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Whole Language Defined
WorldNetDaily ^ | 8/27/2002 | Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld

Posted on 08/27/2002 7:56:00 AM PDT by Onelifetogive

The other day, I received an e-mail from a lady in California who asked, "What on earth is the whole-language system?" She had read my article on the making of the black underclass in which I had identified whole language as the primary cause of reading failure among so many black students.

Fortunately, the answer is easy to give, because whole-language professors have been quite open in defining what they mean by their pedagogic philosophy. So I shall quote some salient passages from their writings.

In a book entitled "Whole Language, What's the Difference?" written by three whole-language professors in 1991, we read on page 32:

Whole language represents a major shift in thinking about the reading process. Rather than viewing reading as "getting the words," whole language educators view reading as essentially a process of creating meanings ... Meaning is created through a transaction with whole, meaningful texts (i.e., texts of any length that were written with the intent to communicate meaning).

It is a transaction, not an extraction of the meaning from the print, in the sense that the reader-created meanings are a fusion of what the reader brings and what the text offers ... Although students who learn to read in whole language classrooms are, like all proficient readers, eventually able to "read" (or identify) a large inventory of words, learning words is certainly not the goal of whole language.

Another passage from page 19 of the same book may be even more illuminating:

From a whole-language perspective, reading (and language use in general) is a process of generating hypotheses in a meaning-making transaction in a sociohistorical context. As a transactional process ... reading is not a matter of "getting the meaning" from text, as if that meaning were in the text waiting to be decoded by the reader.

Rather, reading is a matter of readers using the cues print provides and the knowledge they bring with them (of language subsystems, of the world) to construct a unique interpretation.

Moreover, that interpretation is situated: readers' creations (not retrievals) of meaning with text vary, depending on their purposes of reading and the expectations of others in the reading event. This view of reading implies that there is no single "correct" meaning for a given text, only plausible meanings.

Now you might think that all of this pedagogical insanity is taking place in some kind of political vacuum. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Whole language practice is very politically oriented. We read on page 23:

Learning is a social process ... Although whole language educators accept the importance of learning through individual interactions with the environment (Piaget 1967), they lean more heavily on Vygotsky's ideas about the social nature of learning (Vygotsky 1978).

Whole language takes seriously Vygotsky's notion of the Zone of Proximal Development (Engstrom 1986) which entails stressing the importance of collaborations (between students and teachers and between peers) through which students can transcend their own individual limitations.

You might ask: Who is Vygotsky? Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a Soviet psychologist who worked with Pavlov's colleagues at the State Institute of Experimental Psychology in Moscow in the 1920s and '30s. James Wertsch, Vygotsky's biographer, writes:

[It] is important to note that Vygotsky was a staunch advocate of dialectical and historical materialism. He was one of the creators of Marxist psychology ... People such as Vygotsky and his followers devoted every hour of their lives to making certain that the new socialist state, the first grand experiment based on Marxist-Leninist principles, would survive.

Vygotsky's colleague, Alexander Luria, wrote: "Vygotsky was ... the leading Marxist theoretician among us ... in [his] hands, Marx's methods of analysis did serve a vital role in shaping our course."

Apparently, these same methods of analysis are also serving to shape the course of the whole-language agenda. The three professors, cited earlier, state on page 67:

The whole language theoretical premise underlying which topics are pursued and how they are treated is: "All knowledge is socially constructed."

Therefore all knowing is political. In an effort to promote critical literacy and thus to help children learn to read the world, not only the word (Shor & [Marxist revolutionary] Freire 1987), teachers who work with theme cycles try – no matter whether the topic is overtly "political" or not – to show how the topic is related to other more general questions.

They try to demystify social institutions by helping children investigate connections between surface facts and underlying social structures, between lived experience and structural features of class, gender and race. They know that not making connections is as political as making connections.

No further explanation needed. But what about phonics, you might ask? Here's a view of phonics given in another book on whole language, "Evaluation: Whole Language, Whole Child." We read on page 19:

The way you interpret what the child does will reflect what you understand reading to be. For instance, if she reads the word feather for father, a phonics-oriented teacher might be pleased because she's come close to sounding the word out.

However, if you believe reading is a meaning-seeking process, you may be concerned that she's overly dependent on phonics at the expense of meaning. You'd be happier with a miscue such as daddy, even though it doesn't look or sound anything like the word in the text. At least the meaning would be intact.

