Skip to comments.America, You've Been Punked
Posted on 09/26/2013 1:23:55 PM PDT by BruceDeitrickPrice
The Reading Wars were always chaotic and confusing. Heres the gist:
----On the one side, you had earnest, sincere people warning the country about the dangers of non-phonetic approaches (these were called Look-say, Whole Word, sight-words, and other jargon). The warning was always the same. Nobody can learn to read that way. Its a hoax. Dont do it! Youre being punked.
On the other side, you had patronizing professors of education saying the exact opposite. Phonics is old-fashioned. Dull and dreary. Weve got the fun new way to learn to read. Kids think of words as graphic designs and memorize them. Easy. No problem.
Dr. Celia Stengler, one such professor, panned a phonics text this way: One wonders whether the authors have ever had the thrill of seeing a group of children learn to read by the use of modern methods. The zest with which these children approach reading and the zeal with which they read will almost certainly be lost if we turn the clock back [to phonics]. Thrill, zest, zeal-thats what the professors promised in order to have their way with us.
Modern methods in this case means memorizing hieroglyphics just as the early Egyptians did. Easy? No problem? Its a huge problem. Try to memorize even a hundred hieroglyphics and see how easy it is.
The condescending professors smugly claim that ordinary kids can memorize tens of thousands of graphic designs or even thousands of them. In fact, some children cant memorize a few hundred. Many years later, the best you can say about millions of children is that they are semi-literate. The entire claim is a joke. America, you were punked.
So how could the professors pull off this charade? There were lots of faux-experts, thousands apparently. They were well organized. All the big names were making buckets of money selling useless books to children. Probably the main thing is that they were a cult and knew exactly what they wanted, namely, to pursue John Deweys dream of turning the US into a socialist country.
Some permissive souls give the Deweyites the alibi of incompetence. But the scam has gone on for more than 75 years. Generations of students have come and gone. But somehow the brilliant high-level PhDs cannot deduce that their theories are false. One suspects they had figured it out from the beginning, which brings us back to our central tragedy: America, you were punked.
Starting around 1930 the professors forced Whole Word into classrooms. When Rudolf Flesch wrote his famous book in 1955 explaining Why Johnny Cant Read, the professors counterattacked by forming the International Reading Association (IRA). Its whole purpose was to ridicule phonics and persuade Americans that they should use a reading method that did not work. America, stand still and be punked.
Frank Smith, a brilliant man and IRA hero, wrote a book called Reading Without Nonsense (1973) which was entirely devoted to convincing people they could read with nonsense. In his book he said a most remarkable thing: ordinary humans can easily memorize 50,000 sight-words. Completely absurd but they made it stick. Punk you very much.
Ken Goodman, the other brilliant man in this game, alleged that there are four "cueing systems" for reading: graphophonemic; semantic: syntactic: pragmatic. A theoretical edifice always in the process of toppling. But ed schools taught it; young teachers believed in it; students were victims of it. This edifice should perhaps have been called punking systems.
As Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld has mordantly noted in The Victims of Dick and Jane, The International Reading Association...is perhaps the only organization of such size in which a form of educational malpractice has been enshrined as the highest pedagogical good and its practitioners awarded prizes for their achievements....The vast majority of American children are trapped within a system that is turning their brains into macaroni."
This theme-the utter disaster of using sight-words to learn to read-has been emphasized over and over by phonics advocates. Siegfried Engelmann stated in 1992: "The system panders and plays games because it is thoroughly incompetent at the top....At present, there are strong advocacy groups for the spotted owl, the killer whale, the Alaska fur seal, and hundreds of other endangered species.' Paradoxically, millions of our kids are endangered. They will fail in school. They will suffer a very real form of child abuse. Yet these kids have far less real advocacy than the spotted owl does." (War Against the Schools' Academic Child Abuse, 1992)
Blumenfeld and Engelmann are singing the same song: America, youve been thoroughly punked
But these few smart sincere critics were no match for the organized horde of the International Reading Association and this countrys Education Establishment. These commissars wanted you to believe that ordinary children could memorize sight-words with automaticity. Thats a technical term for instant recall and pronunciation. Reading speed is fast--three or four words a second. Almost nobody can name sight-words at that pace. But these alleged experts pushed this fantasy with total ferocity; and they still do.
