And it was wonderful for us.
See Sammy the Snake Slither....
Yeah, but you can be sure they teach phonics on the sly, at home to their own kids.
And it's even higher than that if taught by an extended phonics program. English stuffs 44 sounds into 26 letters and is also an amalgam of several different languages. It is complex -- but it is also, despite ignorant liberal claims to the contrary, phonetic.
Yes! Adults tend to devise instructional methods that please other adults -- thus the abhorrence of memorization. But Maria Montessori figured out, over a century ago, that there is a stage in a child's development where the brain is particularly adept at memorizing and, as your author points out, the child actually enjoys it if progress is being made.
You've brought out a very important point.
Children really like poetry that has rhyme and meter. I don’t know if girls still do jump rope, but that was all rhyme and meter years ago. I loved that sort of poetry when I went to and English school for one year, many years ago.
You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.
I concur with you a thousand percent.
Because otherwise she would be "Nona NcNee"?
When my kids were the ages for 6th and 4th grade I had to send them to public school, and this was in the mid/early 80s when home schooling was rare or actually illegal in many states. The principle was shocked that I, a high school dropout, had tried to educate my children at home. He said he’d put them in the right grade for their ages but would test them, and they’d probably have to go down to a lower grade.
He tested them and they both had to go in the “gifted” classes or whatever they were called, they were both in the upper 90s percentiles in everything (except one was only 70s in math, she hated math). His mind exploded.
My sainted mother was a former educator. She taught me phonics. I read before I was 2.
She insisted I have end of career teachers in grade school. They taught sentence diagramming and hard core grammar.
I also had to take Latin, but I had started learning languages at about age 5.
I recommend all these practices to any educator/parent reading this post.
I am living proof that all this stuff works.
Oh, and at age 12 I went through a speed reading course while at school.
That works, too. When in college, I used to be asked how I kept up with the reading.
I forgot. Find and use the biggest dictionary you can find with your kids. Make them learn word origins and common roots/suffixes/prefixes.
They’ll thank you for that.
The first school I attended (mid 60s) used the whole word method. Then we moved halfway through the school year and the new school taught the phonics method.
In both schools, my teachers were quite impressed by my verbal vocabulary and grammar and how well spoken I was.
I learned to read fairly easily but was then was somewhat confused by the shift in methods until I caught on to phonics.
The problem I have, and still have, having learned to read by the phonics method, is while I can read very well; Im a lousy speller even to this day. I want to spell everything phonetically and English often just doesnt work that way. Thank G-d for spell check! LOL!
I am currently struggling with being a conservative and a public school teacher. It is something I question every day, but at the end of every day I see that it is teachers like me that have to keep fighting the good fight. I teach my students that the Constitution is not a living document (as their text claims) and I take my Sharpie with me to the staff powder room where all of the union propaganda is posted. My son is three and a half years old and my daughter is eight months old. We are currently homeschooling and will probably continue to do so.
Re your post #5, no wonder our schools are turning out illiterates. I was taught to read the correct way beginning in the first grade in 1946 and the instruction laid the groundwork for my reading comprehension throughout my education.
I’ll bet your school’s graduates do little to no independent reading in adulthood (too difficult having to memorize all those words!).
I salute you and your efforts.
A former professor of mine actually looked me in the eye one time and said, “You have to get them young.” The reference was to indoctrination.
They know what they are doing. All those people that hid out in ivory towersrather than going to Nam. This chit’s so deep. I bet most young college students don’t even know what Marxism is, so they can’t compare to capitalism. Then again, just today, I had to tell a young woman what change I needed back, since she didn’t understand how to make change.
The Dick and Jane books were “see and say”. If you learned phonics from them it was due to your mother.
Thank you for the links!
I didnt say that I learned phonics from the Dick and Jane books, only that those books along with nearly hundred Little Golden Books I had by the time I started school, helped me to learn to read. My mother read to me all the time and as I recall she also taught me some phonics, the vowel sounds, before I started school.
We moved and I changed schools 5 times by the 4th grade however and it was hard adjusting to all the various methods some of those schools employed. Thankfully to my mother, I got a great start.
Dr. Titzer did a great deal of research on babies and Toddlers reading - with no phonics.
I am aware of the methods of teaching tiny children to read; I do not think it is in the child’s best interest to teach them reading that young. I have read studies that have shown that when children are taught later, when their development is more mature, within a short time they read as well as those taught from toddlerhood.
Just my viewpoint from studying how to teach reading, and having taught about 15 kids how to read.
But you do not say WHY you think it is not in a child’s best interest to be taught to read when they are infants or toddlers.
You do not seem to even have an anecdote to back up that it is bad for kids to learn at a very young age.
Since my kids are in their late 30s and I haven’t read anything about teaching and so on since I was teaching them and kids their age, I don’t have any instant references.
BTW - I did teach my older child to read around 3 1/2 to 4, and a by the time the younger child could read (started teaching that one around 5 to 6) they could both read at the same age level, with a bit of variability in vocabulary.
Let kids be kids. No need to force them into academics until they’ve had sufficient play time. There are many books on the topic, if you really want to know about it you can search them. I don’t know any titles or authors and don’t have time to search them out. There are plenty of ways to help babies and toddlers learn about the world without teaching them reading when they are just learning how to talk.
Whatever floats your boat.
Believe me I wasn’t asking for studies to back up your point. I guess you think there is a catch up effect that takes place.
I reject that.
I believe that all things being equal, the child who reads earlier will be a better reader.
But you are right about “whatever floats your boat”. Parents are free to make choices for their kids and they are free to disagree with me. It is the mind of a liberal that believes that they know best for everybody AND they desire the power to enforce their views on others.
And each child is really different. They have to be treated as individuals. I taught myself how to read; by age 4 I was reading 3rd or 4th grade books, I don’t even remember how I learned. My parents used to read out loud to us kids all the time and I probably followed along in the books they were reading.
Other kids want to do other things.
The catch-up effect is something I have read about from more than one source.
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