My response to that kind of imbecilic pedagogy is that any child who looks at the word "father" and says "daddy" can't read. It's as simple as that. But tell that to a whole-language teacher. Meanwhile, we the taxpayers are paying for all of it.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: language; phonics; whole

1 posted on 08/27/2002 7:56:00 AM PDT by Onelifetogive
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To: Onelifetogive
This view of reading implies that there is no single "correct" meaning for a given text, only plausible meanings.

If this had only a little more nitrogen in it, it would be great for spreading on tomatoes.

2 posted on 08/27/2002 8:01:47 AM PDT by Gorzaloon
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To: Onelifetogive
The work is infested with idiots who take simple things and try to make them complicated so that they can "feel" smarter than everyone else.

Whole Language over simple effective Phonics; Central Economic Planning over simple self-interest; religions with myriad rules over simple Faith

3 posted on 08/27/2002 8:05:22 AM PDT by Onelifetogive
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To: TxBec
ping
4 posted on 08/27/2002 8:05:42 AM PDT by Vic3O3
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To: Onelifetogive
Sorry. One word wrecked that reply.

The world is infested with idiots who take simple things and try to make them complicated so that they can "feel" smarter than everyone else.

Whole Language over simple effective Phonics; Central Economic Planning over simple self-interest; religions with myriad rules over simple Faith

5 posted on 08/27/2002 8:07:00 AM PDT by Onelifetogive
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To: Onelifetogive
This view of reading implies that there is no single "correct" meaning for a given text, only plausible meanings.

It all depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

6 posted on 08/27/2002 8:07:27 AM PDT by Hugin
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To: Onelifetogive
Both of my children were reading by the time they were three years old. This is not due to their extraordinary intelligence, it is due to my wife sitting with them and teaching them, through phonics and the good experience of reading fun stories with mom.

Any American who sees this nonsense on whole reading and does not see a direct threat to their childrens future ability to understand life and thrive in it, probably does not read.

I have long believed that the communists knew that the simple way to take over a country without firing a shot is to simply dumb down the kids. They are doing a great job.
7 posted on 08/27/2002 8:07:29 AM PDT by Pylot
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To: Onelifetogive
In other words, the context is whatever the reader determines it to be at any given time regardless of what the writer intended. A Tower of Babel Redux.
8 posted on 08/27/2002 8:08:35 AM PDT by Consort
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To: Gorzaloon
As a transactional process ... reading is not a matter of "getting the meaning" from text, as if that meaning were in the text waiting to be decoded by the reader.

This may explain why students schooled in "Whole Language" are generally unable to "get the meaning from text."

9 posted on 08/27/2002 8:10:26 AM PDT by Onelifetogive
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To: Onelifetogive
This article is so dense and babblingly incoherent that it was obviously written while the author was riding on "The Little Bus."

Michael

10 posted on 08/27/2002 8:18:13 AM PDT by Wright is right!
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To: Onelifetogive
Whole language = total f**king madness.

I don't want my child looking at PICTOGRAMS. Words are the foundation of language.

11 posted on 08/27/2002 8:18:48 AM PDT by Jonathon Spectre
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To: Onelifetogive
The work is infested with idiots who take simple things and try to make them complicated so that they can "feel" smarter than everyone else.

And it sure provides them with lifelong jobs, doesn't it?

I used Mr. Blumenfeld's "AlphaPhonics" book to teach my youngest two to read at age 5. It is so straightforward and uncomplicated it's no wonder the schools are moving away from phonics; having quick-learning readers deprives them of all kinds of "learning disabled" funding, don'tcha know.

12 posted on 08/27/2002 8:19:18 AM PDT by Lizavetta
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To: Gorzaloon
I've got three horses, so I've got all I can use...
13 posted on 08/27/2002 8:20:17 AM PDT by Noumenon
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To: Onelifetogive
It is true that hermanetics and the philosophy of language pose many difficult problems. It is also true that only a fool would allow the problems dealt with in graduate seminars to influence what goes on in the first grade.
14 posted on 08/27/2002 8:24:21 AM PDT by proxy_user
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To: Onelifetogive
From an article by Dr. Patrick Groff.

When the above principles and practices of WL reading teaching are examined experimentally, it consistently is found that none of them is corroborated. The response to this situation by present-day major-domos of WL is to denounce as bogus any scientific research finding that disputes the validity of WL doctrines, and the peculiar manner in which its dogmas are implemented.