Here is a wonderfully stark summation of the current situation by reading guru Don Potter: The situation across the nation is dramatically worse that anyone can possibly imagine. When I ask the teachers why they teach sight-words, they inevitably tell me because their students are going to be assessed on them. They are totally unaware that sight-words are positively harmful. They consider sight-words part of a good reading program that includes some phonics, not realizing that sight-words create a reflex that interferes with phonics instruction. Sight-words are an obstacle to reading, not an aid.
America, youve been punked. Youre still being punked.
(For more on the Reading Wars, see "42: Reading Resources."/Improve-Education.org)
In the antebellum South, it was illegal to teach slaves to to read lest they get “dangerous ideas.”
In the the liberal plantation that the USA is rapidly becoming, organized education will prevent everyone from learning to read lest they get “dangerous ideas.”
I agree with much of the article but all of us use some “sight word” methods. There, their, and they’re are all sounded out about the same but we use a whole word approach to ID the meaning.
Agree. But the issue is more complex than stated here.
A large number of children, probably a considerable majority, will learn to read with ease regardless of what method is used. I personally don’t remember how I learned, since I cannot remember not knowing how to read. Mom took a picture of me when I’d just turned 3 absorbed in a “real” book. So the method used in schools was just irrelevant to me. The other second graders were reading Dick and Jane. I was reading Lord of the Rings.
The problem is that there is a considerable subset of children that can learn to read well if given appropriate instruction via phonics, as people have learned to read for thousands of years, but not if forced to learn via “modern” methods.
But, as the article says, phonics isn’t modern, or sexy, or innovative, or something. So large numbers of children must be sacrificed so these evil idiots can pat each other on the back.
So, instead of learning ABC’s and learning how words are constructed of sounds; the kids have to learn the entire word by sight?
Untrue. Large numbers do.
Acceptable as hyperbole, though.
I clearly remember learning to read in 1st grade with Dick and Jane in 1956-57. (First word on the first page of the book was "Look!")
Of course, we also had a phonics workbook as part of the instruction.
I will be the first to admit that I have many flaws, but being unable to read is certainly not one of them.
I have talked to several college presidents about this.
Better tools, better results.
No darn Ebonics.
Why make learning to read so troublesome? With the aid of a colorful alphabet book, a grandfather who helped me learn the associated sounds, and access to books plus an occasional prompt from that grandfather, I became a competent reader before entering first grade, and then was introduced to Dick and Jane and Spot, at 5 yrs, 9 mos. And I am just an ordinary schmoe.
My three children likewise became competent readers before entering first grade, because their mother (and occasionally moi) regularly read to them, colorful word/picture books were readily available to them, and they could practice their skill by reading the sides of cereal boxes at breakfast. And they were not distracted by TV cartoon junk.
This article is SPOT ON!
I’m not totally sure how I learned to read myself. My parents said when I was little I used to “read” the children’s books they read to me and they just figured I had memorized them - until one day I read one of my cousin’s comic books. I was about four at the time.
What I do know is that I was about the only one in my kindergarten class who already knew how to read.
Yer a racist and a homophobe. /S
I beg to differ. "Sight words" do not build a proper foundation for understanding new words. They also hinder development of speed reading or even just proficiently fast reading.
(I know that last bit sounds counter-intuitive because speed readers read entire words or even sentences at once. However, I am one, and a good foundation regarding how words are formed from letters is critical to developing speed reading skills.)
JMHO, of course.
Me, too. Before first grade, my parents had taught me how to read, add, subtract, multiply, divide, and understand basic science. Didn't you find school incredibly boring until at least high school? Maybe college? I sure did.
BTW, they used a technique a lot like phonics (but without the workbooks) to teach me to read...
How silly - it’s no harder than learning to read Chinese.
Used Bob Books with my kids. Absolutely the best phonics based reading program. The "books" are pamphlets that initially focus on one vowel pronunciation and a few consonants. They have funny plots and are so short attention span is not a problem. They gradually ramp up the complexity so it's easy for the kids to advance.
So, even if you are trapped with a teacher who insists on using "modern" methods and your kid is falling behind, a few minutes with Bob each night is the cure.
My son was reading before he went to kindergarten. They tried to teach him to read with phonics. Didn't work because he already knew how to read.
If you want your child to read, and read well, before he/she starts school here is what needs to be done.
Read to your child every night before bedtime. There are books available that have stories for every day of the year.
If you do that, I guarantee that your child will be reading to you before he/she starts school.
I and my wife did that, and it works. Plus, an unbreakable bond is developed between you and your child.
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