Despite the empirically discredited nature of WL, conversions of teachers to it over the years have grown rapidly. State departments of education follow suit by mandating that WL reading teaching be conducted in preference to the DISEC variety.

California offers an illustrative example of the dire consequences of WL's popularity. In 1987, this state's Department of Education dictated use of WL reading teaching in its public schools. By 1995, the federally-funded National Assessment of Educational Progress (which includes a standardized, objective reading test) reported that WL reading teaching in California was more fashionable here than in any other state. At the same time, however, California students had devolved into the least competent readers in the nation.

15 posted on 08/27/2002 8:27:53 AM PDT by Orual
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To: Onelifetogive
The work is infested with idiots who take simple things and try to make them complicated so that they can "feel" smarter than everyone else.

Exactamundo.

16 posted on 08/27/2002 8:44:09 AM PDT by yendu bwam
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To: Jonathon Spectre
looking at PICTOGRAMS

You nailed it exactly on the head. Whole language is essentially memorizing the appearance of a word, as if it were a drawing, instead of decoding the letters to make sounds to make words. The process of encoding/decoding letters and sounds is what makes our writing system so superior.

Robert K Logan wrote a fantastic book called The Alphabet Effect: The Impact of the Phonetic Alphabet on the Development of Western Civilization in which he discusses how our system writing allows for a level of abstraction and innovation that far exceeds that of any other writing system. He argues that since there are only so many symbols a person can memorize (an effect seen around third or fourth grade when all the whole-language kids mysteriously 'stop' being able to 'read') and since there are a limited number of simple pictograms, each describing a concrete object, to draw new 'words' with there is a built-in limit to the number of ideas that can be named under such a system.

Logan argues that the alphabet, with its unlimited combinations of letters (that each describe a sound instead of an object) and potential to give any new idea a name/word, fosters innovation and abstract thinking and is the reason for the advancements of western civilization.

Phonics frees your mind. Spread the word.

17 posted on 08/27/2002 9:46:40 AM PDT by Lil'freeper
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To: Onelifetogive
"They know that not making connections is as political as making connections."

Well, they got that right.
18 posted on 08/27/2002 9:54:08 AM PDT by headsonpikes
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To: Onelifetogive
The world is infested with idiots who take simple things and try to make them complicated so that they can "feel" smarter than everyone else.

I pondered one of the snootier sentences from the artice:

"From a whole-language perspective, reading (and language use in general) is a process of generating hypotheses in a meaning-making transaction in a sociohistorical context."

After about ten minutes I figured out that all the author was trying to say was:

"The whole language approach is based on the idea that reading and language involve figuring out what you think somebody is trying to say in a particular context."

19 posted on 08/27/2002 1:44:57 PM PDT by SMASH IMPERIALIST LIBERALISM!!
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To: SMASH IMPERIALIST LIBERALISM!!
"The whole language approach is based on the idea that reading and language involve figuring out what you think somebody is trying to say in a particular context."

In other words, pick up a book, guess what the author wanted to say, and that's what the book says. Sounds like a pretty good technique of speed reading. Wonder if it could be done with books still sitting on the shelf.

BTW, even if the "whole language" approach did allow students to be taught a useful vocabulary, it would still not allow them to readily expand their vocabulary not use tools like a dictionary (one who understands rules of phonetic construction can usually, perhaps with a few attempts, locate an unfamiar word in a dictionary after hearing it; one who does not understand such rules would have no idea where to begin).

Sounds a bit like the goals of Newspeak, doesn't it?

20 posted on 08/29/2002 6:31:55 AM PDT by supercat
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To: SMASH IMPERIALIST LIBERALISM!!
"The whole language approach is based on the idea that reading and language involve figuring out what you think somebody is trying to say in a particular context."

In other words, pick up a book, guess what the author wanted to say, and that's what the book says. Sounds like a pretty good technique of speed reading. Wonder if it could be done with books still sitting on the shelf.

BTW, even if the "whole language" approach did allow students to be taught a useful vocabulary, it would still not allow them to readily expand their vocabulary not use tools like a dictionary (one who understands rules of phonetic construction can usually, perhaps with a few attempts, locate an unfamiar word in a dictionary after hearing it; one who does not understand such rules would have no idea where to begin).

Sounds a bit like the goals of Newspeak, doesn't it?

21 posted on 08/29/2002 6:58:08 AM PDT by supercat
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